Even with your gargantuan metallic buddy, you will die a lot, man. A lot.”
Titanfall is fast, man, fast. It’s fast and I keep dying.
You’re dropped God knows where, with only the vague semblance of an explanation. All you know is that you have people to kill and they are trying to kill you. And you can fly, sort of.
There is some lying in the reviews about Titanfall. They claim amazing parkour and leaping gracefully. These people are liars. This gif is something you will never see when you play Titanfall. The wonderful third person shots you see here, never seem to happen in matches. The action obviously happens, you just don’t see it. Not at any speed you can comprehend anyway. And if you’re running, then you’re concentrating on where you’re going and not the pretty footage around you.
And there’s lots of pretty footage.
Titanfall is stunning to look at. The maps are large and confusing enough that you can fool yourself into thinking it might just be an open world game. When you do get familiar with the maze of corridors and buildings, you suddenly remember that you’re wearing a jump-jetpack and can zip about on rooftops and walls. At this stage a bullet is usually fired from one of these rooftops, ending your current life.
You need height, man, height! From up there the battlefield looks open and wild. You frantically and constantly check your minimap. Never quite knowing what the blips mean. The red ones are certainly the enemy, and the big red arrows? Titans, avoid them for now. Orange ones are something else; robots, civilians, grunts? Who knows? The same goes for the bigger red dots that fade from view. Nobody told me how to use this thing. No tutorial in the training simulation covered it.
From high up on the rooftops you can see the Titans as well. It is actually awe inspiring the first time you see one of these giant robots striding along a street, accompanied by other pilots and grunts running cover along the roofs. You see it and aspire to get one of your own. Nothing is more satisfying than hearing: “Your Titan is ready to drop”.
The sight of the flaming ball screaming from the heavens before landing, in a powerful three point stance, will have you yelling “f**k yeah!” and possibly throwing horns the first time you see it. “I am Ironman” and heavy guitar chords run through your mind. Just don’t get shot before you get to board. Even then, I found it a little disconcerting having a giant machine hold me in its hand before shoving me inside it’s chest.
Considering all the speed of the game to this point, entering a Titan really slows things down. Even the boot up time is slow. “C’mon! C’mon! C’mon! They were right behind me!” You would think that being inside a giant robot would make you near invincible, instead it just makes you a bigger target. Bullets and small rockets hit you from rooftops and unseen enemies, usually enemy pilots, shoot you from better vantage points.
Or they leap on you, and they ride you, shooting your important sensors until you die. The only way to stop them is to disembark and shoot them as a puny human. In fact there’s a good strategy in not getting into your Titan at all and instead have the giant robot follow you around shooting stuff. This gives you essentially one heck of a guard dog.
Each of the three different types of Titan have different attributes: one is fast and carries more rockets, one is the well balanced version and the other is all armour and nukes itself when you eject. Ejecting is important. While you’ve got one eye on your target, you have to keep one eye on your armour level. These big dogs aren’t indestructible. In a rather cool little twist, you can pick up a downed Titan’s weapon - switching from a chain cannon to a rocket launcher.
You will die a lot, man. A lot.
Like so many young people sent to war, the training is inadequate. They teach you how to shoot a gun, how to run along walls (which is pretty cool) and how to pilot a Titan - but little else. And the angry South African sergeant who drops you off at each battle tells you even less.
I was also confused about how to change classes. The pilots come in three flavours: heavy, assault and stealth; though they aren’t called that. Generally it’s about appearance more than anything, what you carry determines your look. Carry a big machine gun and you’re a regular heavy, carry a shotgun and you’re assault. Thankfully each class can be male or female, so no biggie there. There are also boosts you can give your soldier, like extra cloaking or jump boosts.
In combat remember your grenades; remember that your cloaking device is only good against Titans; remember that your Titan has shields that can catch then return anything shot at you, remember that your pilot carries an anti-Titan weapon, remember not to use that weapon in close quarters. Stay in groups, teams work better in Titanfall than anything I’ve seen. Pilots need to concentrate on killing Titans, and Titans need to travel in pairs to be truly safe. Get your team’s back.
Although you will not know your team. There is no campaign to speak of and therefore no chance to grow attached to team mates. Instead the “story” is told by a series of multiplayer skirmishes with a weak narrative over the top. Yeah I get it, there’s no story here, just robots and bullets. No singleplayer option, just battle after battle with (often) strangers.
You’ll fight battles of attrition, literal battles of attrition. In these battles it’s an all out kill spree and you can rack up points by using your mech-like Titan to chew up the AI-controlled grunts. In other matches, you’ll defend bases and capture flags, these are great excuses to leave your Titan as a guardian of your base. Then there’s the “last Titan standing” matches, which gave me a chance to sit back and watch other’s belt each other in the head with giant robots. In the team on team matches the losers have to make it back to an evacuation point where they’ll be picked up. the winners have to stop them and/or blow up the dropship. When this happens everyone gets one last life, it’s a bloodbath.
Titanfall is just so full of things. The world is beautiful and detailed, the maps are detailed and confusing, the giant robots have plenty of places to hide. Take your time to drink it all in as the bullets zing around and into you.
NOTE: When writing this review, Titanfall was not yet public. As such I’m not sure about how well the game matches random players. During the campaign, as a level one player with a group of other level ones and a few higher level players, we faced off against a team of level 12s and 13s. We lost. Because of the low number of players I also can’t comment fully on speeds. (Editor’s Note: Just as this review was going live, EA made the announcement that Australia / New Zealand will be getting local servers for Titanfall. An EA Australian spokesperson made the following statement)