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 Shaka999

@dagbiker said:

@luciddreams117 said:

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.

Normally 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.

Same here. I also like how Jeff (and I'm sure this has happened before on the site, but it really stood out) said explicitly: "Hey! If you're not really into shooters any more, this isn't doing a whole lot new. Also: not a lotta bang for your buck! But if you're still reading..."

I dunno. I think prefacing reviews like that could be beneficial in the long run, but I'll let you guys figure that out.

Also, today I learned what "staid" means.

Posted by FreddieFiasco

@shadowmarth: I shouldn't bother, but what the fuck are you talking about? Jeff makes it clear here that he likes this game a lot. Perhaps he doesn't like it as much as you, but that doesn't mean he's shitting on it. His opinion is just as valid as yours or mine whether or not it aligns with ours. Damn.

Edited by Vuud

Probably the best way to deal with games like this in the wake of all that Battlefield 4 bullshit.

Edited by Unilad

This is the perfect balance of what @jeff and @brad were 'arguing' about on that podcast.

Good to see they agreed. (Hopefully)

Posted by blacklab

Goddamn it. Was really banking on this having a decent campaign; although I was very aware of the primarily online nature of the game, which was really good in the beeeeta.

Posted by PaulM

With no single-player content at all $60 seams steep

Is BF4 stable yet?

Posted by Nags

Love you guys for this. I wish more sites took this approach, especially considering how rough EA games have been the past couple years (yes I know EA games have always had some jank but it just seems to have gotten worse).

Actually informing people instead of forcing hype. This attitude is why I'm a subscriber and will continue to be one as long as you guys go. Bravo. Fucking Bravo!

Posted by mewarmo990

Rather different sort of game and robots, but reading about this makes me miss Battlefield 2142.

Posted by l4wd0g

Jeff, you rock! Thanks for not just throwing a Titianfall review out the door for the ad revenue. It means a lot to me. Doing your due diligence and testing the servers before giving a score helps me with my purchasing decision far more than Polygon's method of fucking me over because I trusted their reviews.

Posted by scrappypixels

Solid, i also like the idea of no score until it's widely released especially considering it's an online only game

Posted by Nashvilleskyline

you don't have to tell your friend. You just say xbox record that, and your friends will see it :)

Posted by caesius6

@dorkymohr: They don't need a savior right now. They are selling millions of consoles and are seeing great support, with a huge year ahead of them. Sony selling more than them after 5 months doesn't spell doom and immediate contingency plan.

Edited by Shevar

I'm really curious how smooth the launch for this game will be. I have more faith in MS than EA when it comes to servers.

Having said that, nothing about the Xbox One has been smooth so far. I mean, it's not that anything MS has touched over the recent years turned into solid gold.

I just hope that those that pickup this game also get to enjoy it in a decent time-frame.

Edited by vhold

Call me weird, but the fact this game has no in-game preorder bonuses was the deciding factor for me. There's just something so wrong about exclusive preorder junk in competitive multiplayer games.

Posted by RudeTrooper

I am waiting for the 360 version. (I will most likely be the best seller of all the versions)

Interesting to see the COD:Ghosts just dropped to $39 this week at many retailers. Coincidence?

Posted by ZombieReagan74

It was a pretty solid game on the PC, but it's shame it got locked into console exclusivity this round, because it really is a pretty decent all around game. The framerate issues on the the Xbox One can't be a good sign for things to come though.

Edited by JesusHammer

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.

NEXT GEN IS HERE

Posted by HatKing

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

Yes! I support this idea so much. It's way better than adjusting the score, which just fucks the early adopters and gives companies that put out broken trash a 'we can patch it later' safety net. This is how all multiplayer focused games should be handled when it comes to review.

Posted by liako21

reads like 4 stars but will probably get 5? Of course if the servers are down for a couple of days I can see it being 4 stars for sure.

In general I like the idea of not posting scores any more, but not sure if the internet is ready for that yet.

