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Titanfall: Worthy of the good — and bad — hype (review)

Titanfall is very clever about a few things that make it easier for more casual players to enjoy the game. Badass Titans are available sooner with more kills, sure, but even if you don’t shoot a soul, you’ll still get one eventually. The basic Smart Pistol locks onto enemies for autokills, making precise aiming and quick hand-eye coordination less of a concern (but this isn’t so fast that experienced gamers would consider it cheap). And even though this was probably to help cover up for the smallish 12-player (6-on-6) limit, filling the arenas with computer-controlled Grunt cannon fodder (and slightly tougher “Spectres”) is actually a brilliant design choice. All players constantly have easy targets to shoot at (and they all barely shoot back), which offer both points and confidence. If you’re that Call of Duty player who’s constantly improving everyone else’s kill-death ratios except your own, then this game will make you feel better about yourself.

What you won’t like

Yeah, it needs more

Multiplayer is intensely exciting and well-worth playing. But after a few hours of it, you’ve pretty much seen everything that the entire game has to offer. For those of you who buy a new Call of Duty and never turn on single-player, that’s probably fine, but even multiplayer doesn’t offer many different modes. For Titanfall’s first few weeks on the market, that may work, as it’s important to keep all of the players together in the same few rooms to optimize matchmaking (as opposed to spreading everyone out across different game types and keeping a few sections fairly sparse). But eventually, you’re going to wish that you had more.

Titanfall does offer a “multiplayer campaign,” which is a very shallow attempt to repackage normal multiplayer modes with a thin wrapping of story. The two different campaigns play through various skirmishes between the “evil corporation” IMC and the “power to the people” militia as they fight to … you know what? It doesn’t even matter. It’s a clichéd sci-fi setup that never does anything truly special. And outside of a few minor cutscenes and some voiceovers, you’ll never notice you’re involved in a bigger story once you start shooting.

Inside these campaign matches, the action is exactly the same as you’d find in normal multiplayer (kill everyone, capture and hold the points, etc.), just with some superficial reasoning behind why you’re doing what you’re doing (capture the points to hold important generators, for example, instead of just plain “capture the points”). So that I’m not a total grump about this, I will admit that some of the backstory provides nice flavor, explaining why certain levels are the way they are. Why is an enormous frigate crashed on this planet? What’s the deal with these indigenous dinosaurs that make Titans look like the ants? Where is everyone else besides the military folks trading punches and bullets? Multiplayer campaign will explain most everything.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter which side wins any particular chapter. Other than some small acknowledgment from the voiceovers, the results do not impact the overall story, and the next stage will be the same whether your team won or lost the last one. Shallow, indeed.

Conclusion

For a multiplayer-only game, Titanfall should have some amazing options and ways to play. But it doesn’t. It has a very healthy number of maps (15), but the lack of interesting new modes will make you feel shortchanged for not getting a single-player campaign. Hell, even shooters like Halo 2 from two console generations ago offer more in the multiplayer-options department. A lot more. It all feels like a temporary stop for Respawn on the way to Titanfall 2.

But what is there is so incredible, assuming you’re already into such games. (Don’t like shooting things? Nothing here will change your mind.) After almost 20 hours of playtime, my hands are cramped from gripping the controller so tightly — and I’m going back for more.

Score: 82/100

Titanfall releases for Xbox One and PC on Tuesday, and the Xbox 360 edition will hit March 25, 2014. We reviewed a prerelease version of Titanfall on the Xbox One at a dedicated press event hosted by Electronic Arts, who also provided GamesBeat with a downloadable copy of the game for the purpose of this review.

Click below for more screens.

 

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Electronic Arts Inc. (EA), headquartered in Redwood City, California, is a leading global interactive entertainment software company. Founded in 1982, the Company develops, publishes, and distributes interactive software worldwide for ... read more »

Founded in 2010, Respawn Entertainment is an independent video game development studio based in the San Fernando Valley, California that will focus on creating state-of-the-art gaming experiences for global audiences. The studio was fo... read more »

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