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Critical Consensus: Titanfall scores a big win for Xbox One

Respawn Entertainment aces its debut project, but will EA fumble another online launch?

If the official figures are to be believed, somewhere in the region of 2 million people joined Titanfall's open beta. And if the word trickling down the grapevine can be trusted, a great many of them finished it more than satisfied with what Respawn Entertainment has been building for the last four years. At a point in the new console generation when it's hard to find an enthusiastic proponent of the Xbox One, Titanfall seemed ready to thunder in from the skies and make us all think again.

"Titanfall is a testament to what talented people can accomplish when given permission to pursue the very essence of their dream"


And yet there is doubt churning away beneath the veneer of assured success. The big question around Titanfall is no longer, 'Will it be good?', it's, 'Will EA finally get it right?' With the painful memory of the SimCity launch only just fading into the ether, and - regardless of what Blake Jorgensen claims - the trauma of Battlefield 4's technical woes now the biggest, blackest mark on the company's decidedly spotty record, there is widespread and justified concern that Titanfall will be the latest casualty of EA's damaging inconsistency with major online launches. Indeed, as a rare new IP in a marketplace increasingly defined by sequels and reboots, Respawn's debut would be the most regrettable casualty of all.

Eurogamer is just one site that is holding back that all-important numerical rating, even going so far as to mark the occasion by introducing an entirely new approach to reviews. It would be unfair to say that EA alone is responsible for this change in tack from one of the most respected outlets in the games press, but it would be disingenuous to dismiss the role of Battlefield 4 - a game that still doesn't function as intended more than four months after its launch - in the final decision.

"Starting with Titanfall, we have decided to delay the full review of online-only games until we have been able to play them extensively on fully populated public servers, where the experience may be different to the controlled conditions available before a game is released," Eurogamer's "launch review" states. Titanfall's review will be updated, and its final score added, only when the chance to play on live servers is available. Nevertheless, besides some lingering concerns about Titanfall's premise and story - the words "cliched", "shallow", "dull" and "obvious" are all used in the space of a few sentences - Eurogamer's initial take on the game is almost entirely positive.

And it isn't alone. Titanfall may not be receiving many perfect scores, but out of the 29 reviews now linked to on Metacritic only one has scored the game below an 8. Not bad for a debut, and, in Joystiq's opinion, pretty good for just about any series or any genre. Respawn Entertainment has not only aced fundamentals like controls and level design, but added two potentially game-breaking features with no sign of stress or imbalance.

"All that complexity is expressed through a streamlined control scheme that doesn't feel complicated. It all comes naturally, and instead of feeling like work, Titanfall feels like a playground"


The first, and most obvious, of these is the Titans, which, "don't tower over the game's design as you might think. Summoning one of these mechanical beasts does not portend victory any more than donning a piece of armour does. It's better to think of a titan as a resource, traded for the time it takes to build one, or for defeating pilots and each map's dim-witted AI drones, each one knocking some precious seconds off construction time.

"Once you've boarded and killed enough of them, you'll realise titans aren't really that interesting when they fight only one another. The close calls and quick shifts in the game's overall flow from pilot to titan, and back again, are diminished in big-guy standoffs, if not nullified. That isn't to say titans lack strategic options, but Titanfall's magic is in transitions, not the bots banging their heads against one another."

Those exhilarating transitions are made possible by Titanfall's other big feature: movement. When gameplay footage of Titanfall was first released to the world, the thunder and bombast promised by its towering mechs overshadowed the pilots' boost-assisted, parkour-inspired traversal of the maps. For Polygon - which, like Joystiq, awards the game 9 out of 10 - this unrestrained locomotion both brings Titanfall's disparate elements together and makes its clutch of existing ideas feel like an original experience.

"It's an enormous number of mobility options in addition to some very smooth, responsive shooting. But all that complexity is expressed through a streamlined control scheme that doesn't feel complicated. Double jumping is effortless, and wall-running is as easy as jumping toward a wall while running forward. It all comes naturally, and instead of feeling like work, Titanfall feels like a playground.

"Each of Titanfall's 15 maps presented a new opportunity to experiment with my environment, to see where I could get to on foot. I found 'lines' to take, alternating my wall-runs over extended spaces, making jumps I never thought I would make... Every nook or ledge presents its own challenge to find how best to make it there. This radically shifts the way that Titanfall's combat unfolds relative to the first-person shooter establishment. Most other multiplayer shooters exist as a flat plane with a few specific points of altitude. Horizontal stalking routes and cover-based shooting don't define Titanfall. Movement is as vertical as it is horizontal, and death could come from any direction at any time."

"Titanfall feels, in a way, like a hyper-budgeted mod that will only truly see its aims realised in the inevitable sequel"


Titanfall's sole 10 out of 10 - at the time of writing - comes from EGM, which attributes Respawn's unqualified success to a focused design that isn't hampered by the extra modes and features that dilute so many AAA games. "Titanfall is a testament to what a talented group of people can accomplish when given permission to pursue the very essence of their dream, without any caveats or superfluous decoration mandated by publishers," EGM's review opines, effectively dismissing relatively widespread concerns about its malnourished campaign mode. "Respawn Entertainment's debut is everything it needs to be-and nothing more."

