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REVIEW

TITANFALL

Titanfall's a damn fine multiplayer shooter worth your time and money: that's the bottom line.


It'll give you at least fifteen hours worth of pleasurable entertainment - which is our current play time (and counting) with the game - as you run and gun across futuristic battlefields in a variety of modes.

If what's on the disc feels a little light on content (which truthfully, it isn't), that's only because Titanfall enters a market whose top dogs have had years to build their presence, develop their offerings. For a newcomer to the genre, Titanfall's wares are substantial enough.

Something Old, Something New. Something Borrowed, Something Bloody Great

Titanfall
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Respawn's debut builds on the same foundations as its online multiplayer peers, but strikes out in its own direction, incorporating unique ideas to develop its own vision. Not unexpectedly, given the staff's heritage as ex-Call of Duty developers, Titanfall offers fast-paced gameplay, XP drives that reward upgrades, and there's a wide spread of perks. All designed to keep you wired in, next achievement tantalisingly close to being unlocked.

But the core sell's different from Call of Duty, different from Battlefield. If any comparison can be made, Titanfall leans closer to COD's glorious competition. Bigger maps and the chaotic combat that comes in mixing on-foot soldiers and piloted attack craft means that while your lifespan is still measured in the seconds, they're healthy double-figures.

But Titanfall's still a different beast. Player Pilots are fast, agile - jetpacks offer double-jumps, and wall-running is standard. It's the first-person shooter with superheroes. You flow over, under and along environments. You're no more than a leap or wall scuttle away from battle. Calling in your personal Titan, a two storey-tall mecha with dash moves and heavy arsenal, layers a wholly different, Virtual-On style combat on top of the ongoing clashes between your walking tank's feet. The two types of play interweave and create something wholly new in the shooter space.

Layered on top of all that are progression systems to unlock upgrades and bragging rights. Levelling up earns you new weapons and loadouts. A separate Challenge system offers gameplay-specific objectives that need to be repeatedly completed over the course of multiple matches. Do so and you unlock weapon accessories as well as Burn Cards. Burn Cards are randomised perks that can be cashed in during matches and last until you're killed.

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You'll also gradually unlock new customisable loadouts up to the tune of five for Pilots, five for Titans. A bizarre oversight: you can't rename your loadouts. Complete both sides of the campaign, and you unlock the two other Titan chassis options - fast but weak Stryker, lumbering but tank-like Ogre.

So let's talk about what you get for your Pilot's licence. Buy the disc, download the digital version, and you've access to a 6v6 multiplayer-only title that's set in the far-flung future and across multiple planets as two sides clash over fuel and ideologies. It's the classic Red Vs Blue multiplayer colouring mapped to the patriotic IMC and the hounded underdogs, the Militia.

Campaigning for better Objectives

Titanfall

Their personalities and goals matter more - but not much - in the story campaign. The eighteen match-long conflict is split in two; nine matches on nine maps, played from both perspectives.

It is somewhat of a misfire. Matches play out as they would on the other multiplayer modes, but with the addition of in-match pre-scripted sequences, such as a Titan landing on a dropship, a key commander taking to the frontline to deliver orders. There's also more comms chatter that's hard to hear amidst the gunfire, and event pop-ups that play out on the video feed at the top right of your screen as key characters converse or duke it out elsewhere on the map, which are easy to miss as you're busy avoiding being punched by a Titan.

The problem is you never feel directly involved with these events. Partly it's excused as your role as grunt in the wider conflict, but it'd have been much more rewarding if there'd been unique in-match objectives on top of the standard Attrition and Hardpoint Domination mode types. Or even the match's result having a bigger impact on the overall story.

As it is, a few line readings differ from the principal cast, and you may notice the odd background event - towers collapsing, wildlife invading an army base. The frantic nature of the gameplay means we'll be reading up on Wiki after the fact to learn exactly what happened while we were blasting our way across maps. As there's little more than an Achievement and the two other Titan chassises unlocked once the ending screen is reached, this side of the game will be gathering dust before too long.

Mapping the Frontier: Modes & Maps

Titanfall

Outside Campaign, there's the narrative-free multiplayer modes. Three modes - straight-forward kill ‘em all for points Attrition, hold three points Hardpoint Domination, and mech-focused Last Titan Standing - we've seen already in the beta. They're now joined by could-be-Attrition-by-another-name Pilot Hunter, where only player-controlled characters killed earn you score. Then there's the incredibly fun and lightning-fast Capture the Flag, which in the time sunk in so far has proved to be the most fun.

Aside from the similarity between Attrition and Pilot Hunter, every mode's got its own attraction. So much so we happily kept to the Variety Pack mode for most of our time with the game, though the mode randomising saw only a smattering of Last Titan Standing matches. This is definitely the black sheep of the collection; it more than any other requires teamwork to survive. And there's definite need to know the maps inside out.

While the campaign locks to nine maps, there's fifteen available in all. Most fall into one of the two design types found in the beta levels. Either grid-like city and townscapes akin to Angel City, or larger countryside environments like Fracture. From these first twenty hours, it's the sprawling maps thats prove the better of the offerings - more interesting visually and in layout.

You soon tier the maps - not all are created equal. A handful of the town levels homogenise all too easily, visual identifiers too similar, and designs too simplistic to stand out. Yet thankfully the rest of the fifteen stand out. All boast intricate corridors, hideouts, pathways that both burrow through the ground underneath and weave along the highest towers above. Most feel like two maps overlaid; wider roads and higher bridges for Titans to fight on and duck under, then buildings, warehouses and ship interiors for Pilots to shoot and kick each other in.

What becomes obvious during our time is that in some locations, the player number versus map size hasn't been scaled quite perfectly. Lagoon, for instance, is a small fishing village sitting in the shadow of a huge carrier ship that's parked in the nearby shallow waters. The ship becomes a boundary wall for the map, yet there's another third of the level hidden behind it that remains untouched during our time there; everyone sticks to the the bowl that's the sandy centre of the village itself.

It's a similar problem with Airbase, a night-time map set between a hive of warehouses, landing pads and towers, and Nexus, a dusty outpost that the time spent on was mostly running over rooftops trying to find an enemy to engage.

It's early days though; players may start to explore a little once they've sated some of their XP drive. There's little earned in being tourist just yet, but it is highly recommended. Even outside the fantastically-realised maps. Respawn can create evocative sci-fi worlds.

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