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Yesterday, for the first time in years, I took an entire day off doing one single thing: Playing a video game. With the exception of breaks for meals, doing some laundry between matches, and reading a chapter of The Fellowship of the Ring before bed, I didn’t do anything yesterday other than play Titanfall. In the interest of full disclosure, the event actually began at around 8:30 Tuesday night, since my entire team had the day off on Wednesday. That means a solid 24 hours was mostly dedicated to playing Titanfall.

This is going to be one of the easiest reviews I’ve ever written, because Titanfall can be boiled down to a single question: Do you have a core group of friends you play online shooters with? If the answer is “yes,” you don’t really need the review, as I assume you’re already playing Titanfall. If the answer is “no,” and you’re wondering if Titanfall is worth it solo, I’m afraid I have some bad news: It’s not worth it solo.

By “solo,” I mean playing the game solely with an interest in the story being offered, without worrying about being “good” at the game from a multiplayer perspective. For starters, there is ZERO in the way of a single-player experience. This is SOCOM and MAG taken to the next level; yes, there is a campaign, but you literally play through nine of the game’s fifteen maps with some audio and special intro scenes thrown in for good measure. There are other players playing with you, on each side of the story, and to keep things fair it doesn’t matter whether you win or lose each match.

I knew going in that I wouldn’t care about the story, which is good, because it’s delivered in three of the least efficient manners imaginable in a game like this:

1)      Audio that plays in the match lobbies.

2)      Scenes that happen at the beginning and end of each match.

3)      Audio and picture-in-picture video that plays during the match.

So basically, they try to tell you the story while you are talking with your team or party about the last match, figuring out your loadouts, talking about the match that just finished, or worst of all, while you are PLAYING THE GAME. I don’t know about you, but in a fast-paced FPS featuring giant robots and jetpacks, I am devoting less-than-zero attention to watching the little video at the top corner of my screen.

The game randomly picks which side you play as – IMC or Militia – when you begin a campaign, and automatically puts you on the other side when you start your next run. You can’t select individual missions until you’ve beaten both campaigns, which you’ll need to do to unlock all three titan cores. This can be a little frustrating if you’re playing with a party where everyone is at a different part of the game, but we found ways around it until all of us had completed each mission from both sides.

The side you’re on affects what audio, intro, and in-game story bits you see and hear, but the matches themselves have almost no impact on the story. For instance, one match involves the Militia trying to overload some reactors while the IMC defends them it a hardpoint domination game type. Even if the IMC wins by a landslide, the story finds a way to still have the reactors detonate. This also leads to weird situations when a match is close, where your pilots’ COs alternate radio chatter between “we’re crushing them” and “our forces are being decimated.”


To be as honest as possible, I refrained from doing any research for these next paragraphs, which is the best story synopsis I can give based on having played the campaign from both sides twice: The games takes place far into space, on the “Fringe,” and focuses on a war between the IMC and the Militia. The IMC has decided to start using AI-controlled soldiers called sentinels. The Militia is losing badly, until the IMC ends up attacking a colony where an old, presumed-dead war hero is living. He joins the Militia, and together they stage a series of attacks on IMC bases.

Along the way, you’ll play missions with objectives like stealing data from a crashed IMC ship, taking over anti-ship guns to attack a dry-docked IMC ship, and bringing down towers around an IMC base to allow the giant, vicious life-forms that live on the planet to attack. There are also at least three missions where I can’t remember who’s doing what, to whom, or why.

This culminates in an attack on some kind of base on a world directly next to a star, in which the war hero sacrifices himself, and an IMC commander defects to the Militia, and control of the IMC is granted to Skynet… sorry, “Spyglass,” and a heavily-accented sociopath is a dick to everyone. There are some vague shots of spaceships, and some radio chatter from the corresponding sides. Then, for some reason, the game doesn’t end; there is a final mission where the Militia attacks the sentinel manufacturing facility, and the game essentially gives you another set of vague shots of spaceships and radio chatter.

If my recollection seems very pro-Militia, it’s because the game doesn’t even try to blur the lines about who the heroes of the game are. The very first mission involves a Militia raid on a fueling facility; if you’re the IMC, you have to stop them, despite the fact that there are numerous civilian ships with the fleet. If you “win,” the heavily-accented psychopath remarks that “Today’s civilians are tomorrow’s militia.” The very next mission starts with sentinels slaughtering civilians, and that same asshole remarking that it’s not a good enough test of their capabilities.

The woman in this picture could be named Tits McGee for all I know.
The characterin this picture could be named Tits McGee for all I know.

