The countdown is down to its final few seconds as you begin descending from a drop ship. By the time the timer hits zero, your feet have hit the ground. It’s time to get going, so you immediately start sprinting, left pinky firmly pressing the shift key as your right hand grips the mouse. You’ve probably done this dance before if you’ve touched a multiplayer game in the last 5 or 6 years, so, naturally, it's what you do now. It doesn't matter that the sand is kicking up, and just over the hill seems to be the bones of some giant beast; you are just going to press forward, because that’s what you do in multiplayer. The environments may change, but the dance continues to have the same exact steps.

Then, all of the sudden, you start looking at your teammates. You have taken notice to the fact that you can reach higher vantage points. With the right timing, you can run across walls and bounce off them to get to your destination more quickly. Hell, a quick double tap on the jump button grants a short burst that lets you ascend even higher. The dust might have picked up, but what do you care? You have some premium territory, and now it’s time to start picking off whatever fool dares to come between your crosshairs. Aim down the sights, and shoot away. It’s as snappy as you would expect from any first person shooter that came after Call of Duty, especially one made by the creators of Call of Duty.

You didn't get other players with these shots; what you actually took down were nothing more than bots. You move, you shoot, and you keep moving. You’re navigating the field, still looking for the enemy, all the while dropping these hopeless drones. Then, out of the corner of your eye, you see a big red dot on your radar. At this point, it might as well be the type of crimson that gets a bull to charge because you’ve had enough easy pickings with the bots. You want the satisfaction that comes with taking down an actual player. On the way there, you’re probably thinking about exactly how hard you’re going to go with the celebratory tea bagging process. Because really, what's the point of wrecking someone if you can't be demonstrative about it?

The two of you engage in combat, and suddenly the dance isn’t completely the same. Sure, you’ve seen bunny hopping tactics before, but wall running away as you had the jump on someone? Then, on a battlefield that already feels chaotic and is busy with the bots as well as your enemies, there are giant robots. Then again, your timer on the bottom right corner says you’re ready for titanfall. So why not bring the rain, and get a mech of your own, right? Now it’s time to live out my inner adolescent power fantasy of watching two giant robots clash.

When I was on the ground, the game was entirely about its mobility. I had the speed to cover ground quickly and some added tricks to get to elevated spots. The mech? This titan? He’s pretty quick for a lumbering brute, but it’s not like I’m controlling Usain Bolt here. There is a rhythm to the dance I’m not used to. I have to be mindful of strafing left to right to dodge a barrage of rockets, and there is still the issue that I’m also getting shot at by the other titan's big chain gun. Of course, I have all the same moves he has for now so we’re dealing with the same predicament. Strafing one way, trying to land that perfect shot, and noticing that health bar is dropping ever so slowly.

The heart's pounding, the right hand is heavily clenched around the mouse, and that robot? Still keeping you from your first piece of satisfaction that comes from taking down another player. And then you hit the titan, as the colliding metal gives off the grizzly sound of two big pick-up trucks colliding. The titan floats like a butterfly, but it brings the heat like a beast. Right now, you’re probably feeling like the baddest man on the turf. So hey how about you and your buddy Mike Titan (Right?) put together the finishing touches? Punch that arm right through the cockpit, rip that scrawny punk out, and crush that spine of his into dust. In those last moments, you’ll see the pixelated life leave his polygonal eyes, his limbs will go limp, and you’ll get the ceremonial experience points boost that has become all too common with modern multiplayer kills. That was the moment I said “Okay, Titanfall, it’s on”.


Titanfall isn’t going to be the game to convert the people who don’t like multiplayer into trying multiplayer. Why? Because a lot of it is stuff you’ve seen in multiplayer before. Jet packs, wall running, mechs, guns, a metagame? You’ve seen all of this before. Titanfall is a multiplayer game trying to appear fresh and distinct for those that still love engaging in online warfare, or those who are looking for something that feels like enough of a change of pace to bring them back and use it as a way to kill time between some other games. It is an example of how a few additions and a new direction can change the entire flow of a game.

The increased mobility gives the developers a reason to create buildings with multiple ingress and egress points, because you can cover ground quickly and ascend to higher points. That creates a need to present multiple attack routes and exit routes for a player. The titans themselves provide the bonus of a kill streak, without being broken. Instead of a rich get richer mechanic, it's a mechanic that all the players will have access to during the game. Some people can just access it more quickly by being better. And being in a titan doesn't automatically mean instant kills, because the maps are designed to give the titans a limited view of what is going on, and to give players enough space to avoid these mechs and launch surprise attacks to give themselves a fighting chance.

