Titanfall Xbox 360 is out now, and Dave Cook's been getting stuck right in. Has Bluepoint Games delivered a worthy port of the Xbox One original, or is the last-gen edition a fool's errand?
"This week's North American launch came with little in the way of fanfare, and the fact that the press had no prior access to the last-gen build sent alarms bells ringing."
This isn't a total re-appraisal of Titanfall. For my full, final gameplay impressions of the Xbox One build, go here. We have included a screen comparison between both builds below.
It was rather worrying to see EA holding Titanfall Xbox 360 close to its chest. This week's North American launch came with little in the way of fanfare, and the fact that the press had no prior access to the last-gen build sent alarms bells ringing. With all that secrecy you'd think the publisher was trying to hide something dire; a grievous error even. Had Bluepoint Games dropped the ball hard? You'd be forgiven for thinking so.
In actual fact the game is surprisingly good. The graphical drop is notable in places and it's prone to glitches that I'll cover in some detail further on, but first let's actually address the long period of radio silence. This really confused me for several reasons, and I think chiefly, I suspected what most of you did; that EA had a weak build on its hands and it was trying to keep anyone from seeing it prior to release.
That's wrong, and I get that if you take a staunch business approach to this then yeah, fair enough, it makes sense to divert attention when you have a weak product on your hand. But you're not stupid. You all sensed something was up, and I feel that had EA just shown the game via the usual preview channels and trailers then that sense of distrust and trepidation around the Xbox 360 version wouldn't have emerged.
We're now living in a time where - despite all of the NSAs, GCHQs and Facebooks in the world - transparency is actually becoming an acceptable value in the video game market. Look at Kickstarter, with its clear-glass view on the development process, where prototypes and early builds are routinely shown to let backers see where their money is going. Steam Early Access is doing this as well, although with some questionable price tags attached.
I'd never advise anyone to buy a game without first consulting either a review - if they trust reviews at all of course - trying a demo or asking people they believe for an opinion first. But it's clear that many people buy games without that prior knowledge because they do get sucked into the hype machine that we in the press admittedly help to perpetuate to varying degrees, and they buy a game on day-one off the back of the industry's message. You're not made of stone, after all.
So imagine if you bought Titanfall Xbox 360 after all of the silence and the no-shows, only to find you'd just dropped £45 on a terrible game. You'd have every right to be livid. I'll repeat again - the build is fine, so that leaves me to believe one thing; that EA and Microsoft wanted to squeeze as many Xbox One sales as possible before unleashing the last-gen edition on the world. That, and we're now in a new financial year, and it's clear that both companies will get off to a flying start thanks to the game's last-minute delay.
Dwelling on it for too long would be to detract from the solid porting job Bluepoint Games has delivered in Titanfall. It's the same team that created Metal Gear Solid HD Collection a few years back, and it did a fine job there too, so I was never worried about the team's ability as such.
"I can do all of the same things I could in the Xbox One version without the game failing, or having it slow to an unplayable crawl."
The first thing I noticed when jumping into the game was the 1GB optimisation install, which was quickly finished and before I knew it I was in multiplayer, doing all the things I've been doing in the Xbox One build for a few weeks now. There are no content sacrifices here, and when you consider that the player caps are the same - and from what I can tell this also applies to the AI grunts - then the amount of polygons and models on display at any one time is actually quite remarkable.
I've seen a pack of four Titans in a brawl on the Lagoon map, with its lapping waters and swaying foliage without any slow-down whatsoever. That's impressive, even if the frame-rate did stutter at several points, along with a degree of lag. I'll chalk the latter up to day-one server load for now, and I'll keep an eye on it over the next few weeks, but by and large the net-code held up fine. There were also a few instances where bombs and bullets caught in my Vortex Shield didn't appear, and some movement glitches saw my avatar moving strangely.
That's hardly game-breaking, and the point is that I can do all of the same things I could in the Xbox One version without the game failing, or having it slow to an unplayable crawl. Granted, there were moments where the machine groaned under the strain, and textures understandably didn't hold up as well. There are jaggies, blurry objects and noticeably less aliens swooping around the Boneyard map. I still noticed the big four-legged beasts roaming across the horizon, much to my surprise.
There's just so much going on in this game that with all the explosions, shell casings and pieces of broken mechs flying around it's no joke, and further underlines Bluepoint's ability. Simply put, this is the same game you'll find on PC and Xbox One but with an inevitable drop in visual quality.
Is it a deal-breaker? Well, that all depends on how important visuals are to you, but the graphical dip didn't phase me and the final package doesn't look largely out of sorts against the Xbox 360 builds of Battlefield 4 or Call of Duty: Ghosts, two games I felt failed to excite in the presentation department. I'd call this a triumph for Bluepoint, but then again I'm already invested in Titanfall thanks to the Xbox One build. Will newcomers be so kind at first pass? Well, that's for them to decide.
Disclosure: to assist in writing this article, EA sent Dave an Xbox 360 copy of Titanfall.