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This past Friday saw the UK release of Titanfall, Microsoft’s first big hitter for the Xbox One (though the game is also available on PC, with a 360 release coming in a couple of weeks). Many people had made use of account switching to get the game a few days early from the US store (where the game launched on the 11th), but I had to wait for Amazon to deliver my physical copy on Friday afternoon – I had managed to pre-order it for a relatively bargainous Β£37.

A few weeks back, I managed to get in on the XBO beta, and gave some impressions of that (which you can read here if you’re so inclined); I noted that I was utterly awful at Attrition, which is essentially your Titan-flavoured Team Deathmatch analogue, but that I was much better at the objective gametype Hardpoint Domination. After installing the full game (which took about 25 minutes with an additional day one update), I jumped straight into Hardpoint, and promptly came top of my team. In fact, I seem to come top in almost every game of Hardpoint that I’m in. It’s definitely the mode for me, and suits my defense-minded, shotgun toting play-style very nicely – I can hole up at a hardpoint, use cloak when grunts alert me of a nearby enemy pilot and then cling to a wall or hide in a corner, waiting for my moment to strike. When I earn my titan, I can call it down to both defend the exterior and act as an enemy detector of sorts.

After prying myself away from Hardpoint I decided to give the Capture the Flag mode a go, and played a couple of games. I’ve always liked CTF in Halo, but the mode almost seems made for Titanfall; in one game, I managed to sprint, wall-run, mantle and double-jump all the way from my base across the map into enemy territory, steal their flag, and make it back home without even coming close to ground level. Thanks to the route I took over, through and across the sides of sweeping, curved glass buildings, I didn’t even encounter an enemy pilot as I almost flew back to base. It was a glorious run. And then I did this when defending my own flag. Any game that allows you to robot-punch a flag carrier into a fine red mist is OK by me.

Next up, I wanted to try out the much talked-about ‘campaign multiplayer’. A lot has been made of the mode, as Respawn’s attempt at unifying single- and multi-player by infusing the latter with a narrative focus. It’s one of the elements of the game that has caught my attention the most in the run-up to release; I generally don’t play competitive multiplayer shooters (other than the occasional burst of Halo, which is always a single-player-first experience for me), so I was hoping the mode would provide some semblance of the traditional single-player shooter experience.

Campaign multiplayer is split in two, telling the story first from the perspective of the IMC, and then switching sides to portray the Militia’s struggle for freedom in the frontier systems. So far, I’ve only played the former. The IMC are the pantomime villains of the piece, chasing down the Militia at every turn, killing civilians, and building a vast, unfeeling robot army that would make even Emperor Palpatine drool with envy. When the Vice-Admiral of their fleet defects to the Militia, they even replace him with an artificial intelligence called Spyglass, which had, up to that point, been providing intel to the IMC forces. I guess the point Respawn want to get across is that these guys are fairly inhuman, both in their methods and their aims.

Of course, all this is essentially window dressing, snatches of conversation heard in lobbies between games and in brief, scene-setting vignettes as your squad approaches the drop zone at the next map. It’s not really fleshed out enough to carry the label ‘campaign’, but it’s a nice addition that serves to provide a bit of a narrative backbone to the disparate maps and environments that you’ll see across the two-or-so hours of each side of the campaign, and there are occasional snatches of the big budget spectacle you expect to see in single-player FPS campaigns. One aspect that disappoints is that your actions have no bearing on the story that’s playing out; win or lose, the story simply moves on to the next map, with named NPCs sometimes engaging in verbal sparring offscreen, meaning it often feels rather detached from your own actions.

It’s something of a shame that Respawn have built a beautiful, believably lived-in sci-fi universe with Titanfall, but done little to make it feel actually alive. I’m hopeful that a sequel will contain a full campaign mode with a decent story, and I wonder if the core of it won’t end up being a tale of man-versus-machine; there’s a snatch of conversation heard in the final map of the IMC campaign that seems to suggest that one reason the Militia have broken away from the IMC is because they’ve built that aforementioned army of cold, unfeeling robots. I’m beginning to wonder if this first game is a set-up for a later, Terminator-inspired apocalyptic tale of mankind’s fight for survival against the machines they, in their hubris, built to fight their wars. We shall see.

I’ve yet to play the Miltia side of the campaign, so that’s probably my next stop when I get back in-game. I have to complete it to unlock the final titan chassis, but it’s also a nice way to spend a couple of hours in a playlist-style game mode – you don’t have to worry about queuing up matches, you can just sit back and let the games come to you. It’s also a good way to familiarise yourself with some of the maps too, as it spans about two thirds of the game’s environments. It’s less of a tour of the game’s modes however, as it only offers Attrition and Hardpoint, and at the moment I’m thinking once I’m done with campaign I’ll be done with Attrition. I just don’t enjoy it.

There is another new mode that wasn’t present in the beta though. Called Pilot Hunter, it’s essentially Attrition but you only get points for taking down fellow pilots. I’ve yet to try it, but I’m thinking it might be a bit too similar to Attrition for my tastes; indeed, in the latter mode I can at least farm grunts and spectres and take down some titans to earn some points, which won’t be an option here. I’ll still give it a go in the interests of trying everything out, but I doubt I’ll enjoy it as much as I do its inverse, Last Titan Standing, which I have yet to play in the final release of the game, but loved in the beta. I’ll be back on that once I’ve unlocked all three titan chassis’ and am able to build my own robot buddy just the way I want it. Going forward, I can see myself playing lots of Hardpoint, Last Titan Standing and CTF.

As I mentioned earlier, I generally don’t play online shooters, but I think Titanfall is going to keep me interested for some time. I’ve seen some complaints about the speed of levelling up and unlocking equipment, suggesting that once that’s all been worked through there will be little left to bring people back, but I play games if I find them fun, rather than to watch numbers go up. Of course, we all enjoy progression in games, but it’s a side dish, not the main course. If the game remains fun to play, and I’m sure it will given the tight gunplay, joyful movement around the maps and the sheer spectacle of watching your titan fall to earth, I’m confident it’ll keep pulling me back for some time. At least until Halo 5 lands, anyway.

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