Review – Titanfall (Xbox One)
Developer: Respawn Entertainment (PC/Xbox One), Bluepoint Games (Xbox 360)
Engine: Source Engine
Platforms: PC , Xbox One(reviewed), Xbox 360
Release Date: March 11 (PC/Xbox One), March 25 (Xbox 360)
Editor’s Note: This is the Xbox One review. Shank’s PC review can be viewed here. We decided to do two separate reviews to showcase the differences, yet also provide the most accurate review for the platform itself without comparing it to the other version. The Xbox One Titanfall review will compare it to other games’ performance on it’s platform, and not how it compares to the PC version of the game.
If you’ve been following the world of video gaming recently, you might’ve heard about a game that is expected to revolutionize the First Person Shooter genre. The game that will literally sell Xbox One’s. The game that will finally knock Call of Duty off its pedestal as the number one shooter on the market. If you’ve heard those tidbits of marketing hype, likely you heard them referencing Titanfall.
Titanfall is the first IP in developer Respawn Entertainment’s catalog, and with the caché of developers on Respawn’s staff, the expectations are high. Respawn boasts a lot of the team that put Call of Duty on the map as the quintessential FPS experience. Following the ugly split with Activision during the development of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, Vince Zampella and some of the Infinity Ward vets who came over with him started to work on what would become Titanfall. But does Titanfall live up to the hype? Is this one game worth spending the $499 on a new console, or should you just hold out till the next entry from Activision?
While I am not a graphics junkie by any stretch of the imagination, I recognize that they do help make a game. With Titanfall being pegged as a “next-gen” experience, the first thing I look for in anything touted as “next-gen” are the graphics. Unfortunately Titanfall falls short here. With the limitations of the Xbox One hardware to effectively output games a 1080p consistently, the graphics do suffer as a result. Couple that with the fact that FPS’ rely on a fluid 60 frames-per-second to make competitive play viable, the game does not look as good as a “next-gen” game should. That’s not to say the game looks bad, however. In terms of shooters on the Xbox One console, I would daresay that Titanfall towers over the likes of Call of Duty: Ghosts and even the other EA shooter on the system, Battlefield 4. Unfortunately for the player and developer Respawn, the game just does not scream “next-gen” visually.
Another reason to support the fact that the visuals in Titanfall are not next-gen is a closer look at the NPC character models. A lot of the time, the head bobbing up and down while MacAllen was talking to the Militia looked as though I was back in Morrowind on the original Xbox. They just don’t look good. The Pilot models, as well as those of the Titans clearly got the most love from the texture artists.
Audio is a completely different animal all together. The sound direction in Titanfall is exquisite, making any audio set up shine whether you are using standard TV speakers of full Dolby Surround support. Each shot fired, each footstep of pilot and Titan-alike are exactly how you would imagine them to sound. The grinding sound you hear as you Titan Punch an enemy is the sound you might hear with a nearby multi-car accident on a freeway. Metal grinding against metal in a deadly song of destruction. The voice acting is also well done, and hearing Abbie Heppe tell me to “Standby for Titanfall” gives me chills each time.
And how about the sound of your Titan whizzing to the planet ready to take on your burdens? The massive boom the behemoth makes as it breaks the sound barrier is spectacularly superb, and even though I hear it multiple times each match, the sound never gets old.
While the visuals do not scream “next-gen,” the sound direction in the game really picks up the slack here. The game itself does not look wholly bad, but with the lack of 1080p native support, the game does suffer as a result. Though Titanfall looks better, in my opinion, than even the power of Frostbite 3 on the Xbox One, the system has a long way to go until we truly see a “next-gen” experience in a shooter.
This is where Titanfall earns its salt. The gameplay we see in Titanfall really makes me look at how FPS’ in the future will be made and use Respawn’s achievement as the benchmark. The game is part-Call of Duty, part-Starsiege TRIBES, and part-Mechwarrior. The team at Respawn have done an amazing job making sure whether you are on the ground fighting, or in your Titan, you are not hindered in any way.
The great thing about Titanfall‘s gameplay is that rather than doing one thing well, it does everything and blends it together. The fluidity of your pilot’s movements, the parkour-like movement that can be compared to Mirror’s Edge, is easy to pick up and start playing with. While the tutorial helps in learning a lot of your abilities as a pilot, I honestly felt that every movement was natural. The precision afforded by the Xbox One gamepad really lends itself well here too. I don’t feel as though I am going to veer off course, something I felt while playing the beta on PC with my Xbox 360 gamepad.