All that to say this: I don’t remember a single character name, meaningful moment, or piece of non-cliché dialogue, and I played this through four times. So when I say that the game isn’t worth it for the solo experience, that’s what I mean. Nothing this game provides is worth it outside of the core experience of playing the game. If you think you can play the game online, but without a team or core group, then it might be worth it to keep reading.

Now that you’ve made it to this point, forget the last four paragraphs and read this: Titanfall is the single best multiplayer experience since Bad Company 2, in my opinion. It is the culmination of a lineage going back to CoD 4: Modern Warfare, and is actually made by many of the same people. It borrows and learns from Battlefield, Halo, Call of Duty, Counter-Strike, Team Fortress, and a half-dozen other pedigree franchises.

As a moderate FPS veteran of multiple console generations, nothing in the game feels out-of-place, unnatural, or difficult to grasp. There’s a twenty-minute training simulator at the very beginning that gives you the basics, but moves along nicely to keep it from getting boring. There are a few mechanics, such as wall-hanging – hold left-trigger while on a wall – that I didn’t know about until they popped up on a loading screen tip. It also seems like you can switch pilot loadouts at any time without a respawn, or maybe in it’s just in certain circumstances; I really don’t know. These oversights in the tutroial are minor at best.

Basically, you spend all of your time either as a pilot or piloting a titan; playing as a pilot is like Call of Duty with jetpacks and parkour, and piloting a titan will feel familiar to anyone who has ever played another game with mechs. There are different weapons, perks, explosives, and whatnot available on both sides, and pretty much any play style can be rewarding if utilized correctly. I will say this, though: Moving around on the ground, half-crouched any checking corners is going to get you murdered.

Titanfall Mobility

The game is a symphony of mobility, and the most effective players are going to be the ones who can learn how to think in three dimensions, more than any other game on the market. In hardpoint domination, for instance, most areas can be accessed from any side, from above, and potentially from below. While titans can’t jump, players seem to be quickly adapting to the idea that you can call a titan in and then keep moving around outside of it.

This is accomplished by the game’s impressive auto-titan AI system for the mechs, which can be set to either guard a location or follow you as best they can. More than once I’ve left my titan to guard an area and then run off elsewhere. There are limits – stay gone for too long or go too far and your titan will shut down until you climb aboard again – but the game obviously encourages this play-style. In fact, a later perk allows your titan to be more accurate and efficient while in auto-titan mode.

The game also rewards people who can manage multiple loadouts as necessary. I tend to find two loadouts, tops, that I excel at and stick with them. In Titanfall, though, I actually have all six loadouts ready at any given time, and switch freely between tactics. The same goes for titan loadouts; what may work well if I’m piloting manually in an attrition game doesn’t necessarily perform well in guard mode during a capture the flag.


The only mechanic that the game really fails at explaining is “burn cards,” though we all pieced them together fairly quickly. Basically, these are one-time use bonuses that last from when you use them until you die and respawn. You have a maximum of three slots, and cards can be set in each slot from your deck between matches. Once in a match, they can be activated from the loadout menu. Some will kick in instantly, others not until your next spawn, and you can only have one active at a time.

The effects they offer include upgraded perks, enhanced weapons, extra XP, or even instant-access to a titan; normally, titans have a “build timer” that can be reduced by scoring points in various ways. There is a twenty-five card limit to your deck, so it’s worthwhile to use and even discard cards frequently. Early on I tried to keep cards for “that one special occasion,” but quickly found this wasn’t worth the space, as I just never used those cards.

Interestingly enough, I’ve already written a fair amount more than I intended to, or even really thought possible. To be honest, though, I don’t really think I’ve offered much insight; I’m ok with that, because again, there’s no insight to offer. Odds are anyone with even a passing interest in this game already owns it, especially if they have friends they game with. I’m sure there are a handful of FPS enthusiasts out there who won’t mind picking it up and playing with strangers; if so, more power to them, because this is a Hell of a game.

As multiplayer-driven experiences like Call of Duty and Battlefield have grown bloated in recent years, I’ve stood by and sneered. I don’t have anything against a great multiplayer experience, but all I saw was the same game coming out ad-infinitum. If you had told me I would willingly pay $60 for a game that was online-only, and featured a lackluster campaign I would only grind through to get unlocks, I would not have been pleasant in response. As it stands – or, in this case, falls – I’m going to wrap up the review here, “because Titanfall.”

I downloaded Titanfall directly from the Xbox One marketplace. It was my first time ever getting a launch of this magnitude digitally, and I have no complaints thus far. It is also [amazon_link id=”B00DB9JYFY” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]available on PC, and will be released for the Xbox 360 on March 25.[/amazon_link]

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