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 chkdsk1991

Great stuff as always Jeff, I might check it out when it goes on sale(on pc).

Edited by Regular_Kirk

Here's the thing, this game basically has an expiration date. Once people stop playing it the whole thing falls apart.

Posted by russman588

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.

That kinda sucks, I was hoping there would be some cool CoD4-style moments in the campaign mode, even though if it's online-only.

I'm pretty sure the multiplayer alone is worth 60 bucks to me, though. It's been long enough since I've gotten deep into online multiplayer of any kind that I'm itching to play a bunch of this.

Edited by ThatOneDudeNick

I like multiplayer shooters and this seems to be a fun one. I'm cool with $60 (although I only paid $45 for the PC version). It lacks a ton of variety in gameplay (most games do), but I'll easily get at least 100 hours of entertainment out of it (I played the beta for 15 hours alone).

Posted by Roboculus92

Here's the thing, this game basically has an expiration date. Once people stop playing it the whole thing falls apart.

You could say that about about any multiplayer game or mode in a game.

Posted by Razorlution

I really wish more sites would adopt something like Jeff has done here. Instead...what we get is an "update" to a review score because the site wanted to be one of the first with a review up. Playing multiplayer games in a closed environment or just with "press" does not warrant what the game will actually perform like when it goes live.

I applaud Giantbomb, and Jeff with his decision to go this route and be honest with us all.

Posted by Bory

@regular_kirk: which most likely won't happen for a couple years, and by then does it really matter?

Posted by MJHAYLETT

Titanfall is not built for me. I don't like first person shooters. I don't like multiplayer. I don't like Mechs (rather they neither put me up nor down). I also don't have a XB1 or a PC that can run anything more than minesweeper :D Still to the millions of people who do like the things I don't - hope you all enjoy it.

Posted by tescovee

Christ neogaf is such a hyperbolic cesspool of hypocrisy. Reading the thread there about this article is way different than it actually reads. Good read btw Jeffry.

Edited by MonkeyKing1969

Wow, didn't think we would see such profound frame rate issues discussed. I could see slow down from time to time, but single digit in mash-ups and hitching throughout?? That is truly disappointing.

I hope GB will review or add an addendum about Xb360? I wonder if the lower target for 360 might mean it at least 'could' run smoother on the old system

Posted by AngriGhandi

I'm excited to try this when it comes out on 360! Getting down there with the unwashed masses, seeing what things are really like. Hopefully it won't be a butt-ugly mess.

Until then, I'm playing Dark Souls 2.

Edited by nbsmola

It seemed to me that Respawn was hinting that there was more regarding the "Campaign Multiplayer." I was expecting some big news to come out about that aspect. Nice non-review Jeff. Wish more big sites would withhold a score on multi-only games. Seems as if a few have, but seems a better course than "updating" the review and changing scores constantly as the servers get bad - worse - better.

Edited by Generic_username

This is a good way to handle this. Thanks for doing the review this way.

Edited by dablemont

@hammondoftexas said:

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

You are not the only one... XD

Edited by McDayman

Unfinished: A Titanfall Review

Edited by Adrian79

Ill be picking this up along with Dark Souls 2 on Friday. Ill be glad I have this when I get frustrated with DS2 and I can just fire this up and go shoot some fools in the (robot) face.

Posted by Zatoichi_Sanjuro

Were journalists told not to use screenshots in their review or something. Eurogamer has the same pre-renders/concept art embedded in their text, instead of actual screenshots.

Edited by bavelb

The Beta coverage of this almost made me regret I won't own a nextgen console for at least 8 months. Then I remembered I dislike multiplayer-fps that aren't TF2 and got sick of hearing about it.

Glad it's decent for those craving that experience, but also glad it doesn't make me want to shell out money for a nextgen :)

Posted by FinalDasa

A great not quite yet a review. Really unsold me on the game for now at least.

I love a good multiplayer, even the occasional 1st person shooter, but spending $60 on just the boiled down version of that isn't how I'd like to spend my money.

