For those who have been gaming for most of their lives – and are of course old enough to have seen multiple console generations come and go – you’ll be aware of those iconic games that have shaped different genres, at times even revolutionising gaming as a whole.
Look back to the original Gears of War from 2006 and what we were treated to was a completely new and exciting cover shooter style system that changed the way we saw third-person shooters, paving the way for incredible titles such as Army of Two. Meanwhile, dropping eyes on 2007’s Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, will show you a game that brought players forward from a prolonged war-time focus and threw us into the depths of a more modern era and relatable setting.
Fast forward another seven years however and you’ll find yourself glaring up at the hulking stature of a Titan, the mech-style robots that completely changed everything we knew about close-quarters FPS shooters, whilst simultaneously kickstarting both the trend of future focused shooters, and reviving the interest in the art of parkour. By god, what an incredible game Titanfall was.
Now, depending who you ask, you may well get a completely different answer on the personal thoughts of Titanfall, but not because it wasn’t an incredible game – that it most definitely was! The reason is because unlike its sequel, Titanfall didn’t arrive on all platforms. On March 11th, 2014, PC and Xbox One gamers got to see the incredible Titans dropping from the sky and joining the battle, and just a few weeks later on April 8th 2014, Xbox 360 players got in on the fun too. Sadly though, whilst many PS4 gamers looked on with a rarely seen envious eye, it was never to arrive on PlayStation 3 or 4.
It is a true loss to anyone who missed out on Titanfall, with the active player base now dwindling thanks to its sequel, Titanfall 2, and the huge success of Apex Legends. If you are one of those, then chances are you won’t know what all the fuss is about… Titanfall really is one of those games that changed the way we look at, and play, the genre.
What made it special was the fact that it wasn’t just all about the run-and-gun aspects as you’d expect from most FPS titles; in Titanfall it was as much about teamwork, tactics, positioning and understanding… not to mention the characters were pretty memorable too, or at least Marvin was. Of course, there were players who went steamrolling in without a care in the world, looking for kills and nothing more, and for the opening moments of a game that was all well and good, but the moment those Titan’s dropped, you’d soon find running in was a fool’s way treating you to the quickest death as the overpowered Titan’s either blew you away or crushed you to death.
This is where the gameplay became so unique and enjoyable, which is especially true if you were working together. In these occasions it would require something more, something better, and it was here you’d have some players tracking off to the side of the gargantuan Titan’s to drag their attention elsewhere, wallrunning and jumping to try and avoid becoming cannon fodder, whilst the other players on your team would fire a sneaky rocket into the weak areas and cause the Titan to self-destruct, sending the pilot back down to earth with his feet on the ground. Even more would then try to fight the objectives with those still on foot, and that’s all without mentioning the huge Titan vs Titan standoffs that would also occur around checkpoints, pleasing those wanting to defend in the ultimate machines.
It wasn’t just the Titan’s that made Titanfall so different though. In fact, it was pretty much everything – the maps felt alive thanks to the inclusion of A.I. robots that would join in the fight, the action was hot, the atmosphere fierce, and even simply arriving into battle was an epic moment, jumping from a futuristic helicopter-type craft and blasting down into play. Everything felt so far ahead of what we’d known first person shooters to provide up to that point. Obviously that itself wasn’t a huge surprise given the developers behind Titanfall – Respawn Entertainment – were some of the most forward thinking minds in the business, with many of them being behind the development of the aforementioned Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, but given the years since release – years which have seen the Call of Duty series pump out game after game, and even Battlefield fail to introduce much more since Battlefield Bad Company 2 – it’s easy to look back on Titanfall and claim it to be better still than even many of the shooters we have seen across the last 12 months, let alone 2014.
Since its release though, it hasn’t all been plain sailing, and whilst it may well have provided incredible originality and some of the most fluid and enjoyable combat we’ve seen in any FPS game to date, it did encounter a few unexpected issues. The most notable of these was a huge loss of players after the first few months of release. The reasons were never immediately known but for some players the answer was all to clear – no new modes to keep things fresh, no traditional campaign and absolutely nothing available for players offline. It was these that were killing off a game that had brought so much promise.
So, what’s happened to Titanfall since?
Well two years after the release of Titanfall, Respawn returned with Titanfall 2, this time correcting the immediate issues by introducing a traditional and enjoyable single-player campaign, multiple new game modes, and more added in just after launch. There was even a revised multiplayer mode that no longer required players to master set challenges to go through the ranks, but simply gain XP to progress. There was also a release on PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4 this time around. Sadly though, even with the additional platform to kickstart numbers, Titanfall 2 also hit problems shortly after release, this time thanks to the poorly timed launch dropping it into a tight window between the releases of Battlefield 1 and Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, with both shooters taking their respective fan bases with them on release and leaving Titanfall 2 feeling rather barebones.
But hey, the sequel is for another time but now, if you head back to the original Titanfall, you’ll be saddened that finding a game will take an extremely long time, and the only players you’ll be facing are those Gen 10 masters who just can’t be beaten. Whilst the issues that many players criticised early on were never truly corrected, and despite having the incredible foundations in place for all to admire, it seems Titanfall may have been too far ahead of even its own developers for its time.
Of course there has been one further main release in the Titanfall series since that time – and yes I’m ignoring the mobile spinoff Titanfall: Frontline – and whilst it may only share the same universe for now, Apex Legends, the recently released Battle Royale game from Respawn Entertainment has released to unexpectedly huge success in what has already become an oversaturated genre. It doesn’t yet have the astonishing parkour or Titan movement of Titanfall – at least not the wallrunning, and the Titans are yet to arrive, although they are rumoured – but it goes without saying that Apex Legends has quickly garnered the attention Titanfall deserved on it’s initial release five years ago.
In a nutshell though, Titanfall five years later is a truly sad gaming story. It was incredibly fun, incredibly different, and incredibly brilliant, but sometimes even the players aren’t ready for the masterpiece. Whilst a few design flaws may have triggered some to step away, the overall experience was still one of the most unique close-quarters FPS shooters available, one that even the latest releases haven’t been able to match.
Titanfall 3? Respawn? Please?