Standing on the shoulders of giant robots

Jon Mercer
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Titanfall
(Xbox One, Xbox 360, PC)
“Titanfall” has some mighty, almost unfair expectations to live up to. It’s not simply the first major third-party exclusive title of the new console generation, it’s also the first major release from Respawn Entertainment, founded by Jason West and Vince Zampella, formerly the driving force behind Infinity Ward’s “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare.”

Game play in “Titanfall.” — Submitted image

Not to mention that it is also the recipient of more than 80 Best in Show awards from game journalists and industry trade shows during the past year, and the heir apparent to the “Halo” and “Call of Duty” crown that Microsoft built the foundation of the entire Xbox brand on for most of its time as a gaming first party. And while it is admittedly standing on the shoulders of both giants and giant robots, “Titanfall” does get just enough of its formula right to be a pretty raucous celebration of the shooters that dominated the gaming landscape for most of the past decade.

From the outset, “Titanfall” appears to be a CoD clone, albeit one where players can double jump the height of buildings, or run along walls and, of course, call down hulking giant robots to climb inside of and wreak havoc on a massive scale.

That’s pretty much true, but I couldn’t help but feel an inkling of joy while I was playing it.

Despite it’s simplicity, “Titanfall” is designed to be a crowd pleaser, a summer blockbuster given gaming flesh.

Alone, all of its parts are tired old cliches, but wired together and dipped in “Titanfall’s” rabble rousing art style, we’ve got an openly derivative shooter with some staying power.

A word of warning to gamers with similar tastes to my own: don’t approach “Titanfall” expecting a grand sci-fi tale, because it doesn’t have one. There’s a sparse story of a war between Private Military Corporations and a rebellious Militia, and hints of a legendary leader defecting from one side to the other. But that’s all we get. Nine missions as each side that are essentially multiplayer matches with bots.

Instead, pinch your nose and dive into the warm and welcoming waters of its multiplayer suite. As a gamer who can in no way measure up to even the lower reaches of the middle to upper tiers of multiplayer shooter stalwarts, I was immediately relieved to see just how open “Titanfall” is.

Not only is the lifespan of the average noob far beyond the customary 15–30 seconds, but no matter how poorly one plays, they still get the right to ride in one of the game’s titular robotic Titans.

Or more aptly, everybody, regardless of how new they are to the game, gets to have a good time.

Roughly three minutes into a match (or faster, given one’s performance), players have the option to deploy a Titan. They land with a resounding thud, and bring all manner of highly explosive firepower with them. But unlike the airstrikes of CoD, the Titans are not complete game changers.

On foot, pilots are fleet and agile enough, and capable of carrying equally destructive countermeasures that can keep them in the match with ease. In fact, I’ve played matches where I’ve had more fun trying to be an ankle-biter, bringing down massive Mecha with just a rocket launcher, a jet pack and the tenacity of a pitbull.

Scrambling up onto their backs to try to force a pilot to eject ... it’s great stuff.

On the other hand, it is equally as much fun to leap down from orbit with a Titan, and try to unleash hell, even if the massive beasts can go down as easily as a regular player if confronted with more than one adversary at a time.

Every moment with “Titanfall”  (not including the painfully boring tutorial that dredges up memories of the worst aspect of “Zone of the Enders”) screams fun, even running for one’s life for a dropship after losing a round, or pushing forward to destroy said dropship should you be on the winning side.

“Titanfall” is one of those games where it is nigh impossible to accurately describe the ins and outs of its play in a simple review.

I find it criminal that we finally get a fast-paced shooter involving giant robots that isn’t a sim title, and it doesn’t have a single player campaign. But the multiplayer is incredibly fun, taking the best bits of “Halo” and “Call of Duty,” while eschewing the elitism that usually plagues games of their ilk.

There are oodles of neat little features, but perhaps its better to discover them yourself. “Titanfall” runs well on every platform it is available for, with the only real differences between the Xbox 360 and Xbox One versions being better textures on the Xbone, and a framerate that plays at 60 FPS or below on the One and 30 FPS or above on the 360.

Platform: Xbox One, Xbox 360, PC (Xbox One and 360 versions reviewed)

Developer: Respawn Entertainment

Publisher: Electronic Arts

Release Date: March 11

Rated: M for Mature.

Walking through the wastes of the digital frontier, Jon Mercer fights a lonely war against the nefarious agents of boredom and mediocrity. If you seek his help, or wish to join his cause, send a communiqué

via thejonmercer@gmail.com.

Organizations: Microsoft

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