Giant Bomb Review

259 Comments

Titanfall Review

4
  • XONE
  • PC

Titanfall's focus on player mobility and big-ass robots sets it apart from other competitive shooters and makes much of the game look like one big highlight reel.

Titanfall is a game for people who like competitive first-person shooters, but have gotten tired of seeing the same basic action year in and year out. If you already don't like (or have, at some point in the past, liked) games like Call of Duty, there's a very good chance that Titanfall will hold zero appeal for you. It is not here to save you, it is not rewriting the book on competitive action games, it will not wash your car, tuck you in at night, or fix you chicken soup if you get the flu. Titanfall doesn't have time for that nonsense; it's way too focused on being a great multiplayer shooter for people who already enjoy them. That leads to an interesting conundrum and a package that manages to be laser-focused on a specific type of gameplay, which can make it also feel a little too small. It all comes down to how much you already enjoy these games and how badly you want something that updates the Call of Duty formula in some new, exciting ways.

The AI-controlled grunts are really good at standing around and being ineffectual.

This game is "multiplayer-only," meaning you can't even get into the game's brief training mode without first connecting to an online server. It has a campaign mode, but this is really just a set of standard multiplayer matches with some assorted story-focused dialogue layered over the action, like someone decided to put on a radio play while you shoot at people. It doesn't have very many modes to its competitive multiplayer either--there are five, to be exact, and two of them are identical in basic gameplay but slightly different in the way points are scored. By having equivalents to Call of Duty's Team Deathmatch and Domination modes, Titanfall checks the most popular boxes, but when you compare it to the three-games-in-one-for-the-same-price approach of Call of Duty, Titanfall feels small. This is probably the point where I should remind you that both games launched at full price.

That all sounds pretty damning, and if you're a value-minded consumer who wants tons of variety out of a game, Titanfall is a tough sell. But behind the short list of modes and no-stakes storytelling lies some extremely satisfying and fluid gameplay. Titanfall looks slim on paper, but in practice it's positively explosive for a couple of different reasons. First, you have more mobility as a player. The soldiers in Titanfall can double jump and run along walls, and you can combine those moves again and again to get up onto rooftops and climb high walls. The verticality of the action means that there could be an enemy pilot hiding just about anywhere, and you're forced to adapt and start looking around everywhere, instead of just keeping your eyes focused at ground level and the obvious perches that make up most shooter maps these days. Moving around in Titanfall is rewarding and fun, at times feeling like you're playing a light version of Mirror's Edge, but never so much that it forgets that your primary mission is to shoot people.

Wall-running and a big robot. This image sums up Titanfall's unique features pretty perfectly.

The movement creates amazing scenarios that you want to tell people about, like the time you ran along a wall to clamber up to a rooftop only to leap off of that roof into a window across the street, where you caught some unsuspecting fool slipping and kicked him in his stupid face... and then you just kept running, trying to do it all again. Or the time you hauled ass around the outer edge of the map, shot every single AI soldier you saw, snapped a couple of necks, captured a control point, and immediately made a giant robot drop out of the sky. Camping out on a roof or in a window is certainly possible in Titanfall, and the game has sniper rifles in an attempt to support this type of gameplay, but players move so quickly and erratically that snipers feel like they're at a real disadvantage... which further incites more players to run around like maniacs at all times. In 20 or so hours with the game I've had a sizable list of great-looking moments where the mobility and shooting collide in a way that makes you feel unstoppable. It's a game that feels like it was built for highlight reels.

The other big differentiators are the titans themselves. These big robot suits drop from the sky in impressive fashion when pilots call them in, and they let you stomp and dash around levels with some amount of authority. But they aren't invincible. The shields on a titan recharge, Halo-style, but the underlying armor does not. This, along with lengthy weapon reload animations, incentivize you to occasionally back off and recharge. The titans are actually somewhat fragile, so you don't necessarily need to fight titans with titans, as every player has a dedicated slot for anti-titan weapons that can do serious damage. The interplay between players on foot and players in their robots is great, with pilots attempting to poke out, paint a titan long enough to lock-on, and fire big missiles before getting noticed, gunned-down, stomped, or punched apart by a giant robot fist. That said, I found titan-on-titan conflicts to be somewhat monotonous and occasionally even sluggish, since it's the only time the game asks you to hang back and prepare instead of going full-bore at the competition. But hey, let the titans blow up... you can always get another one.

You can enter your titan from any angle, resulting in a handful of nice boarding animations.

