As soon as I knew about this game, I could tell it was the Call of Duty guys. I was trolling around the CES in Vegas during Christmas week when I heard a familiar helicopter-type thwacking and crackling sound. Respawn Entertainment, a new company formed by senior Call of Duty veterans, knows their stuff vis-à-vis military shoot-em-ups. This one, Titanfall—a mechanized armored transport that gives this game its name—is absolutely A1 outstanding!
The basic plot line is not complex. At the start, 12 combatants face each other on foot. Soon there’s a new option, and you call in the titan mechman. It falls down to earth like a ton of steel bricks, farts continually out of its booster jets, making so many hissing, sizzling noises that you become your own metal-on-metal Brian Eno sci-fi soundtrack. Then things turn all clangy and you sit in, set up and, lo and behold, become a human tank. Cool! You can load and fire missiles at will. You feel all powerful. Clang! Clang! Clang! You are an all-steel war machine. Watch out, though. Take too many direct hits and you have to eject, rocketing into the air of the battlefield, left to fend for yourself in lone combat surrounded by the chaos of true battle. So far! So good!
As with other perpetual action games like Doom, Quake and Counter Strike, the thrills just keep on coming. Much like Japanese mech anime such as Gundam and Macross, there’s a participatory comic book insider vibe, too. The main difference from those games, though, lies in your participant’s ability to improvise by yourself, a la Call Of Duty. You’ll maybe feel like a bit of a newbie/FNG at the beginning, but you’ll catch on.
So, you kind of figure it out fast. Corporate armies are colonizing space. The gigantic IMC Company goes from planet to planet, raping and stealing every resource, and taking slaves. Such ruthless colonialism has led, naturally, to a rebel guerrilla movement. And so, now they (and you) fight. Cinematic sequences add to the plot, although it’s all just death, death, death. Just, umm, high-tech death!
Anyway, there are lots of battle modes: Teams of six vie for domination over 15 maps. Three intro pilot classes allow you to learn how be a basic soldier, a ninja-type assassin and a tiny hand-to-hand specialist. Gradually you get better, earning better weapons and promotions. It’s all very much akin to Call of Duty and Battlefield veterans. Yet Titanfall is different. Call of Duty‘s solders are landlocked, in Titanfall the warriors move high and fast all over the local topography. The ability to run high for miles and hang on to vertical walls is thrilling.
The controls are utterly perfect and very in tune. Leaping between battered industrial rooftops then sprinting sideways across the face of neon signs. And—wow!— being suspended in mid-air sprawled over a chasm before falling and gliding down feels just wonderfully liberating, like a bungee jump. Combat possibilities also increase exponentially, leading to thrilling chase sequences, each player rebounding between walls and surfaces as though caught on some kind of deranged life-size pinball table. Anyway, it’s ultimately back to Quake and its hyper-accelerated, three-dimensional movement, rocket jump face-offs and the chance to make mid-air one-shot kills.
Locations vary. Deserts, steamy bougainvillea, sheer climbing cliffs all await. The urban and the rural are balanced. The mean streets of Angel City and Colony allow the full variety of gameplay approaches, from run-and-gun bravado to sniper camping. What’s particularly nice, and superior from my point-of-view is that Call of Duty left its soldiers without maps to help themselves, but Titanfall gives you tens of thousands of clues and maps featuring scores of places to hide.
Titanfall looks to be a masterpiece. You will play for hours, get tired, think you’re done, and switch it off. Still, always, a new weapon waits for you like a horny first date. A few hundred XP more and you can earn that super shotgun with a brilliant telescopic sight. If you ever played Modern Warfare, I’m sure you’ll like this one, too. Brilliant.
Respawn Entertainment: ‘Titanfall’
XBox360, Xbox One, $59.95; PC, PC Download $39.95