Giant Bomb Review

259 Comments

Titanfall Review

4
  • PC
  • XONE

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 csl316

Well, it is what it is. Hope the people into these sorts of games get hundreds of hours out of Titanfall.

Posted by Splodge

The first Modern Warfare game was the reason I got into shooters - never felt right with a game-pad, but when I switched to PC gaming I got Battlefield 2, Modern warfare etc. Unbelievably I enjoy both styles of game play (BOTH? FAGET!), but I probably lean towards the Battlefield way of doing things. Mostly because the COD games that came after MW1 held no appeal for me, it felt like steps in the wrong direction.

After playing the Titanfall beta, I think I finally have my successor to the first MW. The movement is fantastic, everything feels responsive and satisfying. Now, I have the best of both shooters. I gots my battlefield when I wanna fly some jets and get all strategic up in heah, and TItanfall for when I just wanna fly around like a spaceman and shoot some fools with a mech.

Hurrah! No point to the post really, just looking forward to this game.

Edited by Rasrimra

Kitten! I was hoping for a PC performance indication. I mean, that is the real version of this game.

Well. It seems it will launch with less content than Tribes:Ascend. More like Team Fortress 2. But at Full Price. I mean. What?

Both Tribes:Ascend and Team Fortress 2 got a ton of added content after release. Will they add at least twice as much good content to this game if you pay full price? What is going on here?

I pre-ordered it (I know...) for 45 euro's and now I'm not even so sure about keeping my pre-order.

Posted by AMyggen

Lol, NeoGAF is exploding right now over Jeff's "single digit" framerate line in this non-review :D

Edited by FreddieFiasco
Edited by Vincenzo

I played the PC version all day yesterday. It runs well, but some maps like Lagoon have some frame rate dips. Vince Z said they are working on something of a performance fix. Other than that, it looks gorgeous on PC.

Everything Jeff says is very accurate. Even if I only play this game for 2 weeks (which is not likely) I feel I would have gotten my value out of it. It is a ton of loud, fast fun. Crank up your speakers for sure.

Posted by HalfDane1975

A nice prereview Jeff but I couldn't see anything written about the burn cards. Are they a really insignificant part of the game ?

Edited by gerrid

I was wondering how well the game would hold up over 20 hours, and it's good to hear that it stays cool.

In the beta I found actually being a Titan pretty boring, since you can't zip around like you can when you're a Pilot, and the maps become much more pedestrian with no verticality. Enjoyed cloaking and sneaking up on other players though, especially since there's so many routes in and out of every area.

Since the install is a ludicrous 50gb there's no way I'm going to get it on PC, though.

Also props for not giving it a score

Posted by Mruk63

How many maps are there?

Posted by Splodge

@jarowdowsky: Where'd you get it at that price???

Heh yeah gonna ask the same thing. XBox or pc? I might pick up a few copies at that price for my nephews!

Posted by tread311

I feel like Jeff might have had a hard time writing this one. I got enough out of the beta to be satisfied. Might consider picking it up cheap somewhere down the line.

Posted by Splodge

@mruk63 said:

How many maps are there?

I think there is either thirteen or fifteen.

Posted by The_Nubster

Might pick this up in a sale somewhere down the line. The parkour-lite aspect and the bigger focus on general strategery is interesting, but I probably wouldn't play for more than a handful of hours.

Posted by SomeJerk

@mruk63: 15, Jeff just stated that again via his stream going on for a few more minutes before he drives to work

Edited by AMyggen

@mruk63: Jeff said 15 maps on his stream of the game right now.

Edited by mao16

Holding out on the review for a game that depends entirely on the online server stability till it actually launches. Good on Jeff for finally being that "first" guy who does this.

Posted by alwaysbebombing

Video games you guys. Video games.

Posted by Krakn3Dfx

PC copy pre-loaded. Was $40 at Gamestop at some point, so I made an impulse decision. I probably won't play it much, but interested enough to jump in tomorrow for a few matches.