Posted by Alucitary

Dang was hoping the revelations of this game would be more consistent/ evolving, but still seems like a good buy if you're looking for a multiplier shooter. Also it has to be said, bravo Jeff for not putting a review up. This page will surely get fewer views because there are no review stars on the front page, but it will only make the final review that much more relevant and reliable when it is released. Leave it to GiantBomb to put their money where their mouth is.

Posted by Gruebacca

This is just about what I expected of this game. The whole "This game's gonna fuckin' revolutionize multiplayer shooters BWAAAHHH!" attitude got a little overhyped.

As someone who hasn't played a good multiplayer shooter in a long time, this looks like something different and interesting enough for a return to that kind of game for me. It also helps that I have friends who will play it too. It's a bunch of factors that led me to buy the game, and they all just happened to line up in that direction.

Edited by Nate

Cool. Picking up the PC version tomorrow. I'm kinda counting on server issues and bugs, but based on my time with the beta and this review, I think I'll be playing a lot of this in the next year.

Posted by MST3KServo

Really great idea and incredibly admirable postponing the score of the review until the game is operating in a realistic environment. I'm sure it affects traffic to the site negatively, not having a score to one of the years biggest releases when all the other big game websites do. Things like this are why i come here and why i respect the shit out of the crew.

I was hoping to pick this up on the PC this week but with no review copies of that version going out i'm not about to shell out 60 dollars to a company with a bad track record when it comes to online functionality, i don't care whose servers they're using.

I wish we lived in a world where reviews websites would follow this type of ideal, i bet the average review of Battlefield 4 would be a be harsher.

Edited by Roulette1986

Sounds like a nailed on 4/5 to me.

Posted by cwdawg1224

Great writeup, Jeff. I'm interested to see how the servers hold up, but I don't think this game's for me. Not enough content and what it does have always came second to a game's campaign.

Edited by tourgen

Alright, good to hear it turned out well.

I know I'm in the minority but a decent LAN option or ability to form private matches would have been pretty cool to see.

On the other hand a online multiplayer game with a few focused modes is pretty much the perfect use for the xbox. I played 1942 for hundreds of hours just blowing up tanks.

Posted by Nethlem

I had the naive hope the they still had some big "surprise" somewhere in there, something like a special mode where the AI enemies play a more important role, kinda similar to Dota creeps..

It's also kind of sad to hear that there are so few loadout options/weapons, that's something that already bugged me about the beta. They have this sci-fi setting yet not a single energy based weapon, the most unique weapon being the smart pistol, sounds kind of lame..

What would still interest me is the selection of Titans, how many does the full game have? Actually more than the three from the beta (light, medium, heavy)?
I'd hoped they would pack this game full to the rim with insane sci-fi gadgets and weapons, even the CoD games had stuff like that to offer, it's kind of disappointing that they went so cookie cutter with all of the choices.

Good thing there are deals to be had to buy this for like 30€, at that price it's probably worth the money.

Posted by Stackboy

Started the preload, 50gig. Phew!!

Posted by Marokai

This was a really great piece, Jeff. I hope there's more things like this going forward; it's a much more honest and simple approach.

Posted by gbrading

Might be a controversial idea, but I'd be happy not handing out scores and just reviewing games without any score attached. I know that would mean people would need to "read" them... ;)

Posted by LiquidPrince

From reading the write up, it seems like it hovers closer to a 3 then a 4, but whatever. The main thing that kills this for me is, aside from the fact that the visuals look fairly bland in my opinion, they also tear like crazy. I can handle some framerate dips, but when screen's start tearing, I'm out.

I was hoping this would be the next game I get for my X1, but I think I'll just wait it out until it's a bit cheaper. I'm not really jonesing for another Call of Duty like experience at the moment, and when I do feel like shooting some dudes, Battlefield can hold me off.

