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Titanfall (PC) impressions: Frenetically fun robot violence -- when the servers work

Hayden Dingman | March 12, 2014
I could probably write my Titanfall review right now. I've played about fifteen hours of the game, all-told. I've finished most of one of the multiplayer "campaigns," though everyone left our server before we completed the whole run. I've ranked higher than the beta's Level 14 cap. I've killed some people. I've killed some robots. I've run on some walls.

Titanfall, unlike most modern shooters, moves. It's fast, and it rewards people who've kept their twitch-shooter acumen polished over the years — especially on the PC, where the mouse and keyboard elite reign over the leaderboards.

A beautiful emptiness
excels when it comes to maps. I'm not sure if the game only has the nine in the campaign or if there are others in the rotation. (Pre-release there were rumors of fifteen.) Regardless, the maps are spectacular in scope. One has an enormous spacecraft landed adjacent to a primitive fishing village, another centers around a towering railgun. This is science fiction at scale and utterly impressive.

...All of which serves to make the limit of six players per team feel unnecessarily restrictiv and unfair. I can almost guarantee these limits are in place because of the console versions of Titanfall. Even at six-on-six, Xbox One reviews near unanimously remark on dips in framerate during chaotic sequences.

I experienced no such issues with the PC version, and as a result the maps feel...empty. The grunts aren't really a replacement for real players. In fact, let's tell it like it is: The fodder enemy AI is dumb. It will stare you in the face as you come round a corner, holding fire for an eternity before finally realizing "Hey, that's an enemy! We should shoot!" Then they pepper you with the equivalent of soggy spitballs until you stop laughing and mow them all down. I never hated the six-on-six feel, but there were far too many minutes spent traversing empty battlefields in search of a real foe.

There's also that damn smart pistol — a gun that locks on. While it's not a huge threat to pilots, it can really swing an Attrition match. Fodder enemies only take a second to lock on, and you can kill four or five in a few moments. Do that a few times and you're racking up tons of points for your team without ever threatening a human player. I don't think it's game-breaking, but it's certainly odd.

A campaign of audio clues
Then there's the campaign, which prior to launch I was really looking forward to. Respawn said they wouldn't create a full singleplayer campaign for Titanfall, preferring to focus on multiplayer. They did, however, create a "campaign" out of the multiplayer. When you enter campaign mode you're locked to either of the game's two factions, the IMC or Militia. From there you'll play through nine of the game's maps. Most of the maps I played were standard Attrition (think Team Deathmatch) mode.

The intro movie is gorgeous, which gave me high hopes. The rest...

While sitting in the lobby for each map you'll hear characters talking about objectives and enemies and this and that — listen closely, because that is the campaign. Audio cutscenes. Something like, "Hey, I'm Admiral Grapes and we have to hit this planet because reasons, et cetera, et cetera. Stay frosty, bros," says the disembodied voice of a guy who sounds like a soldier-type.


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