Edited by steelerzfan101

I betcha 20 bucks that release day for Titanfall is going to be a mess. It has been hyped up so much, meaning there will be a lot of demand. Servers will probably crumble under this command, at least for the first 2 days...

Posted by MustardDragon

Sounds like 4 stars will be the verdict. Jeff seems to be having a ton of fun with it, but I can't see him overlooking the lack of content (or so he says).

Edited by hxcaleb

As a person that can only be described as a casual gamer, this was one of the first shooters to really grab me in a long time. I've never been the type of person to hit the level cap in any shooter, but I have put my fair share of hours into each of them. After only one match in the beta I had already preordered a copy of the game. I think the last game to really hook me like this was tribes ascension...guess I really like shooters that do things differently. Titanfally, will be my new casual obsession come tomorrow...mark my words

Posted by Hippie_Genocide

The scope of the game would not give me pause at all, nor do I think it should factor into the score. How many people buy Call of Duty or Battlefield every year for $60 and do nothing but play the multiplayer? What is keeping me from rushing headlong into Titanfall is the stability of the servers and how the PC version turned out since I don't have an Xbox One.

Posted by jarowdowsky

@splodge @freddiefiasco

There's a thread on the Titanfall forum to a Russian site offering multi-region PC keys at that price. Here's the link to the thread, I'll do that so you can see the people concerned about using a Russian site rather than just be taken right there -

http://www.giantbomb.com/titanfall/3030-42860/forums/pc-version-for-33-78-via-russian-site-accepts-payp-1474550/

For me it worked fine, though I'd suggest paying through paypal

Posted by Fitzgerald

Wait, so... is review embargo lifted?

Edited by Vincenzo

@halfdane1975: You receive them as you complete challenges. You get to bring any 3 into a match. They only last for one round. You can activate it before respawning and when you die, it's gone and you can choose another. Once you use 3, that's it until the next game. You can only use one at a time.

Some that I have seen.

XP bonus, XP bonus killing grunts, XP bonus killing Players, a bunch that give you a jacked up anti-titan weapon, jacked up shotgun, etc. Some allow you a more powerful pilot stim. Some even allow you to respawn right where you died. They are powerful and there's a lot of them. But, just don't die!

Posted by StriderNo9

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. -

Exactly what I'm looking for.

Edited by Papafynn

@ett: Wait...what?! He presents a 2000 word opinion and you STILL will need a single digit number to make up your mind. WTF is wrong with us gamers?!

Edited by Dezztroy

Man, single digit framerates on the flagship title for the Xbox One? That's pretty embarassing.

I'll probably pick it up on PC when it goes on sale.

Also, sounds like the game will probably be unplayable for a couple days after launch, if the servers are already having problems.

Posted by Xeiphyer

I really hope the servers don't explode tonight when it releases.

Posted by MikeFerrari7

If it was on PS4 it would wash my car.

Posted by freakin9

After the Shadowrun failure I can't help but be surprised when another game decides to skimp on the sp. It's not like Shadowrun wasn't a blast to play either. Good luck to the developers, maybe it will turn out to be a hit.

Posted by merlin747

Good read with and some excellent points. I'm one of those who has mostly gotten tired of CoD (I picked up Ghosts so I could poke back in with my buddies once in a while, usually having my butt handed to me), but the fast pace seems like it could be interesting. However, like in CoD, I almost wonder how long it'd be before certain folks figure out ways to cheese the game and make it less enjoyable. Seems like the only time I'd really get my enjoyment is before that happens, but at full price, I'm thinking I'll take a pass on and save that $$$ for Watch Dogs.

Posted by DeanoXD

So we are not going to score the game at this time but hey its a 4/5 star kind of contradict's the message a little. I hope its a good game but Jeff unsold me when he kept comparing so much to CoD. I made the mistake of buying ghosts thing i still wanted to play CoD only to realize that its just not for me any more.