As a pilot, you are able to literally race around the map, killing grunts and enemy pilots on your way to your goal. You can use a combination of an all out assault, stealth, or simply nifty moves on a wall to take out your foes. One of the most exhilarating moments for me was wall-running in Angel City. While on the wall I was able to take down an enemy pilot with my Carbine. Once I jumped from the wall to the building beside me, I decided to wall hang and let my enemy pilot, whom my radar told me was up there, come closer. I jumped from the wall and landed a headshot on the pilot with ease. This kind of movement fluidity, as well as simple player verticality really sets Titanfall apart from the rest of the shooters you’ll find on the market.
The great thing is, once you hop into your Titan, you’re not hindered by the fact you are no longer a small pilot on the map. The Titan may be large, but I found even the Ogre class, which is the heaviest, easy to maneuver. Controlling your Titan feels like an extension of your pilot. Each punch, each shot, each Vortex shield simply responds and feels amazing. The impulse triggers in the Xbox One controller are utilized on this game better than any since Forza Motorsport 5. Each step your Titan makes, the rumble makes you feel as if you are truly gripping the controls inside the cockpit. Each squeeze of the trigger feels more than just a simple rumble. You feel as if you are holding the rifle and feel each mechanism of the gun engage.
Fighting an enemy Titan as a Titan is another experience in this game that I don’t think other modern shooters can match. Each Titan can be equipped with a couple of weapons ranging from a chaingun, to a 40mm cannon. Add on a secondary weapon such as a barrage of missiles or a rocket salvo that locks onto your enemy Titan, and you’ve got enough firepower to take down the behemoth in front of you. In addition to your offensive weapons, you do have some defensive abilities. Your Vortex Shield will capture enemy fire and allow you to shoot those round back at them. Be careful though, your enemy can then capture the returned ordinance with their Vortex Shield and re-return the favor. Another tactic used is the Titan Smoke. This shrouds an area with a damaging smoke, while also concealing you from sight. This is helpful if you need to get away and allow your shield to recharge. If an enemy is caught in the smoke, they can expect to take heavy damage until they escape the cloud. Enemy pilots who might happen to be rodeoing your Titan will also flee, as it usually means instant death to stay. The last defensive ability would be a Particle Wall. This is a wall of energy that you stick in the ground to block oncoming fire. You, however, can shoot straight through this wall to keep up the offensive.
Burn cards are an addition to the game that definitely make things interesting. Let’s say you want to try out a Sniper Rifle, but either have yet to unlock it, or don’t want to waste a loadout slot, if you could earn a Burn card that replaces your primary weapon with the Sniper Rifle. In the end, I see the Burn Cards as nothing more than just fluff, but interesting fluff nonetheless. I will admit, my playstyle is typically on the stealthy side, so getting a burn card that allows me to perma-cloak as well as slot another tactical ability made me squeal.
The one knock I have in the gameplay department is the framerate drop that can be experienced with the Xbox One version. While the game for the most part is running at a smooth 60fps (or close to it), sometimes the action on the screen can get so intense that you may experience massive drops in framerate. This doesn’t happen every time, but when it does, it’s a short annoyance. I’ve found the framerate skips don’t last horribly long, sometimes for maybe even just a few seconds. While that is enough for an enemy pilot or Titan to get a jump on you, I never found myself hindered by these drops. However, this is a problem that if not fixed, Microsoft and Respawn could see players quickly moving onto another game.
The game’s capability to make each battle interesting definitely makes me optimistic about the design of FPS’ moving forward. Titanfall is not a next-gen shooter, even with the amazing gameplay, but I see it’s ability to blend the fluidity of a pilot’s movement with the natural feel of controlling your Titan as a huge step in the right direction for the genre. Even with the framerate issues associated with the Xbox One version, I still felt as though I was able to power through them. Hopefully future updates can fix such issues, but as it stands they really don’t take away from the experience enough to bring down the score.
The design of the game really has me conflicted. While I think the game itself is well put together, there are some glaring design flaws that show up, especially on the Xbox One platform.
When Titanfall was originally announced, the Xbox One was a very different system. The argument of “always online” pervaded every corner of the Internet, fans and skeptics alike arguing the validity or the absurdity of Microsoft’s idea. Eventually Microsoft changed it’s policy and the “always online” requirement of the console was rescinded. Someone forgot to tell Respawn.
