Titanfall PC review | PCGamesN

Titanfall PC review

Titanfall: a game far more novel than its aesthetic lets on.

(This is an update to our review of Titanfall, which we published a year ago. You can find the original article on Page 2.)

There are times when Titanfall seems like one dead game. Outside of peak gaming hours, Titanfall is down to a handful of die-hards grinding through games of Attrition (team-deathmatch) while almost every other game mode goes ignored by all but a handful of players.

But it’s not as dire as it looks. The players are still there, but Titanfall has become a pick-up game experience. A small core of players gets a game going and then, as if by magic, more and more people show up and it’s back to being the superb parkour shooter that it was at launch. You just have to want it a little more.

Titanfall is either a cautionary tale about the perils of launching a new blockbuster multiplayer shooter, or Exhibit A in the case for letting players have the option of running and searching for dedicated servers. Maybe it’s both.

On a Friday night at around midnight Eastern, I logged into Titanfall and tried to find a game of Hardpoint, the point-control mode of the mech-shooter. Or I tried to. After five minutes of being the only person in the lobby, I gave up and went back to the game mode selection screen. I looked at the stats for each game.

There was exactly one other person, in the world, who was playing Hardpoint. And I wouldn’t be surprised if that person had been me, and Titanfall’s stats simply hadn’t refreshed. Capture the Flag had something like four people playing it. 600, meanwhile, were playing Attrition.

It was crushingly disappointing. Attrition was probably one of the less-interesting game modes in Titanfall. Map objectives made the most of the unique aspects of Titanfall: the movement system, the AI cannon fodder, and the Titans themselves. You could employ all of them to assault, capture, hold, and escape from key map locations. Attrition, by contrast, is too much of a giant scrum to encourage the same approach. In the general chaos, I was too busy watching my back and dodging the Titan slugging matches to bother with daring map traversal.

But Titanfall will reward you if you stick around. I killed time with some Attrition games, then found a small game of Hardpoint without a six people. Next thing I knew, I was a in full game and playing for two straight hours and remembering just how much I loved this game. When I got tired of Hardpoint, I looked around again: Hardpoint was going strong with several different games’ worth of concurrent players. Capture the Flag was suddenly booming.

Titanfall may have taken some blows to its community, and it may be harder to find exactly the experience you were looking for than it was nine months ago, the players are still there. It’s still a blindingly-fast combination of Heavy Gear, Counter-Strike, and Call of Duty. And there’s a lot more of it than there used to be.

Seeking new battlefields

All of Titanfall’s DLC packs are now free for owners of the base game, which means there are suddenly a lot more stages on which to perform. The map packs aren’t just variations on the themes we saw in Titanfall’s original set of maps, either. Swampland, from the Expedition pack, is both visually and geographically distinct from the frontier cities and military bases we saw in the base game. It’s less vertical and more spread-out, and lines of sight are cut into slivers by thick forest and muddy hills. Yet there are also crumbling ruins where Titans can’t go, and which exist almost as tiny deathmatch levels within the larger level, as players frantically trade shots through holes in the floor and chase each other through decaying architecture.

Or there’s Export, from Frontier’s Edge, which is an industrial coastal town nestled against a Broadchurch-like cliff that runs along one side of the map. The entire level has a series of tiers down from the top of the cliff, to the next tier of multi-story buildings, and finally down to sea-level, where things open up considerably for the Titans. It makes navigation a two-stop process, as you first think about where you want to go, and then figure out the best way to get up or down from there. The stairs along the cliff road are an express-lane, but they’re also wildly exposed to fire from the rooftops below. Furthermore (and this is odd) there’s an electrified fence that players can cause to discharge wildly in a huge area, zapping anyone nearby. It’s a neat trick, but it’s really useful as an area-denial tactic, as one team can suddenly slam that road shut for something like a full minute.

The Export map in Titanfall

I could go on. If there’s one thing revisiting Titanfall left me with, it’s a renewed appreciation for the multiplayer map design in the game. Having the map rotation expanded with so many new maps across the various DLCs simply points out how different Titanfall feels depending on map and game mode. While everyone brings the same sets of tools to each map, the rules for employing  them change radically depending on where you’re fighting. Having all the extra maps tossed into Titanfall for free definitely gives the game more variety than it had when it launched last year.

New game modes also promise a lot of additional variety, but here the game Titanfalls (wakka wakka wakka!) a little short.

New ways to play

When you look over the game modes in Titanfall right now, they promise a banquet. But while you can get decent games together in the core game modes of Attrition, CTF, and Hardpoint, a lot of them are literal nonstarters. Deadly Ground, a “the floor is lava!” game variant, is simply dead. Wingman Last Titan Standing appears never to have caught-on either.

There are two notable exceptions to this rule, and they’re both significant additions to Titanfall. The first is Frontier Defense, a four-player co-op mode in which you defend a Macguffin from waves of incoming AI enemies. It’s wildly popular, a testament to gamers’ seemingly insatiable appetite for co-op slaughterfests. Personally, I wasn’t too impressed. It’s an awkward mix of “horde mode” and tower defense, in a game that’s not really built for either. Four players team up, plant turrets, and then proceed to mow down wave after wave of AI grunts and auto-Titans. There are a few twists, like nuke-Titans that basically act as suicide bombers, but not enough to make Titanfall an interesting wave defense game. Especially because, by its very nature, Frontier Defense nails you and your team into one position and takes movement out of the equation. Still, the mode is very popular among the game’s existing community, so perhaps I’m just missing the point.