Posted by mattchops
Posted by me3639

I hope this will become the norm, and not special treatment. I always think reviewers should go back, in this now broken age of releases, and revisit games that have been patched. Is it more coddling, and forgiving? Yes, but i complained about it years ago and everyone was fine with AAA games being released broken and then fixed. Of course after millions of copies were sold and reviewers and fans looked the other way. Its now an industry norm, but at least now maybe someone can take a stand and say, wait a second.

Posted by Mcfart

Good on you for holding back the official score until the game's actually released.

I'm sure BF4 was stable at pre-launch press events too, and we know how that turned out. Titanfall probably won't be nearly that bad, but safe to wait. Gamespot's footage was all based off a press event, based off the player names.

Edited by Gruff182

Game looks solid, an amazing step forward for the CoD crowd. The mobility seems like the most exciting change.

I'm still not sure it's for me though. If this was BF2143 it would be day 1. But much like Brads arguement on the bombcast, I love having classes with roles and strategy.

Posted by Gruff182

Game looks solid, an amazing step forward for the CoD crowd. The mobility seems like the most exciting change.

I'm still not sure it's for me though. If this was BF2143 it would be day 1. But much like Brads arguement on the bombcast, I love having classes with roles and strategy.

Edited by John1912

Yea, the beta actually really turned me off this game. I played for 30min expecting to get into it. Instead got bored and didnt even bother to play it again. It really didnt feel any different then every other shooter. Only time people run or wall jump was at the start of the map to run from A to B. Mechs felt a bit clumbsy, hard not to just take fire from every direction. I would sadly have liked to have picked this up with Dark Souls tonight, but I just dont think I can get into this game. A good single player campaign and it might be a different story. Just cuz CoD campaign sucks ass doesnt mean they couldnt do something that was good.

Posted by pjsmash

I like the review content; the way Jeff discusses the game. And. I really like this review philosophy.

Jeff's given his take on the game, impressions from playing, but recognizes that the game environment he played in may not be what we experience initially. Or it may be. Point being, we don't know. Two weeks from now, could be an entirely different experience. Or not. 'Cause it's not fixed or didn't need to be fixed. We just don't know, yet.

So Jeff, in good conscience, can't say what his final final thoughts are. Thanks, GB! This is how online-only games should be approached. Maybe more nuance is required for blended games (offline SP + online MP) but this is perfect for online-only.

Posted by Lashe

@gbrading: Couldn't agree more. +1 for Team No Score.

Posted by WillieMcBride

@shadowmarth: What do you mean? He gave it four stars and enjoys it a lot.

Edited by Jonny_Anonymous

I prefer my FPS slower and more tactical, games like Halo and even Killzone: Shadowfall feel like this but Titanfall sounds more along the lines of "don't think just shoot" style of fps and since there is no story mode (I always complete the story mode before I even think of doing mulitplayer) I don't think this game is for me.

Posted by Bats

Man, framerates that drop into the single digits when there's a more than 3-4 titans on screen? that's pretty grim... Explains quite a few of their design choices now... It'll be interesting to see how the 360 version performs...

Edited by Fram

@gbrading said:

Might be a controversial idea, but I'd be happy not handing out scores and just reviewing games without any score attached. I know that would mean people would need to "read" them... ;)

Agree 100%. ONE HUNDRED PERCENT.

Posted by Cramsy

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.

Someone can't read :D

Edited by el_stork

I love the way Jeff writes reviews, I wish he would do more but I guess he's probably pretty busy.

Posted by machinerebel

That's about what I was expecting having not played it yet. I'll pick it up down the line, but I'm not eager to spend $60 on a COD-esque multiplayer game (even a seemingly really good one).

Posted by bk

With zero interest in it, I'm waiting for the internet to stop talking about Titanfall: It's close, I feel it.

Posted by MrDoc

Even with the gimmicks added on of the mechs and whatnot this still looks and feels boring to me, not enough difference from the status quo of shooters. I'm not paying $60 for a game that feels like i've played it a million times already.

Edited by ReCkLeSs_X

really appreciate this kind of coverage!