Posted by Andheez

The beta was pretty addictive, I guess I will probably buy the bundle.

Posted by Hippie_Genocide

@shivoa said:

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).

Your cynicism isn't unwarranted, but in this case I don't think it's DRM, it's just the conceit of the game -- they set out to make an online multiplayer shooter, so it wouldn't make much sense offline by yourself. It's really no different than a small scale MMO in that sense.

Posted by Saieno

And this is why I love GiantBomb. To the point, factual, and just as unbiased as possible. And great job with the review Jeff, really like the score being held off.

Posted by Mortuss_Zero

Multiplayer only is such an unappetizing prospect to me. I can't imagine personally being satisfied with paying 60 bucks for the 10-15 matches of this I would play before losing interest. Sounds like it's going to be pretty fun for the multiplayer shooter crowd though, so that's nice I guess.

Posted by Excast

I don't plan on owning an XB1 and will likely never play Titanfall, but I just wanted to give a shout out to Jeff for showing some respect to potential customers by waiting until real world conditions exist before scoring the game. Too many gaming sites are quick to rush out scores only to end up looking like idiots when online components of a game ruin the entire experience.

I'm sure the traffic that comes with being able to say "Amagawd first review of (Enter Game Name)" is nice and all, but so is having a voice that people can trust and respect. Giantbomb doesn't have to go back and adjust scores because they actually wait and try to give a complete impression of a game, not just the first.

Edited by Dallas_Raines

I don't understand how a game that looks like this and runs at 792p could have an inconsistent framerate. A stable 60fps should be top priority for anything competing with COD.

Edited by liquiddragon

good way to have people read the review

Edited by LarryDavis

If you paid more than 48 dollars for this you only have yourself to blame.

Edited by Pop

That's some pretty words right there. Too bad it's not that mind blowing as I thought it was going to be, well I kind of figured that out from the beta. Maybe I'll get it when it's cheaper.

Edited by anbilow

Good choice to wait with the score. Certainly needs to undergo its "trial by fire."

Posted by FirebirdINF

Not yet 4 stars.

This is like conditional parole. You are free, as long as you dont get in trouble. Probably necessary in this day and age.

Edited by JayEH

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

Keep Dreaming buddy.

Posted by Mezmero

Interesting idea for a review although it's more like a debriefing if we're not using stars. There still aren't a lot of reasons for me to dive into next gen just yet. I'm willing to check out the 360 version if I can but I'm not seeing a experience worth an investment of 500 bones. Thanks for this article Jeff. The game has looked fun from what I've seen and heard on the site. I see potential for Titanfall getting that vintage Gerstmann Gaming Minute treatment. How funny would it have been to do one for Dark Souls 2 instead? Truly a mad world.

Edited by ripelivejam
Posted by MrBubbles

I'm still going to get this because I had a lot of fun in the beta and wanted to play more.

Edited by ThatOneDudeNick

A few sites are holding off on a score until release (Giant Bomb, IGN, Destructoid). I'm glad to see that, especially for an online-only game. Polygon scored it (Gies gave it a 9), I wonder if they'll lower it if there are problems at launch. 10 from EGM, 9.3 from GameTrailers. This seems like a great game if you enjoy these types of games (I do).

Posted by Enai

Solid Jeff, nice work. As for the game, that's a different story.

Posted by LucidDreams117

Great read, Jeff. I really liked the lack of stars or actually, even the summary that normally goes at the top. I made me read the words. Not just look for the number.

I like it. I know it's temporary before the game is live but till, I like it.

I also like Titanfall. Sorry, no, I love it! The beta alone sold me on a game that even though it's doing something different, and feels fresh, above all else, it's fun! It's downright damn fucking fun!!

Posted by ripelivejam

Kinda wish the robits were more imposing, but it seems like they'll be fun to ride around in occasionally.

Posted by Dagbiker

Great read, Jeff. I really liked the lack of stars or actually, even the summary that normally goes at the top. I made me read the words. Not just look for the number.

