Launched in March of last year on Xbox One, Xbox 360 and PC, Titanfall was the inaugural release from software developer Respawn Entertainment, a team founded by Jason West and Vince Zampella, who broke away from Activision and Infinity Ward to form the company in 2010. As you might expect from the former developers of the Call of Duty series, it's a six-on-six multiplayer first-person shooter that pits groups of players against one another across a variety of futuristic battlefields.
What we said at the time
Mike was the main reviewer, and scored it four out of five, saying, "I went into Titanfall expecting very little. I haven't been a big shooter fan since the Unreal Tournament series was put to bed, and if I have a choice, I tend to play single-player. But Titanfall was (is?) actually a ton of fun for me. Even as I'm writing this, I look forward to playing more. The Titans themselves I could leave behind completely, but I love the movement of the pilots and the competitive interplay between pilot and Titan just makes the game work. Is it the most innovative and game-changing title in the world? No. But it is well-designed and I'm enjoying it."
I provided a second opinion, and said, "…what really makes Titanfall a winner is the way it lets you play it. The action is always tight and intense, but gives players room to move, be creative and play to their own strengths. Gear your character up the right way, and you can be forward running and aggressive, own from the rooftops with a sniper rifle, or sneak around slowly and patiently, picking people off to disrupt the enemy's flow. I just love the fact that the game lets you be you – or rather, a Parkour-ing, wall-running, run-and-gunning super-damn-awesome version of you."
I rounded off my part of the review with, "Ultimately, Titanfall is an absolute peach of a game. Well, more like a peach-shaped explosive device that’ll absolutely blow your doors off, but I’m calling it a peach nonetheless. It’s not often that I encounter a game and just know I’m going to be investing many of hundreds, and perhaps even thousands of hours into it - but Titanfall is most certainly one."
At its launch, there was a huge amount of hype swirling around Titanfall, and expectations were sky high. Looking back, I think the game ultimately delivered, but there was some controversy and complaints about the fact that Titanfall was multiplayer only. It did have a "campaign," but it was essentially a series of multiplayer battles connected by a very thin and not particularly compelling narrative. Some also complained about the game's fairly weak story – which seemed to be more of a simple justification for the game's setting than a rich source of lore.
EGM lauded the title, and said, "Titanfall lives up to all the expectations established when it was first revealed, in a way that so few games are able ever to accomplish, and represents nothing short of first-person shooter multiplayer taken to new heights," while Vandal Online though that Titanfall, "proves that there's still room for innovation in shooting games."
The Escapist was a little more modest in its praise, stating, "this game is far from the "revolution" that excited critics have eagerly claimed it to be, but it is a wonderful little example of how fresh a standard shooter can feel when you pour all sorts of extra garnish over a solid foundation." VideoGamer offered similar sentiments, calling Titanfall, "an evolution of the core Call of Duty concepts rather than a revolution for multiplayer shooters as a whole," and describing the game as, "a hyper-budgeted mod that will only truly see its aims realized in the inevitable sequel."
Content since release
Three packs of DLC were made available for Titanfall during the first year of its release: Expedition, Frontier's Edge, and IMC Rising. Each contained three maps, and while they initially required you to buy a season pass, all are now available for free. To acquire them, you simply need to own the game, and you can then download the Season Pass for nothing. The game has also dropped in price, and is now available at a quite reasonable $19.99 on all formats.
So does it hold up?
What Titanfall did bring to the first-person shooter genre was a parkour-like experience that made its contemporaries feel quite old-fashioned. To me, it represents a bit of a watershed in that respect: Most first-person shooters since then have incorporated the same style of chained-movement gameplay, but Titanfall was one of the first to really take it to a new level - players can wall-run, leap over obstacles, and generally navigate hazards with ease and precision.
Going back and playing it again – the first time I've done so in about a year – has been an interesting experience. I've been putting a lot of time into Call of Duty: Black Ops III of late, and that has by far the best-developed and smoothest movement system of any FPS title. Titanfall comparatively feels a little on the stiff side these days, but I think it does hold up pretty well against the current benchmark game, especially considering it'll be two years old in March.
What works well for me, though, is just the way the game plays. Having the Titans on the battlefield really changes up the gameplay and adds an element of interest to the proceedings that is very different from most FPS games. Sure, it's basically like a super-scorestreak that automatically counts down while you're playing, but I just really enjoy the moment when I get the chance to call down a Titan and start ripping up the battlefield. However, while Titans are certainly powerful, they're still vulnerable to being taken down by individuals. It's a neatly-designed system that makes the game very entertaining, and balanced at the same time.
While your mileage might vary, I really like the feel of the Xbox One's controls. Guns have a good heft to them, and aiming is smooth and steady, delivering gunplay that feels solid and nicely finessed. The weapons selection is also broad and features some interesting tools – particularly the Smart Pistol, which is one of the more original guns seen in any FPS of late. All combine to deliver a game that supports a nice range of playstyles. Whether you want a long-range sniper-type character to support the team from afar, or a run-and-gunner that gets into the thick of things, there are plenty of options to enable you to tweak and fettle your character so that it can fulfill different roles on the battlefield.
Verdict: Despite its graphics beginning to feel a little rough around the edges, Titanfall is still a solid first-person shooter. When it launched, its content felt a little on the thin side, but these days with nine extra free maps – and especially at its reduced price – it represents quite a bargain. On Xbox One, it runs at 1408x792 resolution at somewhere between 30-60 frames per second, depending on what's happening, so it's not a cutting-edge, technical tour-de-force by any means. Yet while it's no longer at the forefront of shooting games, it still holds up reasonably well to its contemporaries, and provides an entertaining and enjoyable budget-friendly PvP experience, even though its campaign still feels like an afterthought.