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Aaron Waite Aaron Waite
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'Titanfall' brings ideas but not depth

Truth be told, I wasn't expecting the second coming of 'Halo 2' (or 'Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare,' for that matter). However, there is a certain expectation of the team that reinvigorated the CoD franchise single-handedly and then vanished into the dark recesses of a new studio to try to reinvent the first-person shooter genre once again.

The team? Respawn Entertainment.

The game? 'Titanfall.'

The result? ...interesting.

The best way to describe 'Titanfall' is 'Call of Duty' with giant robots, jetpacks and 'Mirror's Edge'-style parkour thrown in for good measure. What it results in are fast and furious matches that, while fun, may not have the depth necessary to carry it further than a few hours of fun.

'Titanfall' has some fantastically creative ideas beating beneath its metallic chest. For instance, the main multiplayer mode is called Attrition, and it's an absolute blast thanks to a bit of help from the MOBA genre in the form of AI minions (they're called grunts in the game, but if you've played 'League of Legends' or 'DOTA 2,' let's just call them what they are). Killing AI enemies counts toward the overall score, but not nearly as much as killing human-controlled enemies. Either one of these kills counts toward a countdown to getting your Titan, similar to killstreaks in the CoD series.

Rather than a cornucopia of killstreaks, you get one: a gigantic robot that falls down from the sky to wreak havoc whether you're in control of it or not. You can hop in and 'Mechwarrior' it up, or you can have it guard a position or follow you like a huge metallic puppy with chainguns. You might think that the battlefield would be a consistent massacre with everyone raining Titans every two minutes or so, but Respawn did an excellent job balancing the power of the Titans with each player's anti-Titan weapons. Even if you're just running along on your tiny, fragile human boots, you don't necessarily feel outclassed by the hunks of bipedal destruction falling from the heavens.

Player movement is probably my favorite aspect of this entire game. The ability to wallrun, doublejump, doublejump off wallruns and have it all be intuitive to pull off brings an amazing verticality to the game. Managing to scale a building in a matter of seconds gives a certain pride that can't be fully replicated in many other games.

The experience unlock system from every FPS since 2007 makes an appearance here, right down to being able to restart the entire process over again for a few perks and a pretty little tag next to your name. If you've played a 'Battlefield' or 'Call of Duty' game, you'll find yourself right at home with all of the unlockable upgrades to your Titan and weapons.

However, there are a few issues that keep this from being one of the best FPSs of the year for me.

For one, as much as I appreciate what Respawn was going for with the AI enemies, the entire game is built around them. Even in gametypes like 'Pilot Hunter' where kills only count if they're against human players, you still have AI opponents running around simply because the game would feel unnaturally open and huge without them. While it's easy to see the need for AI enemies in traditional competitive MOBA games, 'Titanfall's' mobs seem to be there more for show than anything. This inability to turn them off seems like an awful sticking point to an old-school FPS fan like me and puts a dent in its competitive future.

Second, the matchmaking system needs work. 'Titanfall' borrows the lobby system from CoD, which would work better if the matches were better arranged by overall skill. The matchmaking system also doesn't take into consideration how many players you have with you, so if you hop into a game by yourself, there's a good chance that you and five complete strangers are going to be matched up against an entire team coordinating to stomp you into the ground.

Third, the 'single-player' is just multiplayer with story. This isn't a worry for me, per se, but it is worth mentioning for the story warriors reading this.

Fourth, there's not a whole lot to it, when you get down to it. The full depth of multiplayer doesn't lend itself to team tactics or map control, and it feels like strategy on the battlefield comes down to either abuse of the AI mobs or having an entire team decked out in Titans. It makes me extremely sad to say that, because 'Titanfall' is truly a blast to play. It's filled to the brim with good ideas that just can't carry it far into the future. You should check it out, but I would caution a rental before a full purchase, because you'll probably get your full mileage after 10-15 hours.

Aaron Waite has a habit of naming his companion animals or robots 'Eberta.'


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