It may have a throwaway story and and a few technical issues, but Titanfall is still a first-person shooter that pushes the genre forward.
Ejecting from a giant Titan, flying up into the air and hurtling back down towards the ground is one of Titanfall's greatest achievements. Wall-running across an entire map, bouncing off structures and lifting yourself up to a higher ledge to take out an enemy pilot - that's another. Crushing foes like squeezing tomatoes, stamping your feet like a 3-year old child being pulled out of play-school - it's a feeling that only comes from Titanfall. If first-person shooters have felt stale for some time, the team at Respawn has done its damnedest to freshen them up.
"Titanfall's campaign is so drowned out by the gameplay that I have no clue what was happening in the top right of the HUD where the game feeds you mini-cutscenes."
It's hard to write an article about a new shooter without mentioning Call of Duty, and Titanfall is as fine-tuned as a once-famous captain's moustache. Playing it, you soon realise the agonizing hours that have been put into balancing this behemoth. With all the attention put into this game, the studio deserves as many medals as have already been pinned to its chest since the game first began winning over the press. You can feel the crafting that has gone into the game; from the man versus machine gameplay of pilots fighting Titans, to the burn card perks, the wall running, wall-hanging and even vertical gameplay. The game is so well balanced that its as though these guys have been doing this sort of thing for years...
Multiplayer is the new campaign
You can't play Titanfall without an internet connection. At the time of release, if you've got no internet, Titanfall is just an intro video on a blu-ray disc. This is a multiplayer game, don't buy it if you want a single-player experience because it's not here. And that applies even more so when it comes to a notable story campaign.
Campaign Multiplayer hooks you up into online matches of 6 versus 6 in which the IMC and Militia battle it out. Each side gets its own story. But what that story is, well, I couldn't give you the foggiest idea of what happened during my time with it. I just remember a lot of bangs and explosions, which is exactly what I came to the game for. Titanfall's campaign is so drowned out by the gameplay and high-paced action that I have no clue what was happening in the top right of the HUD where the game feeds you mini-cutscenes. It's like a blur in your vision.
There's mention of leviathans (monsters/dinosaurs/whatever we're calling them now) - these are simply a colourful addition to the game. You can gain points for shooting terrordactyl-type creatures but you won't be fighting off a 3000 foot Torvosaurus. You can't choose to play single missions either, you just jump into a lobby and have to deal with it. At this point the game will do its best to create a lobby for the mission you've gotten up to in the campaign. This is an issue that I've been told will be fixed post-launch.
Capture the Flag 2.0
Capture the flag is a crowd favourite; the old timer. It's a game mode that over the years has barely changed in shooters. It has always been a flat playground to run and jump your way back to home. The rules haven't changed yet, but what Titanfall offers is something that truly makes the game worthwhile once more. You can use your Titan to get away with the flag. You can wall-run, you can use your abilities to assist you with your getaway and zipline your way to safety. Putting all this together, Titanfall manages to reboot Capture the Flag and make it exciting again because it all comes together - the flag grab, the jump into a Stryder (the fastest of the Titans), the dart back across the map under fire. Ejecting from a doomed Titan last minute, through the air and straight into through the roof of your base. Flag captured, game over. You win.
Titans are huge, they're something to behold and definitely not to be messed with. Dropping your Titan on top of another doesn't get old. But as smooth as the game can be, some of Titanfall's smaller maps can feel restrictive when the game struggles to cope with confined spaces. The sense of scale that the game so successfully created elsewhere begins to break.
"There are situations where the game completely throws a hissy fit and jarring technical issues slap you around the face."
Ninety percent of the time you'll suffer no issues with Titanfall on the Xbox One. But there are situations where the game completely throws a hissy fit and jarring technical issues slap you around the face. It might not screw up the overall match - and the fights carry on with all the usual intensity - but the framerate drops and the screen tears for around 4-5 seconds. This happened at least ten times during the two days we were playing the game in EA's controlled environment, and we've noticed it happening online since then.
If that's what happens on the Xbox One, I dread to see what happens during those rare moments on the Xbox 360.
But despite these technical issues, Titanfall will undoubtedly become the shooter that changed the first-person shooter for a new generation. The mechanics under the hood of Titanfall are phenomenal. Hopefully we'll see Xbox's new Xbox Live Compute infrastructure thrive off the traffic - eating it for breakfast and asking for more, but we can never be 100 percent certain during these early days. As with all online games, there's a certain amount of faith the player has to put into it and patience in the early weeks as Respawn and EA rolls out updates to strengthen the service.
In short? Get involved. You'll look back on the day where you first played Titanfall. You'll remember the first time you ejected over your Titan and crashed back into the battlefield. Titanfall is a game that inspires stories and you'll shortly have your own to tell.