When Medal of Honor was at its peak, Jason West and Vince Zampella defected from that franchise to create Call of Duty. Clearly, this was a gamble that paid off, as their franchise continues to be the biggest cash cow in console gaming year-after-year. Years later, they would once again leave a great thing behind in search of making something even better. The end product of their latest move is Titanfall. Exclusive to Microsoft platforms, this first-person shooter states its case for being the next big thing.
Set well into the future, Titanfall loosely tells the story of two rival factions. Depending on which side you play on, you’re the good guys facing off against the bad guys. Each group draws from the same pool of equipment, from guns, to cloaking devices, all the way to hulking mechs called Titans that can simply stomp on humans to dispatch of them. Humans may be greatly undersized and underpowered in a head-to-head confrontation with a Titan, but they make up for it in maneuverability. Unlike most military first-person shooters, players on foot can double jump and wall run.
Having these tools available makes for a shooter with a very distinct feel. For human-against-human encounters, fights are more about running and gunning versus camping. A single human may not have much of a chance against a Titan, but they can cause some serious damage in teams or by attacking outside of its vision range. When Titans collide, it usually leads to an onslaught of bullets and rockets. These varying dynamics make for a core gameplay loop with staying power.
Further adding to the game’s long-term appeal are a number of great maps and a cue from the MOBA genre. Titanfall features 15 maps in the base game that greatly play to your strengths as a pilot or a Titan. I actually prefer playing as a pilot, as there are so many different ways you as a pilot can use the terrain to your advantage. In particular, bounding across rooftops while shooting your foes is particularly satisfying. As a means of adding scale to the battle and as something for lesser players to kill, a number of AI soldiers are also part of each skirmish. Even when I’m clearly outmatched or just having a bad game, I can at least positively contribute to my team by killing off the fodder.
For players used to the pace of Call of Duty, it may take some time to adjust to this game’s pace. Everything moves at a blistering pace, which to me translates into a more exciting experience. However, the speed and craziness comes at a cost, as the game doesn’t run at a solid framerate. Oftentimes, the framerate will drop to a very playable, yet less than ideal level to the point where you might see some choppiness throughout. This is worst when you’re fighting near Titans that are shooting off a dump truck full of rockets and bullets. By no means did it cause me to miss shots, but it’s a bit disappointing to see these issues crop up.
Recognizing the fact that most online first-person shooter players never touch the single player campaign, Titanfall doesn’t really have one. As a concession, the campaign is basically just online multiplayer matches with sections of radio dialogue playing during the course of each match. While this is supposed to give you the effect of a greater narrative tying these events together, it adds nothing to the experience to the point where you’ll always move forward in your progress whether you win or lose. I actually like playing the campaign in Call of Duty games, so this is a bit of a disappointment.
I don’t think Titanfall is quite ready to knock Call of Duty off of its throne. However, if I was pressed to play one of the two, I’d probably pick Titanfall without question. The futuristic and fast-paced action is much more up my alley and it’s built in a way that keeps things fresh for a long time.