If you need to ask why I love Titanfall, I can only presume that you’re unaware of the giant robots and jetpacks. Reasonable at it seems to me to present that first sentence as a convincing argument of Titanfall’s worth, I suppose tradition dictates that I should elaborate a bit.
I’m sure many of you have a good understanding of what Titanfall is but briefly, for those who don’t; it’s an online only, multiplayer only FPS – 6v6 maximum,with both sides having easily-killed AI soldiers dotted across the map. Each human player has a jetpack which allows them to wallrun, wall hang, and make superhuman leaps (but not fly as such). Each player also has a countdown timer that begins at the start of each round (which can be sped up by earning points and kills) and when it hits zero, they’re able to call in a Titan – a huge mech as tall as a building, which they can jump in and out of at will (it can be left to guard and fight in AI mode should you wish). Finally you have ‘Burn Cards’, one-time-use perks – of which you can have up to three per match – which last until your next death.
That’s Titanfall in a nutshell, but it’s the details which make me squeal with delight. The Burn Cards are a good example to begin with. Each one offers an immediate advantage – perhaps a more powerful version of a weapon, or a Titan you can call in immediately without waiting for the countdown to finish, or a more useful minimap – but never anything that threatens to unbalance the game (especially as the advantage immediately disappears upon death). Best and perhaps most surprisingly of all – especially for a Microsoft exclusive – microtransactions are nowhere to be seen. You can not buy Burn Cards with real money. You buy them in the in-game shop with in-game credits, and you earn them through completing challenges. That’s it. I really hope this doesn’t change for the sequel.
The heart and soul of Titanfall, the reason I am so impressed by and enamoured with it, is balance. The biggest potential problem that the basic scenario throws up is that puny humans wouldn’t stand a chance against a huge, heavily armoured, gigantic-gun-wielding mech. Surely the first player to call in their Titan would dominate the match, and if one team gathered two or more Titans before the other they would be unstoppable? Well thankfully, this isn’t the case. Not only because the previously detailed timer means everybody gets a Titan at least once, either.
Swaggering around in a Titan certainly affords you a decent sense of power. Puny humans can be killed in just one hit, be that with a shot of your weapon, a punch of your mighty fist, or (always amusing) being squished under your huge metallic foot. As a puny human however you will be equipped with an anti-Titan weapon that, used correctly, can quickly tear through a Titan’s shield and then rapidly knock down its energy bar. Using such a weapon runs a high risk of giving away your location, but then you can fit into nooks and crannies that a Titan cannot reach. But then you need to watch out for splash damage from a Titan’s weapon. Perhaps you’re using the cloak ability, which makes it extremely difficult for a Titan to track you. But then, ‘extremely difficult’ isn’t ‘impossible’. As a puny human, you have the ability to jump on and ‘rodeo’ a Titan, rapidly knocking down its energy bar by shooting the engine directly. But then the Titan pilot might have the electric smoke ability which can kill a rodeoing pilot in seconds, or they could shoot missiles against a wall to take the puny human out with splash damage. Or the Titan pilot could eject, take out the attacker, then jump back in. But then the Titan pilot could try any of this, the attacker could leap off and hide, then jump back on and start the attack again. But then the Titan pilot might be aware of this and keep a look out…
The point is, tools and tactics are available to pilots both in and out of a Titan to dominate the fight. It’s the player’s ability to adapt to the situation moment to moment that dictates who comes out on top, and that’s the way it should be. Titanfall isn’t perfect – offline play would have been more than welcome, and the storytelling is inoffensive background noise at best – but for what it is, it’s extremely hard to beat. Advanced Warfare online is liberating and dynamic compared to previous Call of Duties, but play it immediately after a few matches of Titanfall and it feels sluggish and restrictive. I can’t help thinking that this is also, in part, thanks to the fact that most Titanfall maps are bright and therefore noticeably detailed.
If you’ve never played Titanfall before, this is a great time to start. Not only can the game be picked up very cheaply almost everywhere you look, all of the DLC is now free. Okay, that may be a sore point for those who paid for it at the time (I picked up the season pass myself when it was on sale – just a few weeks before it all went free), but if nothing else it was a decision that helped beef up the lobbies.
Tl:dr giant robots and jetpacks.