Titanfall (Xbox One) Review

Titanfall is filled with big stompy mechs, but you’d better like online play — and the odd server issue — to really get your most out of Titanfall experience.

Titanfall: On the plus side

There is something intrinsically fun about stomping around the place in a gigantic mechanical suit. I’m certain that psychiatrists could have a field day with that statement, but its remains true nonetheless. Put most people at the controls of a gigantic missile-spewing robot of destruction, and they’re unlikely to start working out how to make origami.

That’s not a revelation, but then in many ways Titanfall isn’t about revelations. It’s about taking a few well-worn gaming tropes and applying a fresh, Xbox One-esque coat of paint to them.

He was an enemy pilot. She was a Titan warrior with a stormy past. Somehow, on the battlefield, they found love.
He was an enemy pilot. She was a Titan warrior with a stormy past.
Somehow, on the battlefield, they found love.

At its core, Titanfall is a first person shooter filled with big stompy robots that you get to pilot every couple of minutes in game (or longer if you don’t break them), alongside lots of smaller ground troops in a first person shooter environment. You’ve got your usual grab-bag of game modes that don’t differ in any real way from existing FPS titles, but again this is a game about refinement, not radical reinvention. For the most part, it works quite smoothly whether you’re on foot or in your Titan, and the action never lets up for even a second.
While it’s the Titans that Titanfall sells itself on, they’re arguably not the game’s best bit of innovation. Instead, that’d be the first person foot soldier movement mechanics, which borrow heavily from the Mirror’s Edge school of parkour running. When you’re not in your Titan, you’re a nimble soldier, and learning how to use this to best advantage is key, because everyone else is equally nimble.
Life seemed simpler to Mario before he got the cybernetic suit.
Life seemed simpler to Mario before he got the cybernetic suit.

It’s not enough to simply jump for the highest spot, but to use all of the terrain, above, between and below to ensure victory, and that takes time for each and every map. The physical movement abilities you have also change how you treat the Titans once you’ve got over the initial I’m-in-a-big-honking-robot thrill, because a Titan is a rather large and obvious target. Titan on Titan combat is fun, but there’s little sweeter than taking down a Titan when you’re not actually in one, just because you could.
Titanfall is a PC and Xbox One title, and it’s the latter code I’ve been tinkering around with for the past week. It’s certainly pretty, and while I’d still hold to my maxim that it’s only worth getting a new console once there’s around half a dozen titles that engage you, it’s fair to say that Titanfall looks the part of a next generation game.

Titanfall: On the minus side

Titanfall’s plot is junk. If you play through the campaign mode enough it’s likely to sink in, but it’s all total window dressing, and window dressing that goes right out that same window the moment you leap into action.
There are good guys and bad guys. The other guys are the bad guys. Go kill them, OK?

This looks like suicide. In my case, it probably is.
This looks like suicide.
In my case, it probably is.

Titanfall is multiplayer-only, and it’s online only. Those two factors have to be taken into consideration when assessing its value, because there’s no single player, and any game you have is predicated on having a working server — which hasn’t always been the case during Titanfall’s launch period — and enough people to play it with. Right now, with Titanfall being the hot gaming commodity, that’s not an issue, but whether that’s the case six months from now remains to be seen.
There’s also the issue — and it’s hardly unique to Titanfall — that there will always be players with a lot more time to plumb into the game, and in Titanfall’s case, that means higher level Titans and Pilots to play as, along with some interesting perks. Which is fine once you’ve earned it, but at least right now Titanfall does little to differentiate players based on levels. As such, the first few hours of the game if you’re playing in Campaign mode are a grind of being repeatedly squashed over and over. I’m not the world’s finest FPS player, and I’m fine with that, but it might be nice to be able to not be virtually instantaneously sniped right after you spawn.

Titanfall: Pricing

Titanfall is available for PC and Xbox One. JB HiFi lists Titanfall for PC at $79, while the Xbox One version runs to $89.
EBGames lists the Xbox One version at $99.95 and the PC version at $89.95
There’s also an Xbox 360 version due for release on the 10th of April.

Titanfall: Fat Duck Verdict

Titanfall isn’t terribly original in either scope or concept, and neither is it terribly deep. Putting more hours in does result in a lot of choices when it comes to the weapons you take into combat, and a growing familiarity with the game’s maps, but that’s not the same thing as actual depth.
This isn’t necessarily an issue if you’re already a heavy online gamer, because then there’s a lot to enjoy here. You’ll always be playing against actual human players, and the action is fast and frantic.

The arms are exploding, you say? Yeah, well... they do that. It's not a bug, though. It's a feature. Keeps you warm on the battlefield, see?
The arms are exploding, you say? Yeah, well… they do that. It’s not a bug, though. It’s a feature. Keeps you warm on the battlefield, see?

It is an issue if you do want more than just the same basic multiplayer types that we’ve seen in countless other FPS titles, however, or for that matter any kind of single player experience. As such, and irrespective of whether you purchase it as a disc or download, it’s always going to feel as though you’re renting Titanfall.
It’s very hot right now, and as such games are easy to come by, but I’m not entirely sure that the same will be true in six to twelve months time. As with any online title that relies on a strong player base, if the player numbers dip, so does the overall value of the game, because it becomes less and less playable. That’s especially true for first person shooters — after all, whose Titan are you going to reduce to a smoking pair of mechanical boots if there’s nobody there to pilot it?
Random thought: Why isn't there a Bill The Galactic Hero game?
Random thought: Why isn’t there a Bill The Galactic Hero game?

That’s a terribly general observation, and if I’m honest, it doesn’t entirely jibe with my own feelings about the game. Titanfall is arcade fun, and as long as I’ve got the patience to get into a game there’s fun to be had here, but at the same time, I’m drawn back to a thought I had when reviewing Earth Defense Force 2025.
In that review, I commented that there were similarities between it and Titanfall. Lots of robots, lots of explosions, lots of weapons. Titanfall is by far the more visually polished title, but it’s polish on what is actually a very thin surface of game. I’ll no doubt have more fun with Titanfall over the next couple of months, but it’s a title I could see myself growing tired of very rapidly indeed. As I’m writing this paragraph, and thinking about Earth Defense Force 2025, I’m not thinking about Titanfall.
That says it all.

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