Titan deployment is governed by a timer. That timer ticks down naturally, but you can also reduce the required time by shooting enemies. Killing players and shooting at titans take significant chunks off your clock, but the maps are also peppered with AI foes who aren't smart or strong enough to kill you unless you're extremely careless. They keep you on your toes and, yes, killing them also takes time off your titan clock, giving you a decent incentive to farm those AI enemies as you run from place to place. You might think of it as the Call of Duty killstreak system, but instead of only rewarding players who play well, it rewards everyone--but players who shoot well are rewarded much more frequently.

Like just about every other modern shooter, Titanfall has you earning experience points, gaining levels, and unlocking different customization options. You'll quickly gain the ability to create custom loadouts for both your pilot and your titan, and each has its own set of weapons and perks. As is my custom, I settled on fully automatic assault rifles as the main weapon for both my pilot and titan. The game has a short list of other weapons, but range-reduced sub-machine guns and shotguns feel too limited when faced with the larger-than-average map sizes. For players who especially like getting behind enemies or can't aim, the one unique option for primary pilot weapons is a smart pistol that behaves like lock-on targeting in a Panzer Dragoon game. AI-powered fodder goes down in one lock-on hit, but human pilots won't drop unless you lock onto them with three separate shots. Is it unbalanced? A baby gun for babies? I'm no balance designer, but the smart pistol doesn't feel all that powerful. Locking on three times takes longer than it would take to just aim at and shoot an enemy with any other weapon, and If you stand around long enough to get locked onto three times, you probably deserve to get gunned down.

The auto-eject perk lets you launch out of your titan before it blows up, taking you with it.

Titans have more options in addition to basic full-auto and semi-auto rifles, like a quad rocket launcher, a railgun, a charged energy bolt, and a grenade launcher that fires three grenades at once. The titan loadouts seem more interesting than the pilot weapons because they can help you play slightly different roles. The assault rifle and lighter weapons are fast-firing and handy against pesky pilots and still useful in titan-on-titan skirmishes. The heavier weapons, as you might expect, take a little longer to get going, but they're much more devastating to a titan's armor. Overall, most of the weapon options feel a little staid. You might expect a world that allows humans to warp to faraway planets and call in robots from space to offer up slightly edgier weapons than SMGs and sniper rifles.

The online-only nature of Titanfall means that it's only as good as its server infrastructure. In pre-release testing, I ran into a few cases where the latency would spike, causing AI opposition to seize up and enemy titans to halt, mid-dash. On launch day, the game ran into some bumps, occasionally dropping players from games or lobbies, making it difficult to get into a game at times. This seems like it was mostly smoothed over by the end of its first 24 hours on sale, and the network responsiveness has been solid, with none of the lag spikes or other issues I saw prior to the game's launch. It's a little disappointing that the game doesn't have an option for private matches or any sort of LAN support, but what's on display seems to work well.

The titans can dash out of the way of some missiles.

The frame rate in Titanfall is uneven on the Xbox One and though it's usually fine, it can get downright nasty in specific situations. In one Last Titan Standing match--where every player spawns in a robot suit--several players crammed their mechs into a tight area and began duking it out, and the frame rate dived down to what must have been single digits per second. Even out in wider areas, the game feels a little hitchy from time to time, and there's noticeable tearing throughout. The visuals in Titanfall look nice, but that's mostly due to some solid art and interesting design, not the performance. On the PC, the game scales to fit a lot of different configurations, so you can essentially buy your way out of the console version's performance issues. On a proper machine, the textures look great and the smooth frame rate really goes a long way.

I'll say it again, since we should probably wrap this up: Titanfall is a very specific game built for a specific type of person. When you add it all up, the list of available content and the various options for speccing out your pilot feel light, and that might make this game a little hard to swallow at $60. But getting into these wild situations and shooting your way out of them feels fresh and fun in a way that the other shooters on the market don't. If you like the basic form but need more of a twist on how you move and how you shoot, Titanfall's core action is extremely satisfying, which makes it a little easier to overlook the lack of available modes.

Editor's note 03/13/2014: Due to this game's online-only requirement, this review originally went up without a score on it. This was done to afford us the time to gauge how it performs in a real, retail environment. When converting this into a scored review, text discussing the online portion of the game was updated to reflect the game's post-launch performance. Text discussing the specifics of the PC version's visuals was also added.

Jeff Gerstmann on Google+
272 Comments
Posted by thaijedi

interesting read

Posted by HellBound

I enjoyed the beta. Glad it holds up

Posted by Master_Funk

Good on you Jeff for waiting on how it operates in real time. Reads like 4 stars

Posted by Blu3V3nom07

GG, Titanfall.

Edited by gaminghooligan

Thanks for this Jeff. Pending a real review. I think I'll wait to pick this up on the PC during a sale for now. Answered quite a few of the questions I had regarding the game.

