Developer: Respawn Entertainment
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Plot: In the outskirts of space, colonies battle over energy sources, using Titans, battle-suits that turn foot-soldiers into tanks.
In Titanfall’s defence, they tried something new. I admire that, but sadly, it just does not work.
A developer somewhere cottoned onto the fact that the best-selling games were the ones that featured multiplayer gameplay. Call of Duty’s campaign takes around a week to complete, but the online maps will keep players occupied endlessly. Titanfall essentially tries to condense single player story mode and multiplayer fighting into one. Gone is the solo campaign, where it is just you and the mission. Now everything about Titanfall is done through online matches. The story is built around these multiplayer death matches, so you get an injection of story, building the Titanfall universe, moments before, or sometimes during, a frantic online battle. And in fairness, the online is rather good. It combines the gritty pace of Call of Duty but with a sense of fantasy from the Halo series, arguably the two cornerstones of the online death match genre. As you are involved in breath-taking races against time, combined with the thrill of taking on actual people rather than beatable AI, you get the fun of jumping across buildings or getting into your very own Titan and ripping your enemies to shreds. There is a lot of fun to be had, as you chase a soldier around a building, jumping and diving through obstacles, the battle pounding along at such a pace you are struggling to keep up.
But as with all multiplayer matches, you begin to learn that it is just more of the same, day in day out. The story tries really hard and I was momentarily impressed at the transition. The loading screen features a briefing, so you do get the impression that you are playing in levels. Every online match is given context, so it feels a little less randomised. As you fight, plot developments and story twists are thrown at you. Certain dialogue or tones of voice are changed, depending on if you are winning a match or losing it. The story moderately adapts to you. It is just a poor stand-in for an actual story mode. While the context helps keep your average team death match exciting, a few missions in and you realise that it is just background dressing. It doesn’t matter why you are hammering the enemy forces at the end of the day; the reasons feel by-the-numbers an hour or two into Titanfall. The mid-battle story feels oddly paced compared to the non-stop barrage of fighting. It is hard to focus too much on the war hero that has just returned from the dead popping up, when you are going to toe-to-toe with an enemy Titan. Yes, the story adapts to you, but at the same time, it feels strangely distant, as if the story would be moving on with or without you. After all, this story isn’t just for you, but the other seven players in the multiplayer match, meaning that it is aimed with the pretence that you are a nameless soldier. You just don’t get swept away by the story that Titanfall is desperately trying to cram into the proceedings.
Don’t get me wrong, if this kind of multiplayer layout was applied to a game that also has a single-player story mode, I would be over the moon. It has moments of cleverness, like I said. It just feels like half a game without a fully-functioning story. I am not really an online gamer, meaning that Titanfall was never meant for me, but surely more people must struggle to embrace the game. At times, it just feels empty, a floating husk of a game. Perhaps my disdain for Titanfall stems from a paranoia that this could very well be the future of gaming, pushing people like myself out of the developer’s mind when similar titles begin popping out. All multiplayer just feels like a back-step in gaming, especially seeing as 2013 boasted fully-functioned, almost cinematic, experiences. And don’t even get me started on the fact it is an Xbox only product! However, bringing the discussion back down to Titanfall as a singular game, it is basically an afternoon of fun, perhaps longer if you play it often with a group of friends around your house (alas, like any old multiplayer you can find), but it really doesn’t justify the money spent.
Final Verdict: All multiplayer must have seemed like a good idea in a board room somewhere, but in reality, it makes Titanfall feel a little half-assed.