You can never go wrong with adding robots to make something cooler. What would make vehicles better? Make them transform into robots and roll out. Want to freshen up the kaiju genre? Add robots. I'm sure Guillermo del Toro would agree.
So with the first-person shooting genre getting a bit long in the tooth in recent years, the original folks behind the Call of Duty franchise decided to add one key element to their inaugural game as a new studio. Yep, robots. Big, hulking robots. Add extra speed, some nice hang time and wall running along the lines of the aptly named "Attack on Titan" or "Shingeki no Kyoujin" manga and anime and you've got Respawn Entertainment's "Titanfall" for Xbox One, Xbox 360 and PC.
Of course, with all the hype that preceded Titanfall's launch, it wouldn't be surprising if the final product failed to meet expectations. So is life truly better with a Titan? The good news is that, for the most part, Titanfall delivers the goods.
The shooting itself is quite solid, no surprise really given the studio staff's pedigree with first-person shooters. But it's the things added on top of the shooting that gives Titanfall that extra oomph. The added verticality and wall running, for example, improves on the mostly lateral play of shooters. Having robots meanwhile mixes up the gameplay a bit while adding a larger sense of scale.
Titanfall is also one of the most accessible shooters I've seen in quite some time. It tries to allay the fears of newcomers and gamers not quite used to shooting games by adding a comprehensive tutorial as well as gameplay elements to help ease the transition. These include the addition of AI grunts that aren't quite as lethal as human players. Tools like the Smart Pistol also help with aim, particularly against AI grunts, but are still balanced enough to prevent abuse against humans.
Good players will still dominate, especially against other humans but there are enough AI characters around to make the average or less-than-average Joe feel like they're contributing to the cause. Purists might decry this but for those interested in bringing more people into the fold and expanding the player base, this is actually a good idea. There's also enough to do in terms of various game modes and challenges, as well as various soldier and Titan types and loadouts to keep players busy. Fine tuning your Titan for various play styles is especially fun.
Still, as someone who likes to play through the stories of games such as the Gears of War series, one big downside with Titanfall is its lack of a traditional campaign or offline mode. Instead the campaign is squeezed into the multiplayer mode, which lets you play as one of two factions. For folks who primarily play shooters for the online multiplayer, it isn't a big deal. For folks who like their shooters to come with a meaty story, however, the lack of a dedicated campaign will be disappointing. Limiting the game to the Xbox family and PC also means that a large number of shooter fans on the PlayStation ecosystem will be left out.
Still, the game is a polished shooter that serves as a welcome addition to the genre, thanks to the extra wrinkles it throws into the first-person shooter formula or the fact that its design is conducive to both newcomers as well as skilled players.
One could argue that the most intriguing thing about Titanfall, however, is that as good as the game plays, it actually isn't quite there yet. Instead, it feels like the blueprint for something that could be bigger and better with time. Just adding a solid campaign and offline mode, for example, would do wonders for the game's overall package. So as far as a test case for a new IP goes, Titanfall is a fun romp. But what's even more exciting is the prospect of what Respawn could do with Titanfall 2.
Final rating: 4.5 out of 5