I like it. I know it's temporary before the game is live but till, I like it.

I also like Titanfall. Sorry, no, I love it! The beta alone sold me on a game that even though it's doing something different, and feels fresh, above all else, it's fun! It's downright damn fucking fun!!

I agree, I hope ''This is not a review'' Becomes regular, at least for mmo's and online games.

Normaly i dont even read reviews, but for some odd reason this got me to click. But i like the idea of not scoring an ever changing game.

And perhaps this is one, very slow way, to do that.

Posted by Mystyr_E

I don't really get this explosion of praise for the game; I mean it's completely competent and polished but it doesn't "revolutionize" anything, it's just good. The enemy AI is unbelievably stupid, titan battles are pretty much the same thing, and the "story" might turn out to be either really unnecessary or done very sloppily. Might pick it up on a GMG sale one day (50 gigs though?) but right now, no, I'm going for Dark Souls 2.

Posted by Gnorbooth

Really like what you are doing here Jeff. In this day and age of always online launches and their well, their disastrous launches it's nice to see you looking out for us regular peeps on budgets. And I know it's business to get those reviews out as quick as possible to stay current, but you'd think some sites would have learned their lesson by now after getting burned by just about everything that relies this heavily on server infrastructure.

Luckily though I determined with the beta that Titanfall is not for me. I have been interested to see how this game turns out though, so to any and all who still love dem headshots, well keep firing duders.

Posted by HS_Alpha_Wolf

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.

If you have been the kind of person who played COD long enough to see the first map pack come out, I think it is.

Edited by crithon

someone has to be critical, at least it's Jeff

Posted by Hadoken

I greatly appreciate the first paragraph spelling things out for reals. I won't like this game and it is good to know that up front.

Posted by chocolaterhinovampire

I think this is a good feature for games of this ilk. Fantastic way to avoid jumping the gun on online stability

Posted by BaconGames

I think one thing we aren't getting as much by having Jeff review it is the perspective of someone who hasn't been keeping up with Call of Duty. Don't get me wrong, it's also interesting and important to have the game evaluated by someone who has done their darnedest to keep up with Call of Duty all these years and give it fair reviews as its progressed into same-old territory.

However, what seems to set this apart, partly to do with the gameplay, partly its fictional nature, and partly the narrative around Call of Duty, is it's enough of a breath of fresh air that people who long gave up Call of Duty are interested. It's sharp and fresh in all the ways that Call of Duty was and now has been overexposed and under-iterated. The only thing it doesn't have is as robust a content dump as Call of Duty or even Battlefield to keep people hooked for as long as Call of Duty or even Battlefield. And you know what? I'm alright with that if it avoids having the overlong grinds that Battlefield 3 had to gain new weapons and the cheap and easy solution of prestiging player level. Maybe it's financial future is lot more unsure as a result but I'd rather them be short on good content than try cheap ways to extend the life of their multiplayer.

And again the content is still rather light regardless which unfortunately is going to work at least slightly against its favor however you look at it. With enough additions though I can see a future where Titanfall gets to its sweet spot.

Posted by ThatOneDudeNick

@mystyr_e: A game doesn't need to be revolutionary to be good. It does what it set out to do, and keeps the promises that were given. If I only enjoyed games that were drastically different than anything else, I wouldn't enjoy many games.

Posted by Darji

Great move. Some critics including Giantbomb seems to still have credibility. IF you only played the final game at a review event under perfect conditions you should not rate the MP aspect of this game at all.

Thumbs up for: IGN, Eurogamer, Edge, Giantbomb and all the other ones who did not give a score yet.

Posted by ShadowMarth

Jeff decided how he felt about the game in beta, and likes shitting on popular things he doesn't get. He does this all the time. Monster Hunter is an excellent game, and Titanfall is fantastic and DOES scratch itches that Call of Duty won't and never has. Jeff's a funny guy but he's great at putting his fingers in his ears and yelling real loud when he doesn't like something other people do.