For a counterpoint look no further than Videogamer, which sits at the opposite end of Titanfall's narrow spread of scores with 8 out of 10. Titanfall is indeed all of the things that so many reviews claim - lean, fast, strategic, spectacular - but it also feels like less than its brilliant concept suggested. Respawn aimed for a revolution, but it may have to settle for an evolution of the formula its core team helped to establish. And that should be no great concern to anyone, because for all of its achievements, Titanfall leaves plenty of room for improvement.

"Titanfall feels, in a way, like a hyper-budgeted mod that will only truly see its aims realised in the inevitable sequel. This is not necessarily a negative: it's a tremendously enjoyable game, and one that both expands upon, and strips back, some of the excesses of its spiritual predecessor.

"But for all its strengths, its reliance on tried and true modes and rigid maps stops Titanfall achieving its full potential. Capture the Flag, Attrition, and Domination are the best game types, but none of them show the same invention that's occurring elsewhere in the title, leading to a feeling of natural fatigue. Some of the maps also feel too similar to each other, lacking in distinction, and campaign multiplayer is sadly non-dynamic. A very good first instalment then, but the best is yet to come."

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Latest comments (13)

Matthew Handrahan European Deputy Editor, GamesIndustry.biz7 years ago
That's a fair point, Andreas, and duly noted.
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Carlos Sanchez Executive Producer at Turn 10 7 years ago
Would EA even have anything to do with the back-end or servers? Reading this article yesterday I was under the impression that it's all Microsoft's problem to manage.
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Kim Munday7 years ago
I think titan fall is a great step in gaming, I also think that designers from booth dice and bilzard activation could take some notes.
Its fun to play the controls are easy theres no annoying issues for example : Hit detection, it plays better and cleaner then most games out there and that have been out there in the past 3 years.. IMO

I think if game compnaies tuck what resqpawn have done and build on it the world of gaming could become very exciting again.
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James Burns Lead Online Programmer, FreeStyleGames7 years ago
> Would EA even have anything to do with the back-end or servers?
Yes, paying for them.
If the budget is less than required to allow the infrastructure to scale with demand, then yes you will likely see problems.
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From the server end , this one is microsofts side to do the heavy lifting
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Neow Shau Jin Studying Bachelor in Computer Science, Universiti Sains Malaysia7 years ago
@I was playing last night on PC, and I notice that during matchmaking the fine line reads "Connecting to Xbox Live", either that is a presentation over sight, or Microsoft is really the one doing all the heavy lifting for the server.
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Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing 7 years ago
If this was a Call of Duty game, it would certainly not get away with the type of story mode it's got. Even Quakewars told more of a story, if I'm brutally honest. Therefore, assuming Titanfall will replace CoD is a bit of a wishful statement. Titanfall is certainly a game that needs not to worry whether or not it is going to earn enough money, but assuming it will carry the Xbox One alone is, again, overstating it a bit. If futuristic Call of Duty multiplayer is what you want, then this is a 10 out of 10 game. But before long, it will be up against fierce competition with a more broader scope of audience.
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Paul Jace Merchandiser 7 years ago
It's nice to see that all of Respawn's hard work over the last few years has paid off and kudos to Microsoft for snatching this up as an Xbox platform(including Windows PC's) exclusive. Now lets see if the sales can measure up to whatever amount of money they paid. Of course, we'll probably never know the exact amount but if Titanfall sells multiple millions of copies and lifts Xbox One hardware sales then I'd say it was a good move.
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Rick Lopez Illustrator, Graphic Designer 7 years ago
Im going to wait for the IGN review and gamer reception, to make any judgements. IGN is waiting till the game is released to see how it plays in realworld situations. Im really skeptical about huge games like this, since I got burned by Battlefield 4. And this being an online game, it doesnt matter how great it is if it has network issues.
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Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 7 years ago
Funny thing is... I'm betting the 360 version outsells the XBO by a huge margin because (wait for it)...MORE people still own 360s than Xbox Ones (by far, I'd gather). Unless the 360 version is awful (and I can hear the graphics folks making fart noises in the distance) and sluggish compared to this and the PC version, I'd say there's more money to be made by a few companies...

Provided the 360 servers hold up their end of the bargain...

We'll see..
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Staeton Grey Junior Software Engineer, Pennant PLC7 years ago
Literal gameplay won't change, but the quality of the gameplay will (Latency, packet loss etc).
Microsoft's Azure service is pretty incredible, they have datacentres all over the world and the amount of traffic they can handle is massive compared to any typical server provider. What you should expect is; if you live in any country that has one of MS's datacentres, expect very low pings throughout the whole game experience.

My personal experience with Titanfall for PC was excellent, I played the beta where the sole purpose of the beta was to invite tons of people to stress test the servers. What I guess would be peak times (weekend in the evening) in the game menu I had less than 30ms when connected to my local datacentre, in-game where there's 12 players and plenty of bots I still had less than 30ms throughout.

As for some geographical areas, the game only seems to have been released where Azure datacentres are available. EG, Titanfall hasn't been released in Brazil because there aren't any Azure systems there.
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it is already having a fun effect on the MS servers :)
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Paul Jace Merchandiser 7 years ago
Having been finally able to play Titanfall for the 360 I can say without a doubt that it was well worth the wait. It's a very awesome variation to the standard fps fair already available and you never get tired of watching your Titan fall from the sky, or atleast I haven't in 40+ Titanfalls so far. Microsoft definitely backed the right exclusive but next week's sales figures will tell the other side of the story. The scores are there but will the sales figures also be there. We'll find out soon enough.
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