Titanfall is a fantastic first-person shooter. Since I played the beta back in February, I was pretty well convinced that it would be the next big shooter in my life, succeeding fantastic games like CoD4: Modern Warfare, Red Orchestra 2 and Call of Duty 2. After a weekend of playing the final build, I can say without any shadow of doubt that Titanfall is one of the best FPS games I’ve played for a long, long time. Saying that, there are a fair number of issues I have with the game; although perhaps issues isn’t the right word, as they’re less problems with the game, more elements that the game is missing. In short, Titanfall is a fantastic game that should could keep me entertained for a long while, but it’s so easy to see that there is much, much more potential in what Respawn have created.
The game is so good in so many ways, but I can’t help but feel as though there are missing elements dragging it down, and I’m by no means the only one who feels this way. Many of the Titanfall reviews that released last week mentioned that certain areas were lacking: game modes, maps, private lobbies (all issues that I’ll get to). There’s an inescapable feeling while playing that this is just the bare bones of a brand that’s got long term goals in mind. It’s an unusual situation; we’ve understandably become accustomed to games and media products in general releasing with all pistons firing, yet last week’s release of Titanfall is arguably just the first step in a long term plan. From a business perspective, it makes a lot of sense; from a creative mindset, it’s pretty despicable. Of course, this is just my opinion, so I certainly won’t say that these findings are flat-out truth.
So what’s missing? Certainly the hottest topic of the moment is the distinct lack of game modes; both in terms of overall number and original concepts. Titanfall features just five core game modes: Attrition, Pilot Hunter (which is very similar to the former), Capture the Flag, Hardpoint and Last Titan Standing. All of these game modes are excellent, I enjoy playing each and every one of them (although CtF can get a little bit too mad). That, however, doesn’t prevent me from wishing there were more to play around with. By comparison, CoD4 launched with 11 game modes in tow and while not all of them were hits, there was a fantastic sense of variety and choice. Titanfall misses this mark by a long way, leading many, including myself, to question the longevity of the game. What’s more, the modes on offer are far from creative. Last Titan Standing is certainly the most original, but even this takes obvious cues from CoD’s Search and Destroy.
That lack of originality in game mode design is perhaps what stings the most. The game features such wonderfully refreshing basic mechanics that it’s shocking to see that there are absolutely no original game modes. Hardpoint is basically Domination or a small scale Conquest, Attrition is standard deathmatch and Capture the Flag is obviously one of the oldest modes in existence. Those wonderful mechanics are more than enough to keep these five modes entertaining, but surely Respawn have some game mode concepts of their own? There have been rumblings of a totally original game mode in the works that could be released either for free or in one of the upcoming DLC packs. This would certainly be a welcome addition; with such inventive game mechanics it’s shocking to see the lack of equally inventive modes. Saying that, even basic additions like a free-for-all mode or a ‘no Titans’ game would be interesting to play.
The fact that the game launched without private lobbies is also a serious oversight on the part of Respawn. Of course, they’ve confirmed that they will be added within the next few weeks as part of a free patch, but it’s still a little worrying that such a high profile game was released without a crucial feature such as this. For a game that’s sure to get a lot of eSport attention, not having private lobbies is a huge drawback. Perhaps Respawn were thinking they could hold it off until Titanfall 2, or one of the DLC packs? Many players have also been vocal about the lack of variety in other parts of the game. Customisation of Pilots and Titans is admittedly behind what many other FPS games have managed. The gun choice is good but limited in number, there are nowhere near as many abilities/perks as can be found in CoD and the like, and there’s little to no visual customisation options. I’d argue that the smaller number of guns do actually work to the game’s advantage, but many gamers appear to be disappointed by the lack of content in this regard.
Another divisive matter has been the lack of a proper campaign mode. Personally, I thought that it was an excellent decision from Respawn to cut out the single player modes, although the attempt at a story segment was also something they shouldn’t have bothered with. What’s missing for me though, is a co-op mode. This is more a personal preference rather than what I, as a gaming critic, believe would improve the game. I just love co-op modes; spec-ops was far and away the best thing about the last two Modern Warfare games and Left 4 Dead and the like are all favourites. I’m not saying that a co-op mode would be a worthwhile addition, I’m just saying that I would play the crap out of it. Of course, it helps that I’ve got friends to play with but with such beautifully designed mechanics I could happily play a horde mode in Titanfall all day long.
Whether this rather long list of missing elements will be amended by the three scheduled DLC packs is somewhat irrelevant. Titanfall was released with a lack of overall content; that much I feel is difficult to deny, especially considering the game is multiplayer only. The maps are the only element of the game that feel truly expansive (although a little samey, too). Even when considering all of this, I’ve still got a strong urge to head back into the game, the basic mechanics are just too damn fun. That ‘long term plan’ vibe will still be present, but it’s all too easy to ignore; which, I suppose, is the genius of it all. I don’t know if the plan with Titanfall is to extend its shelf-life by withholding content, and at risk of sounding like a foil hat wearing conspiracy theorist, I’ll assume for now that it’s not the case. Still, there’s a lot more potential in the game, I just hope that it doesn’t take five separate titles to live up to it. Oh and next time, release it on PlayStation too.