The multiplayer online shooter game is now considered a vital inclusion in the libraries of most avid button-mashers. And the new run-gun-and-jump-monster-mech title Titanfall is currently considered by many to be on the top of the sometimes messy stack. That’s partly because the game was developed by Respawn Entertainment, a company co-founded by a duo that had a hand in a small little gaming franchise you may have heard of: Call of Duty.
That online multiplayer favorite has become a juggernaut of gigantic proportions. I recently saw a stat in Popular Science magazine estimating that if you added up all the hours gamers have spent online shooting one another in the Call of Duty universe, it would tally in at, oh, 2.9 million years.
The mag went on to say that Titanfall is doing a bang-up job of riding those long coattails, becoming this year’s shooter of choice, and suggesting that its gameplay concepts and tech could make it “the most addictive game ever.”
Titans of Industry … and Battle
The game’s story takes place in the distant future after humans have colonized their way out to “the very edge of explored space.” But as every sci-fi flick ever made will tell you, once mankind starts reaching out to new frontiers, a couple of things will inevitably happen: We will develop amazing new technologies … and run into deadly resistance.
The Interstellar Mining Corporation develops incredibly powerful, 24-foot-tall surveying/mining suits called Titans. Of course, these enormous contraptions can do more than just mine. They can also be weaponized. And that’s exactly what happens after outlying human settlements get tired of the big-money conglomerate dominating their shipping lanes and economies. Just like that, war breaks out on the Frontier between the IMC and a renegade group calling itself the Militia.
Does this rather simple tale not sound all that fresh or exciting? Well, you’re not really supposed to care about that. Story isn’t the big draw here. In fact, any narrative details shared in the heat of a romping battle go by pretty much unnoticed unless you’re studiously taking notes. The thin structure is simply designed to trigger various settings and a variety of maps where a dozen online players can divide into two random teams of six. Along with scads of game-controlled bots, everybody then goes at it in frenetic, fast-paced competitive combat.
Adding Titanic Power to Parkour
This is one of the most swift-moving shooters ever created. Even before getting to the walking tank Titans, it becomes clear that the big deal about Titanfall is how you move around the battlefield. Players take on the role of Pilots. And in a single-player training program, they learn how to run along walls and make huge jumps from rooftops to high wires with all the skill of a jetpack-powered parkour pro. And, I have to say, from a gaming perspective, the fluid moves at a player’s command are nothing short of awe-inspiring.
Pilots also come equipped with their own “loadout,” a diverse selection of weapons, tactical abilities and kits you can use to shape your fighter to your own style of play. Maybe you like the idea of an auto-locking pistol that can shoot around corners after a fleeing foe. Or perhaps you want a weapon that packs a bit more punch, paired with a kit that allows you to run faster or turn invisible for short periods of time. Well, you’d better get started searching through the stockpile, because the list of weapons, skill bonuses and add-ons is long.
Then, of course, we do indeed get to those mechanized exoskeletons called Titans. After a short time in battle on foot, you will hear the announcement “Prepare for Titanfall” before your huge mech comes crashing down from the sky above. These robotic monster-mashers come in several different builds, from tough but slow to quick but a bit weak, and they come packing heavy weaponry as well as abilities such as the Vortex Shield that can suck up incoming shells and toss them back at an opponent.
Once you climb up into these battle suits, the combat shifts from super-athletic to super-powerful. The weapons list includes cannons, chain guns and quad rocket launchers, and is the kind of stuff that can demolish nearly anything you aim at. Of course, if an enemy Titan takes aim at you long enough, you’re forced to eject and go back to leaping about and dodging projectiles until your next Titan drops down for use.
A “Playground” of Constant Death
Whether you’re causing carnage with your own Titan oomph or careening from wall to wall and jumping on an enemy Titan’s back to shoot its robotic brains out, each battle is nonstop ferocity. And while that does indeed keep you hooked with a pulse-pounding rush, the downsides here are just as fierce as the ups. Titanfall is a viscerally violent “playground” of headshots, explosive dismemberments and constant death. Titans crush running Pilots beneath their enormous metal feet. And along with hightailing it to every possible advantage point in an attempt to feverishly kill as many foes as possible, players are constantly being pressed by blazing gunfire from opponents. You run, you duck, you kill, and you will die. Repeatedly.
On top of that, you’re hit with f-bombs and s-word shrapnel. And when you’re connected via headsets with the other live players on your team, the foul language assault generally gets even worse.
So what do you get when a Titan falls in the forest and everybody plays with it? A frenzied kill-’em-all competition that can feel, quite frankly, pretty unnerving at times. The trigger-pulling, brain-splattering negatives of your typical multiplayer shooter are utterly amplified here in an adrenaline-drenched, 24-foot-tall take on the genre.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.