Keep on running
Playing as an organic, fleshy human is a vastly different experience. Nimbly scampering around between the feet of massive mechs while they do battle above you is also pretty awesome (until one of them treads on you), while each pilot’s wall-running and jetpack-assisted jumping abilities mean clambering around the map is a joy. Where Assassin’s Creed often feels like a set of predetermined moves strung together, Titanfall’s parkour gives it the freedom of a 3D platformer.
On foot you also have the advantage of being able to sneak down alleyways and hide in buildings; safe places where Titans can’t go (just stay away from the doors and windows). Rooftops also provide a good high vantage point from which to attack the more vulnerable points around the robots’ heads. If you want, you can even jump on a Titan’s back to hitch a ride, or unload a clip down its neckhole.
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Tactical layer cake
Dotted around each map you’ll also find computer-controlled enemies that function largely as cannon fodder, but can act as all-too-tempting distractions in the heat of battle. It’s all very well gleefully gunning down a grunt for a few easy points, but you won’t be so smug when a human opponent shoots you in the back as you do so.
And therein lies Titanfall’s biggest strength. You do battle on multiple levels: robot to robot, human to human, and various combinations of both. You can abandon your Titan at any time, instructing it to guard its position or follow you around. Unsurprisingly, using a 20-foot robot as a decoy while you activate your cloaking device and sneak about on ground level can be a very effective tactical weapon. After all, you can’t just hide a massive mech in a cupboard; this isn’t Metal Gear Solid.
These tactical layers are far more pronounced than any FPS character class system (although there’s one of those too) and it does help to level the playing field – but only a bit. I still found myself propping up the bottom of the leaderboard in a lot of rounds and the people I was playing against can only have played the game once or twice before too. The only game mode I did well in was Hardpoint, which, aside from the killing, rewards points for going to a place and standing there for a bit without dying. I was pretty good at that.
A next-gen game-changer?
Rather than being an entirely new FPS experience, Titanfall ultimately reminded me most of Battlefield 4. Switch the robots for tanks and choppers and you’ve got EA’s COD rival, just on a smaller scale (plus you won’t need to spend hours learning how to pilot the Titans without embarrassingly crashing into a radio mast). And that’s not a bad thing.
I’m not saying Titanfall is a poor game; far from it. It’s the Xbox One’s first designed-for-next-gen shooter and it’s a vital weapon in its fightback against the PlayStation 4’s initial dominance. We’d take it over Killzone any day of the week. It’s just not the gaming game-changer you might’ve been led to believe.