That the game mitigates the idea of rewarding the kill streak while providing bots adds another layer of strategy. Go for players or mitigate that head hunting by just being cautious and picking on bots, then go in and play with the big boys in your own big boy. The 6 v 6 player count also provides the same level of intensity you get from smaller, but more intimate multiplayer games like Halo and Gears of War, with the addition of bots and the titans themselves providing you the overwhelming chaos you get from more active shooters like Battlefield. It's a balancing act that takes this hodge-podge of relatively old game mechanics to create something genuinely distinct in the genre. It's not the revolution the genre needs, but it's definitely something different. 

While Titanfall can win you over with its gameplay, it might lose some of you on the value proposition. I personally would argue that it more or less cuts out the fat of most modern mp games (because who the hell really likes VIP? Or wants another horde mode, for that matter?), but hey, Titanfall has 5 gameplay modes. 3 of them are basically variations of Deathmatch, but the scoring is different. Attrition is team deathmatch where you get points for killing bots, titans, and players. Players get you more points for the sake of competitive balance. Pilot Hunter is team deathmatch where only player kill counts. Last Titan Standing puts everyone into a titan right away, and the first team destroy all the opposing titans (not necessarily the players) wins. The scoring system is different, but it all comes down to shoot dudes in the face... or shoot robots in the cock pit. There is also Capture the Flag, which is still Capture the Flag, which means it's still about as boring as doing homework. Hardpoint is domination from Call of Duty, which was just Territories from Halo, which was also Conquest in Battlefield, and well, you get the gist of it.

There is also this thing called a campaign, but it's basically just attrition and hardpoint with cutscenes in between matches. There is some effort thrown into this mode when it comes to the audio work, campaign specific moments, and the fact that you can only unlock the other 2 Titan chassis in this mode. However, it still feels like a throw away mode. Most of the story takes place during matches with someone speaking in your head, and a side camera showing you footage of the ongoing war. The game simply has too much going on to make this type of storytelling effective, and the campaign itself turns multiplayer into a chore as opposed to a source of adolescent power fantasy joy that it actually is.

Dropping the crazier perks/kill streaks of CoD, and the 3 levels of campaign-coop-competitive gametypes does cut down on the fluff, as I appreciate the less is more approach. In some of these cases, however, less is simply less. Titanfall does so much to change the flow of a modern multiplayer shooter, but makes no attempt in providing a game mode that is particular to just Titanfall. Sure, Last Titan Standing kind of fits the bill, but even then it's like a survival team deathmatch, but you're in giant robots. It also doesn't help that PC gamers have to deal with some poor optimization as the game simply isn't technically impressive enough (read: it does look good, but mostly because of it's artistic direction) to justify some of the hardware requirements. Gamepads also tend to get an aggressive aim-assist on PC. That stuff is fine on consoles where players have to deal with dual analog, but on PC that's just ridiculous.

Then there is the part where we question how Titanfall ranks with the best in its genre. Sure against modern competitors simply feeling different works in its favor, and it has enough of a skill ceiling to feel more interesting than Call of Duty ever did for a seasoned gamer. But against the all-time titans of the genre? It falls flat against the mightier competitors like an Unreal or a Counter-Strike or even something like a Team Fortress 2. On the other hand, it isn't exactly shallow, and there is a degree of mastery here when it comes to using the mobility in the game to your advantage. It'll certainly separate the best from the merely average players.

If you go into this as someone who buys into hype trains, you're just setting yourself up for a disappointment as Titanfall isn't a game that is meant for anyone that isn't still into multiplayer. For those of you that are into multiplayer or want something just different enough to get you back into it for a little while longer? Titanfall is that game, and it's a very focused multiplayer experience. It's a change of pace from the annual Call of Duty, Battlefield, and Halo entry. Titanfall is also an argument against those 3 franchises that shows that you don't always have to reinvent the wheel to make something interesting again. Instead, you should at the least consider switching the style up and watch the money pile up (yes, massive grin when I wrote that). Titanfall is an example of how important the flow of a multiplayer game is, and for now that's more than enough to make it worth a spin. So adjust your expectations accordingly, and join the action.

 

Final Score - 7/10 

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