What Little Good There Is In Titanfall Isn’t Enough To Warrant All the Hype
As I sat in the darkened arena, the traditional glowing Xbox green plastered all around, I couldn’t help but be excited. The screen flickered on, and a game that looked like a futuristic Call of Duty was showcased for the world. It was fast paced, intense, and of course, there were giant, man-powered machines of destruction, otherwise known as Titans. The world was excited.
But not me.
Since E3 I feel like I’ve been the only person to see Titanfall for what it really is, a glorified futuristic Call of Duty clone. And even that is making it more than it really is. I have a long list of reasons why I am not even close to excited about this game, but let me be clear, not a single one of them is because I hate Microsoft or Xbox. The Xbox One is the first Microsoft console I haven’t bought at launch, and quite frankly, it’s just because it’s so damn expensive. I want an Xbox One, and I WILL have one someday. But that’s another story.
Over the course of the next few months I was able to see a lot of in-game footage and actually play the game at various events, but it wasn’t until this weekend that I got a chance to get my hands on the PC version of the game without feeling rushed or having to wait in line for hours. But if you follow my Twitter feed you know I haven’t exactly been chomping at the bit for a chance to play it.
I don’t hide the fact that I think this game is completely overrated and lazy. Yes, I said lazy. But I will admit that I have had some fun playing in the beta, and I need to stress this fact. The game truly is fun. I can’t see sitting and playing for hours, but I had a good time in the game. My problem isn’t that it’s not fun. So how could I possibly say that one of the most talked-about and anticipated games of this new generation, and one that I admit is fun, is lazy? There are so many reasons… But let’s focus on the three big ones today.
If you follow any of the big names in video game journalism, you’ll know that they think anyone who disagrees with Respawn’s 6v6 decision is just being an Xbox hater, irrational, or is just plain dumb. Excuse me for not blindly trusting that Respawn co-founder Vince Zampella has tried all the player count combinations and that 6v6 is the only one that could possibly work. Their reasoning for 6v6 “feeling right” is that the action is already intense, there are AI companions (otherwise referred to as “minions”) that fight alongside you, and everyone gets a Titan that players can either get inside or have follow them. So really it’s like 20v20.
Let’s see, in my first match in the beta, I successfully killed 18 minions – one-shotting them with my smart pistol – and not once did a minion ever kill me. Those minions are completely worthless, and merely serve as a distraction to make the game seem more action packed and intense than it really is.
You know what else would make the game seem more action packed and intense? Real people.
But no, I am supposed to accept everything Respawn does as scripture and trust that I will love this game until my dying breath, or at least until Titanfall 2 comes out. But how can I possibly set aside my next generation expectations and be happy with a company and a game that does nothing to push those boundaries?
I’m going to spew some hyperbole that no one will agree with, at least until they play Titanfall for a few weeks and suddenly realize the game is dreadfully dull with no lasting appeal. Titanfall is nothing but Call of Duty, stripped of all its competitive charm, chopped to pieces in all the wrong places, and spit back out as a completely over-hyped and ridiculous piece of garbage with a few robots added in.
Wait, make that a BUNCH of robots added in.
Too Many Titans
And that’s where my next issue with the game comes in. Everyone gets a Titan. Not only that, but getting Titans is far too easy. Titans don’t feel special, because everyone can get them – and everyone can get them a lot. This game would be a lot better if Titans were harder to come by, and if you only got one. What government agency is this that has the funds to allow for giant robots to be dropped from the sky every few minutes, only to lose almost all of them in a short 15 minute battle?
If Titans are going to be so prevalent, and so important to the gameplay, why is there even an option to play as a simple soldier? Personally I had a lot of fun running around as an assassin shooting the minions and occasionally firing a couple hundred rounds from my anti-Titan gun trying to take them down. But in the end, you really need another Titan around if you want to have any chance of destroying enemy robots before you yourself get killed.
I really believe this game would be much more exciting if players could only get one Titan per game, and maybe even if they were limited to just 2 or 3 per team. If that was the case, it would make being a soldier so much more important, as it would become their job to keep enemy players and their anti-Titan guns away. It would mean working together as a team to move forward and take bases together. It would mean covering flanks, scouting positions, and repairing the Titans when they become damaged. All of this would make for a busier game, one where it’s not just about getting in a machine and firing off as many bullets as possible at anything that moves.
So what is the reason the game is the way it is? Respawn has said that 6v6 is where the game feels right, and as a lowly consumer, I am told by the media I must trust this statement and never question it. I’m sorry, but in this day and age, an age where 64-player battles with tanks, aircraft, and boats are possible on LAST-GEN consoles, why is it so difficult to believe players would expect more out of a next-gen console? There isn’t a single thing in Titanfall that screams “next gen”, and as gamers, we should demand more. Microsoft is already struggling to get its games to run at 1080p, and now their big next-gen title isn’t doing a single thing that’s revolutionary or even creative.
Let’s take a look at Battlefield 4. The maps in this game can be huge, allowing for warfare to happen in various degrees of insanity. Titanfall’s maps would fit into a single quadrant of these maps, which just makes me feel like Respawn decided to be lazy and/or cheap. They took the Call of Duty route and decided that close quarters would equal insane action. And in truth, it does. There is danger at every turn, and there’s nowhere to hide. But why does the game have to be limited to 6 against 6?
If Titanfall took place on one of the Battlefield 4 maps, say Paracel Storm. This map is so huge that 64 players could be on the screen, even with their Titans by their side, and there would still be enough room. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been on a Battlefield 4 map and had to run for what felt like miles, to varying degrees of “verticality” (something Respawn is trying to convince us their game is the first to ever have), to get from one capture point to another. You want all-out insane warfare? Put 64 players in Titanfall on a map like that.
But again I also have to go back to the fact that Titans are too easily accessible. Sure, Titanfall would work as-is on the Paracel Storm map, but it would be even better if they limited the number of Titans allowed per team. Titans could be dropped from the sky at random, and whoever gets into it first gets it. I’m no game developer, so I don’t know if this is the best options, but I am a game player, and I know Titanfall, in its current form, is complete and utter garbage.
No doubt most of you will completely disagree with me, call me a Sony fanboy, and spit on my face if you ever got the chance. And that’s fine. But the questions I’ve brought up today aren’t completely unreasonable requests. On “next-gen consoles”, we should expect “next-gen experiences.” Is that really so much to ask? In its current form, what is next-gen about Titanfall? The fact that you can control robots? The 6v6 combat? The ridiculously high respawn rate of Titans? The complete waste of time and space that are the minions? The overpowered minion-destroyer smart pistol? If you answered “yes” to any of these then I guess we just have different ideas of what a next generation experience should be.
And I feel sorry for you.
Quick Little Update
I still hold true to everything I said above, but late Monday night I finally got a chance to play a few games of the Last Titan Standing mode. This mode is much more along the lines of what I’m talking about. Players get one Titan, and once it’s gone, it’s gone. I can actually see enjoying the game if this was the only mode I played. But is one mode worth $60? If more of the game was like Last Titan Standing, and it had that sense of urgency that this mode creates, I would certainly be happier with the product. But in its current form – with only one game mode I enjoy, and even it still being limited to only 6v6 – most of the game offers no reason to be careful or strategic, the Titans are not even remotely special, and thus, not any fun. In fact, all it does is make being a soldier feel pointless.