Ti­tan­fall

PC, Xbox One

EDGE - - PLAY - Pub­lisher EA De­vel­oper Respawn En­ter­tain­ment For­mat PC, Xbox One Re­lease Out now

Ti­tan­fall’s big­gest prob­lem is the hard­ware for which it is sup­posed to be a killer app. Play­ing on Xbox One means lower res­o­lu­tion, longer load times, more screen tear­ing and a chop­pier fram­er­ate than on PC, call­ing into ques­tion Respawn’s de­ci­sion to have the con­sole ver­sion run at 792p. It adds up to Ti­tan­fall fall­ing short of be­ing a con­vinc­ing en­dorse­ment of Xbox One’s ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

It does, how­ever, hew closely to Mi­crosoft’s orig­i­nal vi­sion for its con­sole. Ti­tan­fall is a glimpse of what might have been the norm: it kicks you to the ti­tle screen if you idle at the main menu, its tu­to­rial is un­playable with­out an In­ter­net con­nec­tion, and its cam­paign mode is in­ac­ces­si­ble with­out net­worked com­pany. Al­ways-on­line runs to the very core of Ti­tan­fall’s de­sign, with Mi­crosoft’s Azure net­work not only help­ing to fling about a level of car­nage that Respawn claims wouldn’t be pos­si­ble other­wise, but also pow­er­ing a stream of AI creeps, a con­cept on loan from Dota 2. These prove es­sen­tial in keep­ing the ac­tion flow­ing, en­sur­ing you’re rarely far from some­thing to shoot, but let’s hope they don’t rep­re­sent the ex­tent of Azure’s power. These goons are as dumb as they come, fac­ing the ac­tion only rarely and, even when they do line up a tar­get, sel­dom let­ting off more than a sin­gle round.

Here, how­ever, that’s ex­actly how Respawn wants it. Its AI com­bat­ants ex­ist solely to make the bat­tle­field busier and give you easy kills, re­duc­ing the count­down timer be­fore your next surge in power. Ti­tan­fall moves to the beat of the cooldown – the re­fill­ing me­ters that gov­ern Tac­ti­cal Abil­ity pow­ers, its ar­se­nal’s reload an­i­ma­tions, the kill­cam in­ter­mis­sion be­fore your next spawn – but the most sig­nif­i­cant of the lot is a timer tick­ing down in the screen’s bot­tom-right cor­ner. When you’re on foot as a mis­lead­ingly named Pi­lot, it counts down to your next Ti­tan­fall, which causes a hulk­ing mecha to drop from or­bit with a sat­is­fy­ing thunk. Hop in­side and a new timer ticks down to your Ti­tan’s Core abil­ity, which gives a brief boost in a power that’s tai­lored to its strengths. Al­most ev­ery­thing you do in the game – killing grunts, down­ing Ti­tans, cap­tur­ing flags – shaves sec­onds off your vi­tal Ti­tan­fall timer.

What en­sues is a game of time man­age­ment in which you plan your moves around when your var­i­ous pow­ers will be avail­able. As a Pi­lot, you’ll lie in wait for your Cloak abil­ity to recharge be­fore mak­ing a dash for the ob­jec­tive, or call in a Ti­tan on the ap­proach to an en­emy base, know­ing it’ll have hit terra firma by the time you emerge with the op­po­si­tion’s flag.

Ti­tans them­selves are, de­spite their con­vinc­ing heft, sur­pris­ingly flex­i­ble, and much of that comes from the load­out sys­tem. The three chas­sis are the most ob­vi­ous dif­fer­en­tia­tors: Ogre is the tank; At­las, the all-rounder; Stry­der, the flight­ier, more brit­tle op­tion. It’s a clas­sic trin­ity whose in­di­vid­ual strengths are em­pha­sised

Stomp­ing around in these ro­bots does a lot to en­sure Ti­tan­fall feels like more than Call Of Duty: Fu­ture War­fare

fur­ther by Cores, which im­prove shields, in­crease dam­age and give un­lim­ited dashes re­spec­tively. Yet the Ti­tans’ phys­i­cal de­sign only tells you so much, with weaponry, Tac­ti­cal Abil­i­ties and two perk-style Kits em­pow­er­ing a wide range of playstyles. You’d ex­pect Stry­der to be best from dis­tance, for in­stance, but close-range dom­i­nance can be yours with canny use of dashes, a spark­ing cloud of Elec­tric Smoke, the Triple Threat (which fires three pow­er­ful grenades) and a Kit that greatly in­creases the dam­age of your melee punch.

How­ever you choose to kit out your Ti­tan, sim­ply stomp­ing around in these hulk­ing ro­bots is a de­light, and does an aw­ful lot to en­sure Ti­tan­fall feels like more than Call Of Duty: Fu­ture War­fare. In­fin­ity Ward’s legacy is every­where, though, found in the menu lay­outs, the load­out sys­tem and the lev­el­ling struc­ture’s un­lock­ables and chal­lenges. Still, you know you’re play­ing some­thing dif­fer­ent the sec­ond you first set foot on the bat­tle­field. The Ti­tans may take cen­tre stage, but foot soldiers are Ti­tan­fall’s real stars.

Pi­lots are sur­pris­ingly pow­er­ful, not least be­cause they’re won­der­fully ag­ile, their wall run and dou­ble jump en­sur­ing the trek back from respawn point to front­line be­comes a game in it­self. No longer do you sprint head­long for the clus­ter of dots on the radar, ei­ther; in­stead you set off at an an­gle, look­ing for a wall from which to spring­board into the sky. The im­pact on map de­sign is ob­vi­ous, with invit­ing net­works of plat­forms and walls mak­ing be­ing on foot feel more like a first­per­son Tony Hawk’s game than a sci-fi shooter.