Posted by MachoFantastico

Still have my concerns, but I'll most probably get it when it hits release for the PC. Been getting some high praise, Gamespot even saying it revolutionizes in genre. Doesn't look like it from the outside, but I haven't played it yet. Excited to though, looks like it'll at least be fun.

Posted by Veektarius

I was more interested in this game when I thought they were going to do something interesting with the enemy AI. The beta dispelled my illusions on that count, however.

Posted by Vasper_Knight

Good read for me this is the best game I've played in the past year. I love COD and halo, this is on another level. I am super excited its too bad a SP has such a impact on how a game is viewed but hey if you don't think its five stars then that's cool with me.

Edited by Jazzycola

I get why gaming websites are putting up their reviews of titanfall, but man does it seem extremely questionable to put out a review before the retail launch of a Multiplayer-only EA shooter. Good on Jeff and even IGN for doing this.Though, I do love watching Polygon update their score 4 or 5 times and continuously try to explain how their insanely stupid review system works.

Edited by JoeyRavn

I can see why some people would like this game... but it's just not for me, just like Battlefield or CoD are not for me. I'm not much of a competitive online player.

Posted by bybeach

Hopefully there will be a TNT like show w/ TitanFall, when Jeff gets comfortable with it (if he hasn't, already). I'd enjoy watching some, it's about as close as I will get to this game.

I'm glad it's panning out.

Edited by Mitch0712

You might be able to get it for cheap on GMG still like I did. I got it for $48.

Edited by spraynardtatum

Cool, I think I'm going to get this down the road. I'm trying to be more of a value buyer of games, I'll pick it up when the price is right. I imagine people will still be playing it.

Posted by chazzlabs

I played the beta and loved it, but there's no way I'm supporting EA by buying any more products they're involved in. And I feel like a crazy person because I don't see anyone else saying this about Titanfall. Maybe I just haven't looked hard enough.

Posted by Tumbler

This is the first review I've actually read in ...years? It's been a long time. I was hoping there would be a lot more focus on the added features and whatnot of the full game versus what we all saw in the demo. I heard there were more mechs to customize, and something about turrets? More info on the details of what you get for $60 vs what we played for free would have been great.

Posted by JRock3x8

really appreciate that jeff mentioned the price so many times. I like a review that appreciates that I'm on a budget.

also, Zampella has left himself a lot of room to write a really killer sequel (with better campaign, different weapons, more MP modes) which I am sure they will begin work on shortly.

lastly I feel like this game delivers on the promise of MechAssault 2 which TJ Wagner infamously mused "What if you could get out of your mech?" This game actually makes that work.

Posted by Sooty

A last gen looking exclusive game that dips to the single digits.

Microsoft's disaster console is truly knocking it out of the park.

Posted by Benmo316

I'm normally ready to shit on an online game that has horrible servers. But I'll take a different approach one day out from release. What if Microsoft's servers can handle the load on day one and it runs perfectly for 90% of the players? How bad will that make everyone else look? That could make playing multiplayer games on Xbox One with Microsoft's servers the place to play.

Posted by Hoboassassin54

Can't wait until tomorrow

Posted by Chris2KLee

Liked the beta, but I'll be interested to see how long it holds up.

Posted by AlKusanagi

I look forward to Titanfall Complete on my PS4 by the holidays.

Posted by Roboculus92

I know a lot of people are talking about if it's worth $60 or not but that is just gonna vary a lot based on the person. You have to ask yourself "what makes a game worth $60 to me or what makes a game worth full price?" and then look at this and see if there's enough here that matches with what you're looking for. Can't just look at the amount of hours you get (though it's certainly important) because quality has to factor in at some point or else things like Journey and Gone Home or most AAA games that are singleplayer only wouldn't be worth getting at full price. Then again, a multiplayer-only game like this isn't really something you need to worry about not getting enough hours of gameplay in.