Titanfall is multiplayer only. Only. So if you do not have the Xbox Live Gold subscription, just pass this on your way to Thief in your local Gamestop. While in theory it’s a cool concept, you better make sure that there are no service outages along the way. Plus, for those fans without a constant internet connection, Titanfall is a game they will only experience through “Let’s Plays” and Livestreaming.
Within the first day of launch issues happened. While it was Xbox Live that was down (which goes down less times than my ISP has in the past 10 years), the problem is that thousands of players could not play the game on launch day. While the issue was resolved, it still stands that that outage caused many people to be angry and upset about the state of Titanfall.
Yesterday there was another outage, which made it so we could not log onto the game for a bit. I understand outages happen, but to completely cripple a game and make it unplayable seems like an idea that should have been shot down in a board meeting. Make something single player. I don’t know, maybe the campaign? Something so people can still play your game, even when your servers won’t allow us to connect.If the public outcry was to make the Xbox One an optional online system, why is the flagship title for the system not following suit?
Speaking of the campaign, this is an area where I think the game completely falls flat. In my opinion, the campaign is nothing more than multiplayer matches with narration. Oftentimes I hear the characters talking on screen, but I don’t pay attention because I have an enemy pilot rodeoing my Titan, or I’m involved in a Pilot vs Titan metabattle. While the variety of missions are nice, even the missions themselves don’t really add to the story. In one mission I’m supposed to be saving a guy named Barker. Not once in the mission did I ever see a Barker to save. Instead, I was supposed to play a deathmatch while the characters behind the scenes saved Barker. In a normal campaign, YOU would be the one saving Barker, but I guess because the game is multiplayer only, they just couldn’t design the game to allow you to do this. The campaign serves as nothing more than to force you through it for Titan unlocks. In fact, that was the only reason why I suffered through the melodrama that is the IMC and the Militia.
Another knock on the campaign: the story is just not that great and not that well told. Simply put, play the campaign if you want to customize a Stryder or Ogre Titan, skip it if you’re cool with the pre-made loadouts.
Campaign aside, once you get into the game the design I think holds up pretty well. There is a good number of game modes, and each one is varied enough to keep things interesting. I found out pretty quickly that I am awful at Capture the Flag, but not too bad at Attrition, or my favorite game mode: Pilot Hunter. Hardpoint is another game type I’m not too great at, although I love playing it. Having my Titan guard a hardpoint while I slink in the shadows defending as well is really empowering, especially if you successfully ward off an enemy onslaught.
One area I will defend Respawn is the decision to limit the matches to 6v6 battles. Not once did I find myself with a lack of enemies to fight or fend off. The inclusion of the Titans really adds to the level of depth in each match, as well as keep the match at a fevered pitch. Survive a pilot or two only to have to contend with an AI controlled Titan bearing down on your position.
I also love those metabattles that can erupt at a moments notice. Pilot vs Pilot, Titan vs Titan, Pilot vs Titan, Titan vs Pilot – these are all viable battles and each side has a chance to win each fight. Even taking on a Titan as a pilot doesn’t seem daunting. Rodeoing a Titan and taking it out while on top of the machine is not easy task, but the feeling you get when you’ve accomplished that goal is extremely rewarding. An even better battle is to have your auto-Titan assaulting an enemy Titan, while you are rodeoing the enemy. These kinds of battles are simply not available in any other game, and it definitely makes Titanfall tower over some of the firefights you’ll find in other shooters.
While my biggest complaint is it’s always multiplayer and lack of a great campaign, when you get down to the core design of the game Titanfall’s ability to make each battle memorable in their own way makes up for some of this. While I do wish there was a single-player mode for those who simply want to practice or play through the campaign themselves, Titanfall’s variety of match modes and playstyles make me forget these shortcomings pretty quickly.
So should you buy Titanfall? If you own a Xbox One already, I would say yes. The game definitely makes the system a lot more enjoyable. However, I would stop short of saying that this is the game that you have to have a Xbox One for. Respawn has made an incredibly fun game, but I would not say that this one game is worth the $499 price tag on the Xbox One. Rather, it complements a library of games that really serve as a launching point for the system in the coming months. So if you already own an Xbox One, get the game. If you’re looking to purchase one and are interested in other games on the platform, get the Titanfall Xbox One bundle. If this is the only game you are interested in playing on the Xbox One, see if your PC can handle the game first.
The Look: 1/3
The Feel: 3/3
The Design: 2/3