Titfanfall was the killer app the Xbox One needed. Developer Respawn Entertainment came through in a big way, producing a game that's hard to put down. Founded by veteran, rougue developers of the Call of Duty series, Respawn brought the knowledge of creating realistic military shooters while managing to bring back some of the old school arena battle style that used to be the core of first-person shooters like Unreal Tournament. But as good as Titanfall is – and it pretty damn addicting - it’s less of a revolution for first-person shooters than a giant step sideways.
Perhaps it’s too much to expect every big named title to be a revolution in gaming but publishers are never shy on telling you, the gamer, just that. Titanfall is a great game, giant mechs, parkour rocket pack action and one of the most balanced games ever created. But what could make it better? I think Titanfall left out many of the advances that first-person shooters have made in the past decade. Environmental destructibility, aircraft, and moral narratives that come with war. So for the sake of argument, here's what I think should be in Titanfall sequel. This isn't a hate letter to Titanfall, it's a love letter, for a game and a universe that I want to stay in as long as possible.
So balanced it hurts
Titanfall is an incredibly balanced game. No single player can one-up the other by purchasing a gun that negates others in a match, or kill-streak their way into a perk mode where players abandon the field in favor of killing each other with drones from above as happens in older Call of Duty and Battlefield games. Instead, grinding to get better gear unlocks various types of gear for different situations and preferences but nothing that would give a player an overall advantage on the field. While this sounds great, it completely negates the point of grinding, and perhaps that’s a good thing. But by taking away the incentive for players to hammer through the generations means they can choose to worry about leveling up - or not - it really doesn’t really matter that much.
So this heavily balanced game gives players equal footing so that only their skills and experience in Titanfall will be the reason for their success. Gamers can’t buy there way with special packs since unlocking most the weapons in the game is relatively easy. Something is definitely lost in the feeling of accomplishment when players would, in the past, unlock that one weapon before anyone else that really let them dominate the map, if only for a few minutes before other players did the same, equaling out the battle once again.
Aircraft in most modern first-person shooters alternate between being overpowered and useless or nearly impossible to control. In Battlefield 4 aircraft have problems just getting airborne, much less fighting. The same can be true for Call of Duty: Ghosts multiplayer where these fast-movers are wasted on most maps, they are just too fast and too furious to control. The common winner in both of these games however are helicopters, which are very useful and add a new dimension to the maps.
Granted, gamers do have rocket packs in Titanfall but it still feels like the maps have a very low ceiling. With all this high-flying tech and giant robots falling from space, why the hell can’t I get a future-helicopter with some freaking rockets for backup (a staple in mech games anyway, not a stretch), or a healing droid to repair my titan? It seems like a golden opportunity missed. The only aircraft that show up in are the drop ships whisking you away from defeat.
"Wait!, Come back and blow something up!" Image via xb1
One of the biggest advances in first-person shooters was the introduction of realistic environmental destructibility. Games like Battlefield offer the kinds of realistic destruction that gamers wanted for years. The ability to level a building with a tank or helicopter and destroy or deny enemy positions is one of the most important strategies. Your pilot and titan may have some bad ass guns but you'll not be shooting through the rickety shack's walls in Smugglers Cove or any other map. The lack of destructibility adds another level to balancing. A titan in the open and a pilot with their anti-titan weapon in invincible cover have an equal chance in a fight.
That could have gone better. Image via gamerhorizon
More than destructibility though, what are missed are the mid-game, match-changing events. The poorly named but good idea in Battlefield 4, Levolution and a similar mid-match shift in Call of Duty: Ghosts, allows for a map to completely change the nature of a battle and force players to alter their strategies. Shaking-up the game and giving players a fresh start midway through. Changing a map from a medium range brawler into a soaking well boat and helicopter battle in an instant.
While Titanfall uses the introduction of titans, and the careful placement of dropped titans as its key strategy, other strategic aspects are sorely missed, such as a game-changing bridge falling, or the ability to shut off a flank for the duration of a match. These events would greatly alter and add so much more to the depth to the gameplay.
Levolution at work. Image via game-debate
Titanfall makes no bones about being a multiplayer-only game. But it does have a narrative aspect, albeit a completely forgettable one. The multiplayer campaign tries to bring us into the world and has some heart-pounding cinematic moments, but more often than not, it's completely forgettable. Really it's just a tutorial of the multiplayer with a bunch of characters who I can't recall, in battles that are mirrors of all the other multiplayer matches. But that’s okay. Multiplayer-only is a new concept and perhaps leaving out the single player story is just the shake-up gaming needs. The problem is that I really want to get inside the world of Titanfall and the fact is, you just can't. The fact that I can't get more immersed in the game world feels like a spurn and is going to severely limit the longevity of Titanfall if the game isn't greatly expanded with downloadable content at a faster rate than gamers are use to.
But Titanfall’s multiplayer campaign could be been done a whole lot better. By the addition of a couple of exclusive, non-balanced maps and actual consequences to the matches. In Titanfall is doesn’t matter if you team wins or loses in the mutiplayer campaign, the story chugs along at the same rate, it would have really spiced up the gameplay if that wasn't so. The story is a comfortable cliche, so why not abandon it at entirely?
Don't get me wrong, I can barely gets my hands off Titanfall but the fact that after just a couple of days I felt like I had completed all the game had to offer. I wasn't leveled to the maximum generation but what's the point of that? Little is accomplished in grinding to the next generation. So when a game lacks immersion what keeps players going? For the causal players who will be picking Titanfall every now and then perhaps it has just enough. But what is lacking is the reward and deeper level of strategy that will keep the hardcore gamers hooked. Titanfall, I want to get deeper inside your world, why won't you let me?