Posted by JStaunton

sweet

Posted by Ett

I without a score I dont know what to think.

Posted by Stonyman65

I'm still not sure how to feel about this game... I had fun in the beta, but I can't decide if that was "$60 worth of fun" or not.

Edited by VonSoot

Great pre-review! I think you summed it up well:

When you add it all up, the list of available content and the various options for speccing out your pilot feel light, and that might make this game a little hard to swallow at $60. But getting into these wild situations and shooting your way out of them feels fresh and fun in a way that the other shooters on the market don't.

Posted by Meteor_VII

That reads like a four star to me at least.

Posted by Omega998

Thanks for confirming my own thoughts. Great read Jeff.

Edited by Hassun

Jeff's "review" seems accurate to me. I played the beta for about 15 hours and while I had no problems with it I did grow bored of it rather quickly. Once the beta ended I had no desire to play more Titanfall. I never particularly enjoyed Call of Duty either so it kind of makes sense.

Also the performance on the Xbox 180 seems sub-par and the install size is ludicrous due to the use of uncompressed wave files for audio.

Posted by aktivity

Huh, I guess this explains why they've been so silent about the campaign mode. I'll probably pick it up during a sale.

Edited by Jensonb

Really good, and definitely helpful, take on the game. Thanks Jeff!

Posted by Nakirendral

I feel exactly the same way, Stonyman. I really want to support the Xbone since my girlfriend bought one as a gift for me last Christmas, but I am enjoying all my PC gaming and even Dark Soul 2 much more than Titanfall would. Makes me sad but I sincerely think I backed the wrong pony in this console war...

Edited by SpunkyHePanda

Seems like the AI dudes and titans could keep the game from being too frustrating for people like me who kinda suck at shooters.

Edited by shinjin977

Sound about right, hope people interested in this have a ton of fun. Also, +1million cool points to jeff for being great press and not rating this yet. cough cough instead of giving one score and changing it later cough cough

Posted by cloudymusic

@ett said:

I without a score I dont know what to think.

How will I know whether to be outraged or not???

Posted by Alyssia

This sounds like a four. I enjoyed what I played of Titanfall, but i'll be waiting for a Orgin sale before I pick it up. I know it's not going to keep entertained long enough to justify $60

Posted by HammondofTexas

I feel like I'm the only person not interested in this game.

Online
Posted by sarahnizzle

Enjoyed the hell out of the beta, but with the limited level cap, the feeling of impeded progression really waned my interest around the last couple days. Here's to hoping it holds my attention long enough.

Posted by PatODay

Man I really hope the servers hold up, I want to play this game.

Edited by Thoseposers

Good read jeff. Sounds exactly like what i was expecting which is why i probably won't end up playing it. Can't wait to see how it does.

Posted by TheMasterDS

Buying it tomorrow morning digitally.

Posted by Nadril

The $60 isn't a big deal for me. Compared to a Call of Duty or something, where I completely ignore the single player anyways, it seems even like a pretty decent deal.

Either way, nice review. I'm really glad you guys decided to hold on the score until seeing the live version of the game as well.

Edited by Fredchuckdave

I would never have guessed what the Auto-Eject perk did.

The staidest review on the internet?

Edited by White

All this Titanfall hype just makes me wanna play Hawken. You know, the multiplayer mech FPS.

Or even Armored Core.

Posted by chilibean_3

I like the idea of waiting until the game is released to "complete" the review. I really hope their servers hold up because I can't wait to play way too much of this game. I had a ridiculous amount of fun playing the PC beta.

Posted by Nightriff

Looks like I'll wait for a sale and get the game.

Edited by TheHBK

I really enjoyed Last Titan Standing, was almost the only thing I played in the beta. But this is really a conundrum. I want to support the Xbox One, but I have a PC sitting on my desk with a GTX 770. Hearing about the framerate issues sucks. Though i do want to play with my brother and my friends probably won't be getting into PC gaming any time soon so that is why I would stick with Xbox One. Still my only worry is the servers being hit too hard.

Posted by rmanthorp

I was really betting on the modes and content being the final nail to sell me on the game... I think I will still pick it up but I'm less excited about it now. I really wanted a co-op mode.

Moderator
Edited by Deathpooky

That sounds about what I was expecting. Definitely not for me, at least not at $60. The bare bones campaign stuff isn't surprising, but it is disappointing considering that's the only thing that makes this anything more than a multiplayer shooter. Which, cool movement and titan stuff notwithstanding, it's hard to see for full price when I can't imagine I'll stick with the multiplayer all that long.

Also really respect not getting an actual review up. It's sad that most sites haven't learned from SimCity or other debacles and still just want to get review out first thing without confirming that it'll be playable for the customers they're supposed to be informing.