The Pi­lot’s ar­se­nal is rather more tra­di­tional, a genre-stan­dard blend of as­sault and sniper ri­fles, sub-and light ma­chine guns, and a sin­gle semi-au­to­matic shot­gun. You’ll have just ten pri­mary weapons by the time you hit the level cap of 50, though that’s mit­i­gated by the cus­tomi­sa­tion op­tions, a four-strong suite of anti-Ti­tan weapons, and the abil­ity to rodeo on an en­emy mecha’s back, rip­ping off a panel and blast­ing away at its weak point. Burn cards, which of­fer sin­gleuse, sin­gle-life boost­ers (see ‘Burn af­ter deal­ing’), fur­ther widen the range of tools at your dis­posal.

All lin­ger­ing con­cerns that Respawn is stick­ing a lit­tle too closely to genre con­ven­tions evap­o­rate when you lay your hands on the Smart Pis­tol Mk5, which au­to­mat­i­cally locks on to tar­gets within its short range, a sin­gle squeeze of the trig­ger dis­patch­ing ev­ery tagged foe be­fore you. It’s not as over­pow­ered as it sounds, how­ever. It’ll slay a stan­dard grunt with a sin­gle round, but you need to ac­quire three locks to put down an en­emy Pi­lot, which is no mean feat when fac­ing an un­pre­dictable mov­ing tar­get.

It does, how­ever, make for a gen­tle land­ing in this un­fa­mil­iar game­world. Your first hours in Ti­tan­fall aren’t spent look­ing down a ri­fle’s sights, but scan­ning

the pe­riph­ery, plan­ning out Pi­lot routes and Ti­tan place­ment, plot­ting the com­plex net­works of build­ings, tun­nels and open spa­ces that make up these var­ied play­grounds. De­spite the fre­netic bat­tle rag­ing, you can learn at a sur­pris­ingly lan­guid pace. When you call in a Ti­tan, you needn’t take the con­trols, but can in­struct it to fol­low your move­ments or stand guard in a par­tic­u­lar spot. You can avoid en­emy Pi­lots, in­stead fo­cus­ing on dis­patch­ing the AI grunts, which counts to­wards your team’s score in At­tri­tion death-matches and whit­tles down your Ti­tan­fall timer. As you be­come more com­fort­able with the me­chan­ics and the game’s 14 maps, you grad­u­ally start to play a more ac­tive role, tak­ing on en­emy Pi­lots, mas­ter­ing the Ti­tan con­trols, and work­ing your way up the score­board. It’s an el­e­gant flat­ten­ing of the learn­ing curve for a genre in which new re­cruits tend to strug­gle.

Yet as finely de­signed and smartly tuned as Ti­tan­fall’s var­i­ous sys­tems are, Respawn stum­bles along the way. The cam­paign is non­sense, a stand­alone en­try on the main menu that mixes to­gether the At­tri­tion (team death­match) and Hard­point (point cap­tur­ing) ga­me­types. It tells its story through con­stant ra­dio chat­ter that you’ll prob­a­bly miss be­cause you’re too fo­cused on the fight in front of you, too pre­oc­cu­pied with stay­ing alive to ab­sorb ex­po­si­tion. Not that it mat­ters: win or lose, the story moves on re­gard­less. It’s all over quickly enough, at least, but you’ll have to get through it if you want to un­lock two of the three Ti­tan chas­sis, which may pose a prob­lem for those who buy the game later on when the servers are less busy.

For too long, ob­vi­ously mul­ti­player-fo­cused shoot­ers have shipped with short, hum­drum sin­gle­player cam­paigns, but while Ti­tan­fall’s shift away from that is com­mend­able, the pack­age as a whole is slight. In a mul­ti­player-only game, just five modes feels stingy. At­tri­tion and Hard­point are joined by Cap­ture The Flag, mecha-cen­tric brawl Last Ti­tan Stand­ing, and Pi­lot Hunter, in which only en­emy foot-sol­dier kills count to­wards your team’s score. Yet while ev­ery mode puts you in a team, there’s very lit­tle team­work on show dur­ing pub­lic matches on ei­ther Xbox One or PC, at least par­tially be­cause of how in­di­vid­u­ally pow­er­ful the rich toolset makes you feel. A well-or­gan­ised group will al­most al­ways win, but omit­ting clan sup­port and other com­mu­nity-minded fea­tures makes get­ting a team to­gether harder than it should be, even given the ar­rival of Xbox One’s be­lated party chat sys­tem.

Yet when you’re in the thick of it, none of that mat­ters. Where Halo sought to give play­ers the same 30 sec­onds of fun again and again, Ti­tan­fall dishes out its thrills in five-sec­ond bursts that each feel markedly dif­fer­ent to the last, all the while smooth­ing out some of the kinks that have dogged this genre for years. It’s a thor­oughly suc­cess­ful evo­lu­tion of the twitch shooter, broad­en­ing its scope both up­wards and out­wards as well as ex­pand­ing its toolset. The genre’s fo­cus on fast, re­spon­sive move­ment reaches bold new heights, too, let­ting you chain wall runs and dou­ble jumps into the sky be­fore thun­der­ing back down in the cock­pit of a gi­ant ro­bot. Ti­tan­fall might not be Xbox One’s killer app, or Azure’s proof of con­cept, then, but it’s a long-over­due adren­a­line shot for a genre that seemed in dan­ger of flatlin­ing.

ABOVE The Ti­tans’ Vor­tex Shield abil­ity ab­sorbs en­emy fire Ma­trix-style, re­turn­ing it to sender when you re­lease LB. We pre­fer Elec­tric Smoke for its wider va­ri­ety of ap­pli­ca­tions – it’s use­ful against en­e­mies of all types

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