Titanfall (4 stars)

Titanfall

A supremely confident, energetic and thrilling game which has the potential to shake up the stagnant first person shooter genre

(PC, Xbox 360, Xbox One)

There’s more to Titanfall than simply barging around in big stompy mechs. In fact, not only does most of the action take place on foot, but many of the most entertaining moments happen outside the robotic ‘Titans’. And entertaining moments happen in spades. This is one big, loud and furiously-paced shooter.

Titanfall is the glorious result of one of the most ugly videogame fallouts in recent memory. In 2010, Call of Duty co-creators Vince Zampella and Jason West were fired by publishing behemoth Activision and escorted from their office. As legal battles raged around them, West and Zampella started up the appropriately titled Respawn Entertainment and poached most of their former colleagues. They did this under the aegis of EA, Activision’s fiercest rival. Soon after, they announced Titanfall as their first project.

Setting the tone for the whole game, Titanfall starts by dropping you right in the action. You play a soldier on one of two teams who must capture objectives or flags, all while killing the enemy – typical variations on the usual shooter tropes. But a number of features mark Titanfall out as different. Soldiers are able to free run across buildings, nimbly scaling vertical surfaces. It’s a much faster and more fluid system than the one employed by Mirror’s Edge, coupled with a thrilling double jump system that calls to mind the dynamic movement of Tribes: Ascend. Combat is manic and tactile, with fast-paced battles raging across the map. At times the action feels overwhelming and there’s only the briefest of pauses upon death before you respawn right back in the action. And then there’s the Titans.

You’re able to call down a personal Titan several times during a round. Accompanied by a crack of thunder and dropping from the sky like meteors, the Titans’ arrival in battle never fails to delight. When you board one it just feels right: heavy, slightly cumbersome, overpowered against anything but other Titans. The maps are large enough to afford these machines some manoeuvrability but they’re still fairly compact affairs, a fact that is slightly disguised by enormous skyboxes. These are filled with fascinating details like giant space battles or enormous monsters, and there’s a real danger of being stabbed in the back as you admire the view.

What Titanfall lacks is content. Although 15 maps sounds plentiful, there’s no genuine singleplayer campaign and there’s little variation between game modes. Worryingly, it’s already possible to pay for unreleased DLC, although at this time it’s not clear what that content will include.

With so many games sticking to the template, it’s refreshing to see innovation in the shooter market. While it lacks a compelling narrative and the content feels rather slight, Titanfall is a supremely confident, energetic and thrilling game which has the potential to shake up this stagnant genre.

Titanfall - Launch Trailer

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