Posted by BaconAndWaffles

Thanks for talking me off the ledge - I almost bit the bullet and bought it even though I don't play online much. Sounds like a great wait till it's on sale game.

Posted by AMyggen

Great to see GB waiting on giving it a star rating until they see how servers respond when the game is released. It's how it should be, but other sites still don't do it because they fear it will make fewer people click on their link (which is probably true, Metacritic won't post the review before a rating goes up). I see sites like GS, Polygon, IGN etc. all have a scored review already.

Anyways, if we should "read a score" out of this review, I'd say this sounds like a 4/5.

Posted by Shivoa

Shame about the always-on DRM.

Unless you're doing a full, massive, MMO experience then I'll take my games that I can actually buy and play whenever I want (forever) rather than handing over $60 for a rental (until someone decides it is more profitable to turn off the central auth server and turns the game into a coaster that does nothing).

Posted by Bats

I gotta say, I definitely appreciate you guys doing the review this way. I kinda doubt Titanfall will have a ton of issues at launch since it's using MS' servers but well, the games still have to auth with Origin and that couldn't even handle PvZ:GW so we'll see. I'm kinda torn on this game, I digged what I played in the beta but not $60 dig, esp since it's going to be $60 + dlc map packs. I'd be more tempted to pick it up down the line when it's a ton cheaper but I kinda doubt the community is going to be as interesting.

Posted by swimbuff

It's a shame to hear that the story stuff is inconsequential. I was looking forward to see if they were able to integrate the story into multiplayer in a meaningful way since that could be a game-changer. Maybe in a sequel they can add branching storylines depending on you winning or losing certain matches ala Wing Commander.

One thing that wasn't clear though, is there is a definite beginning and end to the story?

Posted by Pezen

Interesting read, and in a way sounds like a package that would fit me looking at how I play MP-shooters anyway. Still, I think the performance part is a little worrying and something that can ruin a MP game. Reading this and seeing reactions to the latest Watch Dogs trailer, feels like reality is catching up to the hype of the new generation in some capacity.

Either way, glad to see the game turned out well for what it is. Might end up with this at some point if I dive into Xbox One down the line.

Posted by DorkyMohr

Sounds like a good game, but not the savior that Microsoft needs right now.

Edited by SomeJerk

This has been the most honest review I've read of Titanfall, much respect for the decision to also delay a score until trying it under real circumstances. Thank you Jeff.

I loved and continue to love the OG IW feel that MW2 MP gave me, I loved what there was of the OG IW feel in Titanfall, the cost and not having an SP campaign strikes against me, combined with what I can get in F2P gaming.

Most importantly, Titanfall is now as close as we get to the original Quake feel in speed and action. $30 and I would have been playing right now in this month of too many games.

Edited by FreddieFiasco

Not Jeff's best-written review ever, but it certainly had all the details necessary to let me know if I should pre-order or not--looks like not. Thanks for helping me avoid wasting $60, at least until we know it's not another BF4.

Edited by soupbones

Sounds like a solid 7.3

Edited by cloudymusic

The frame rate in Titanfall is uneven on the Xbox One and though it's usually fine, it can get downright nasty in specific situations. In one Last Titan Standing match--where every player spawns in a robot suit--several players crammed their mechs into a tight area and began duking it out, and the frame rate dived down to what must have been single digits per second.

I am extremely curious how that mode will perform on the Xbox 360, then, if it's even present.

Posted by Zevvion

I feel exactly the same way, Stonyman. I really want to support the Xbone since my girlfriend bought one as a gift for me last Christmas, but I am enjoying all my PC gaming and even Dark Soul 2 much more than Titanfall would. Makes me sad but I sincerely think I backed the wrong pony in this console war...

That's kind of a weird thing to say. You bought an Xbox One specifically for Titanfall and nothing else? I mean, you know what to expect in terms of exclusive games from either side. Sure, you'll be surprised by some of them (hopefully), but I can already guess on which platform I'll own more exclusive games.

Posted by Tesla

I believe interesting campaigns can be done with multiplayer, I was hoping Titanfall pushed the envelope in that department. Jeff doesn't seem to think it does, but I'd still like to wait and see for myself. With that said this write up definitely convinced me that I can wait to grab it after the price drops.

Posted by GaspoweR

The great thing (though at the same time worrying since we won't know how it holds up until launch) about this is that all versions are using MS's Azure server infrastructure and not EA renting out servers themselves for the PC version.

Posted by jarowdowsky

Just picked this up for £20 (30 dollars?) - at that price I'm pretty happy with what the game has to offer.