'Titanfall' review: David or Goliath?

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It’s easy to feel sorry for the makers of “Titanfall” (Electronic Arts). In terms of hype, there are few games in recent years that have expectations ramped up as high as for this title. It is therefore a tough challenge for the first-person shooter to meet all the hopes attached to it.

“Titanfall” is a game that does what it sets out to do extremely well; however some gamers will be disappointed with the lack of scope of a title that promised to redefine the genre. “Titanfall” perfects certain aspects, but is some way from a revolution.

Developers Respawn Entertainment made the gamble of jettisoning single player modes, and even many multiplayer modes in order to focus on a very tight multiplayer game based around a few options.

The Scoop

Title: "Titanfall"

Summary: The super-hyped “Titanfall” perfects certain aspects of gaming, but some gamers will be disappointed with the lack of scope of a title that promised to redefine the genre.

Rating: 8.5/10

Availability: Xbox One and Windows PC. Xbox 360 version coming soon.

ESRB Rating: M -- Mature

The result is awesome...for the most part.

Let’s get to the good bits first. “Titanfall” is a multiplayer delight. Those who just want a good multiplayer experience need read no further, and can buy the game immediately.

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“Titanfall” embraces next-gen graphics, and the maps come alive on the screen, letting the player feel like they are moving around a real, living environment. Lots of little touches make everything sync up nicely - for instance, when you start a level, you begin in a dropship and plummet to the ground instead of just merely spawning in a random place.

Also the Titans -- the massive mechanical behemoths who are the stars of the game look gorgeous. Everytime they fall out of the sky, watching them appear into view from the heavens is a thing of glory. Each Titanfall isn’t just the production of a new weapon, but an event to watch in awe.

Just like the graphics, the gameplay is filled with little touches that add up to make everything work beautifully. Wall-running allows you to hop between buildings, running along walls and jumping onto structures, and even Titans, in seconds. The pace and agility of the pilots -- the boots-on-the-ground soldiers -- contrasts well with the sluggish but pure power of the Titans, making for superb David vs. Goliath battles as plucky pilots seek to take down the enormous machines.

As I mentioned in my preview, one of the best things about “Titanfall” is just how easy it is to get hold of a Titan. Every few minutes you have access to one, with the time between them sped up by killing more opponents. However, the fact that everyone gets one sooner or later make the title a lot more accessible to newcomers. As someone not the best at these sort of games, I found “Titanfall” a very easy game to pick up and play, and even the worst on the field will likely make some sort of contribution, picking up levels and new abilities to become better.

So, let me make this clear -- “Titanfall”’s multiplayer is exceptional. Yet one also can’t help coming away with a sense of its limitations, preventing this great game from becoming something seismic.

The game has no single-player mode whatsoever. While this won’t bother those gamers who bought the last “Call of Duty” and never played the campaign, gamers who wanted to have more of a sense of story, of characterization, a sense of the world in which they are playing -- such people will be greatly disappointed.

While there is a campaign of sorts, with a few cut scenes scattered around here and there, it is set within the multiplayer game and is largely peripheral. Especially aggravating is that much of the dialogue is played out during the gameplay. While this is fine in a single-player mode where there can be breaks in gameplay, in a multiplayer game where action is constant and speed and concentration are the names of the game, it is impossible to concentrate on what the characters are saying and it becomes little more than irritating background noise.

Which is a shame, because as a result I never felt connected to “Titanfall”’s world. I only had a vague understanding of what the IMC and Militia groups were about. I had no idea of what planet I was playing on, and it led to a lack of immersion that was jarring.

Which is frustrating, as “Titanfall” comes close to being something quite revolutionary. But without the immersion which came with games such as “Halo” and even “Call of Duty,” “Titanfall” stops short of being genre-defining, and instead settles for just being very very good. Which is no bad thing, but it still falls just shy of the hype.