My experience playing modern shooters started on the Xbox 360. My console was bundled with Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 and I sunk a lot of hours into Infinity Ward’s successful shooter. I was never that good but I especially loved running around knifing enemies in the face. I can still remember when I cleared out a foxhole, knifing 3 or 4 enemies in a row.
The next year I jumped from Modern Warfare 2 to Black Ops but soon got bored with the frenetic gameplay and the fact I was constantly getting destroyed by killstreaks. I’d gotten both Call of Duty Black Ops and Battlefield: Bad Company 2 for Christmas that year so I soon shifted my focus to Battlefield. I loved the larger scope and slower, more tactical gameplay in Bad Company 2 and was blown away by the destructibility, something that the later games in the Battlefield series still haven’t been able to match.
I loved Bad Company 2 so much I picked it up on PC as well, as I’d built a decent gaming rig by then. After that I was a dedicated PC gamer. My friends and I put hundreds of hours into Bad Company 2 and the Vietnam expansion. When Battlefield 3 came out we moved onto that, leaving the tight gameplay and destructible environments for larger levels and massive scope. Although we played a lot of BF3 we eventually burned out on the title, even through the many expansions. The game stopped being fun as the skill gap increased between me and my opponents. I wasn’t willing to put in the effort needed to get really good as I found myself bored of the game.
The cycle continued with Battlefield 4, only faster. My friends weren’t really interested in the sequel and so I found myself playing alone. I still played a lot of BF4 but the gameplay never felt as fun as Bad Company 2, my benchmark for Battlefield games. After time I stopped playing altogether, as I’d find myself getting angry at the game because of cheap deaths. I wasn’t having fun any more. I was looking for a new game to scratch that old shooter itch, something that was a mix between the arcadey action of Call of Duty and the more tactical teamwork of Battlefield. And more importantly, I was looking for something FUN.
Enter Titanfall. Developed by Respawn Entertainment, a company founded by old Infinity Ward employees, Titanfall is an arcadey first person shooter that combines fast infantry combat with heavy mech action. Though Titanfall borrows from a lot of existing games, the overall experience feels fresh and the gameplay is a lot of fun.
Every player starts off as a Pilot, with a variety of primary weapons and loadouts. The beginning combat resembles that seen in other first person shooters, albeit with a greater emphasis on movement and verticality as Pilots can double-jump and wall-run. However, there’s a timer that counts down at the start of every round and when the countdown reaches zero your Titan is deployed. Titans are mechs, massive walking tanks that can both dish out and absorb massive damage. Killing enemies and completing objectives reduces the countdown timer, allowing you earlier access to your Titan.
The slow, deliberate combat of the Titans combined with the fast, agile movement of the Pilots makes for an addictive contrast and helps to keep the gameplay fresh and interesting. While you do feel powerful and indesctructible when you first jump in your Titan, the game will quickly remind you how exposed you actually are. There’s a great balance between Titan and Pilot, as a good Pilot can quickly take down an unaware Titan. All Pilots are given an anti-Titan weapon, such as a rocket or grenade launcher. However, my preferred method for taking down Titans is running up to one and jumping on its back, prying open an access panel in the heavy armour and unloading my weapon into its exposed circuitry. That’s definitely my favourite part of the game. There’s something so satisfying about destroying a Titan this way, like Legolas taking down the Oliphant.
Everything in Titanfall feels so accessible and welcoming to new players. Although the teams are limited to six players each, there are a number of computer-controlled NPCs spread around the maps. They’ll fight with each other and attack the Pilots; killing them is usually pretty trivial but you get decent points for your side and their addition helps to create the impression that you’re one element in a greater war. If your FPS skills aren’t that developed or if you’re new to the game, killing grunts and spectres introduces you to the Titanfall combat while helping your team at the same time. In time your Titan will drop and you’ll get to experience the other side of Titanfall combat no matter your skill level.
I know some people complain that Titanfall is spoonfeeding you, a shooter for people who suck at shooters. Titanfall’s for babies, etc. The addition of a smart pistol, a gun that auto-targets enemies and kills them in one hit, is another red flag for Titanfall critics. I don’t buy into that argument. While getting killed by the smart pistol sucks, as you don’t get a warning, it’s a valid weapon as it helps get new players in the game. There is a skill curve to Titanfall, but it’s a game that anyone can pick up and play. Play Battlefield 4 as a new player and you’ll get destroyed in 30 seconds. Sure, the same thing happens in Titanfall but I never get discouraged by dying because the game’s so much fun to play.
And you can play the game how you want to play it. After a few levels you can build your own loadout, whether Pilot or Titan. Be a stealthy sniper or a Rambo with a machine gun. Build a tank of a Titan or a nimbler mech, capable of dodging incoming missiles. You can also choose Burn Cards to customise your gameplay, single use items that are earned during matches. These cards add a custom bonus for one life, whether a more powerful gun or an ability to detect enemies on the map. There’s a wide variety of available Burn Cards and choosing the right card at the right time can make a huge difference in a match.
Respawn have distilled the components of other successful shooters into a fast-paced, action-heavy sci-fi FPS that is a helluva lot of fun to play. Playing Titanfall makes me feel like a kid again, jumping into giant robots and crushing enemies under my feet. They’ve made a game that’s accessible to all players, easy to pick up and tough to put down. Titanfall feels like the first step in the future of first person shooters and it’s a welcome change from the stale AAA shooters currently on offer.Colin Le Sueur