My character jumps to avoid incoming fire, but is dead before he hits the ground.

More interesting by far is Marked for Death, which amps-up Titanfall already CS:GO-like pacing. One player on each team becomes an assassination target, and the first team to lose their marked player loses the round. The first team to six round victories wins the map. There are no respawns within a round.

It’s an incredibly fast-paced game and one that’s dominated by high-skill play. Rounds often end inside of a minute as one team rushes across the map to pick off their prey. But, at other times, early skirmishing depletes both teams and turns the round into a cat-and-mouse between four or five players, two of whom are trying desperately not to get killed.

Because so much of the game is about chasing down a target or, if you are the target, running like hell, Marked for Death rewards players who have learned the levels and mastered all the tricks of Titanfall navigation: wall-hangs, wall-running, double-jumping, zip-lining, etc. Victory goes to players who can put lead on these hard-to-hit targets. It’s beyond my competence, but it was still a tense, addicting experience.

The Backwater map in Titanfall

Unlocked potential

I still love Titanfall and, in many ways, it’s a better game now than it was at launch. The new maps add a lot, and Marked for Death is a great addition that puts all of Titanfall’s unique features to good use.

The problem that Titanfall has, after a year, is not so much a problem with the game as it is a problem with the way multiplayer shooters tend to work nowadays. The auto-matchmaking encourages a community that defaults to the lowest common denominator. The fact that games of CTF and Hardpoint quickly fill up once they get rolling indicates that people are still interested in these game modes. But Titanfall’s somewhat anemic community, coupled with its matchmaking, pushes everyone into Attrition.

That was bad news for other basic game modes, but it seems to have been fatal to a number of Titanfall’s more experimental games. Titanfall's game selection screen becomes a testament to what might have been.

That’s a pity, but take away all that extra stuff and you’re still left with a fantastic multiplayer shooter on some of the best shooter levels around. The heart of Titanfall is still healthy.

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Quantieme avatarXenographer avatarScytheMonkey avatarcgerrr avatarBlindbraille avatarboniek83 avatar
Xenographer Avatar
1 Year ago

Wow, so this is a game actually worth playing. Shame I'm behind the Great Firewall. I'm going to miss out on all the excitement...

Quantieme Avatar
1 Year ago

I've got to say I'm enjoying the game a lot so far, the matchmaking needs a lot of work though.

ScytheMonkey Avatar
1 Year ago

Big fan as well. I had a similar experience where at first glance I wasn't very convinced, but I found that I kept wanting to play. And sure enough the game just feels richer the more that I play. I also do get echoes of Tribes, one of my all time favorites. Something to do with high speed tightly controlled game play, where every time you die you know you made a mistake that got you killed. I love BF4 and don't play CoD, but I find that Titanfall is so much more reliable about delivering fast fun to me. BF4 inevitably involves hunting for the right server then dealing wtih stacked teams in 30+ minute games, etc. Titanfall I can be in a game within 60 seconds of launching the game, and 10 minutes later done.

cgerrr Avatar
1 Year ago

Beta didn’t convince me. I’ve seen everything this game uses in its gameplay: big walking tanks – check (Mech Warrior), simple twitch gunplay – check (CoD), acrobatic stuff – check (Tribes), bots in PvP (DotA, LoL), gameplay modes – check (nothing new here as well). So basically it feels old tried regurgitated and lacking that something, that “umph” which keeps you in the game.

boniek83 Avatar
8 Months ago

Very good game. Shame developer didn't give us option of dedicated, player run, servers.

Blindbraille Avatar
1 Year ago

So titanfall came out, and I got it, it is after all why I bought the xbox one. The sheer laziness of the game design is the most reprehensible and disgusting abuse of a publisher/designer taking advantage of an idiot fan base. The game is so boring to look at and so mind numbingly terrible to play. I feel like the one sane person in a world full of crazy idiots. That might make me the crazy one. But since titanfall has come out I've played it for 5 hours and 36 min. My pilot/identical pilot avatar to ever other player is a level 37 and I hate the game, not only that but I've put over 30 hours into plants vs zombies 2. So has everyone in my sphere of influence aka my friends list. It's only about ten people. However if 11 out of ten people would rather play a 30 dollar game with FREE Dlc what does that say about your 65 dollar shooter? PvZ has CUSTOM avatars so I'm not getting killed by the same identical polot/titan every time. This one little feature would have made a world a difference. Or an actual campaign. Or more then 5 game modes, or a third leg extinction /zombies play style, or more then 3 titan chassis, or a ffa mode, or an offline mode, or better matchmaking, or better textures and graphics, a little more effort in any ONE of these areas would have made most of the other faults bearable, because yes, it is fun to wall run just like it was in brink, but seriously respawn I gave the beta a lot of leeway and considered it great, but you made no improvements. I really expected more and with all of your reactions I'm really ashamed to be part of the gaming community. Troll all you want but please if your answer is something inane like "leave the community then", or "go play plants vs zombies" just stow it. Every where I look from Facebook to nvision titanfall is in my face, I'm so sorry and sad to see you all "believed the hype". Just a bunch of disgusting melodious malcontents and as I said I'm sick to death of this game and those who arbitrarily praise it as anything other than what it should be... A 15 dollar arcade title.