These are the droids you're looking for.

Titanfall has landed, plummeting down from the heavens in a crackle of thunder and smoke. But, even as the dust begins to settle, the shock wave left behind by Respawn Entertainment’s première shooter continues to play havoc with my life.

I guess I wasn’t prepared for Titanfall.

Rough Love

Physically, I’m not in a good way. The whites of my eyes have been ravaged by red, spidery lines; each one a visual reminder of the many victories and defeats I’ve endured. My body has succumbed to a dull ache; a consequence of the sleep deprived mess I’ve become. I’m hungry, constantly, but not for food. My skin is taut, dry and pale – my facial hair, overgrown. Thankfully, showering and oral hygiene has yet to be sacrificed… but it’s only a matter of time.

Nothing else matters now – everything else is insignificant. Everything except for Titanfall.

There’s no time for television anymore, no time for other games or even the obligatory Netflix binge. Nothing else matters now – everything else is insignificant. Everything except for Titanfall.

Outnumbered by two enemy Titans, and pinned down by a nearby pilot firing rockets at my position, I knew my 24-foot, mechanical escort would soon enter a doomed state. However, I wasn’t going to go down without a fight. After ejecting 100 feet into the air, I shifted my position to the suspended hangar where my foe was hiding, jet-jumped to correct my trajectory, and suddenly I was staring down the barrel of my sub-machine gun, pointing directly at the back of the pestering pilot. Goodbye, nuisance.

In another game, I sprinted out into the open, popped a grunt in the head and proceeded to wall-run up an adjacent wall. While leaping across to a nearby building, I spotted a hulking Titan stirring up trouble below. This was my chance. Quickly and rather recklessly, which is always the case whenever you try to take down a Titan head on, I jumped onto the Goliath, ripped off the hatch protecting its circuitry, and proceeded to blast away. The pilot driving the Titan, however, had other ideas. He disembarked, determined to stop me in my tracks. But I saw it coming. As his Titan began to kneel, I engaged my cloaking ability and leapt onto a nearby statue, sticking to the surface like a gecko. Before he could survey the area, I had him in my sights. A couple of expended rounds later, the pilot was taken care of, and I returned to finish what I started before the auto-Titan could determine my whereabouts. Epic.

Titanfall rodeo

“I just can’t seem to scratch that itch!”

Show Stopper

Titanfall has been designed in such a way that it’s only a matter of time before you say, “Wow, that was awesome.” And believe me, you will – countless times. It’s these flashpoints of self-ingenuity, skill and even pure luck that will form a tome of gaming tales for you to retell. This is the game worthy of saying, “Xbox, record that” without feeling like a total spanner. Every match feels like a highlight reel in waiting; an unmoulded lump of clay ready to be sculpted by your actions.

And that, in itself, is a terrific achievement. Yes, Titanfall is fundamentally a twitch shooter. Yes, there isn’t half as many gameplay modes as I’d like (Attrition, Hardpoint Domination, Pilot Hunter, Capture the Flag and Last Titan Standing are your lot). And yes, the online-only, multiplayer-only option is a point of contention – something which affected me early on (more on that later). But everything comes to together so magically, with a meticulous, astonishing attention to balance, that it’s an experience quite like no other. Even the aforementioned modes have new life breathed into them by the sheer excellence of Titanfall’s gameplay.

Unfortunately, the game’s campaign – if you can even call it that – is a huge misfire. The general jist of the story is a sub-par confrontation between two warring factions: the IMC and the Militia. You’ll listen to dramatic, horribly scripted speeches before each round begins, but because you’re essentially playing a multiplayer match, against human opponents no less, any story or expansion on what you’re supposed to be fighting for becomes background noise. Even though I’ve made my way through both factions, and completed over 50 campaign missions, I couldn’t tell you what happens. I was always too busy concentrating on the onscreen action or grinning with glee at the ridiculousness of my latest kill. I do remember an angry South African man shouting a lot, if that helps.

Every Pilot’s Welcome

Surprisingly, Titanfall isn’t tailored to the Call of Duty elitists, even if it was developed by many of the great minds who birthed that particular phenomenon. It is, dare I utter the word, accessible. Even though you’re encouraged to constantly be on the move – and I strongly recommend you are – it’s possible to go an entire round without succumbing to the bullets of an opponent. You won’t be constantly respawning, or dying instantly just because you don’t have the reactions of a Formula 1 driver – but even when you do die, every death feels fair, warranted and never cheap.

Titanfall Titan Pilot

“You better run, pilot!”

The game’s experience system is also finely tuned. Titanfall doesn’t overly reward players who happen to have unlimited hours on their hands, and it certainly won’t punish those who don’t. Instead there are Challenges to conquer, cleverly woven into every facet of the game. You’ll be rewarded for using certain weapons, getting headshots, riding Titans, calling Titans – you name it. They’re a great way of prompting you to experiment with a new weapon, loadout or tactic and mix things up.

But the best part is that the abilities and weapon enhancements you do unlock never create a noticeable power divide between you and your opponents. And that’s crucial. Perks have also been scrapped in favour of Burn Cards: a single-use upgrade which disappear when you die. And even when you’re losing, there’s still an incentive to evacuate and gain yourself some rewards – if you can survive, that is. Again, it all comes down to Titanfall’s wonderful notion of equality for all.

Happy Grunting

Even though Titanfall features 12 human players – 6 v 6 – enemy AI populate the battlefield so you can level-up quicker and gain ego-boosting kills regardless of your skill level. Hearing grunts yell, “Woah, that’s one of those pilots!” as you sprint past is wonderfully empowering; you’re better than them, but they’re still an important part of the fight, and picking them off helps you gain access to your Titan quicker.

Hearing grunts yell, “Woah, that’s one of those pilots!” as you sprint past is wonderfully empowering; you’re better than them, but they’re still an important part of the fight.

Oh, did I forget to mention every player gets to commandeer a Titan at some point during a game? Stand by for a chest-thumping rush as you transition into your powerful protector, squishing grunts and enemy pilots as you go, then become enthralled in a rock, paper, scissors-like fight to the death (or until you eject) with another metal mayhem-bringer. I still can’t comprehend how Respawn have managed to shift the dynamics of every map when you’re a Titan and, somehow, not completely ruined the balance of just playing as pilots. It’s a marvellous accomplishment.

Speaking of maps, Titanfall has a fine selection to play through. The verticality on offer from each is outstanding, and opens up the 15 maps on offer in creative, breathtaking ways. Battlefield 4 may feature bigger areas to wage conflict, but Titanfall feels equally as expansive; it’s as though you can go anywhere. Scale buildings until you’re on the rooftops, skip through windows instead of using the front door. You can even leap from Titan to Titan should you be so bold. Where there’s a will, there’s a way, and usually a fine vantage point awaits.

The Rough And The Super Smooth

Of course, Titanfall is online-only, and that alone has the potential to bring a multitude of problems for many gamers. Personally, I kept encountered a debilitating problem where, over my wireless connection (11mbps down, 1mbps up), the game would sporadically freeze at key points during the game. This, unsurprisingly, was a game-breaking problem. Thankfully, I was able to resolve the issue by plugging my Xbox One directly into my router once I’d acquired a 25m LAN cable. Since then, every match has been buttery smooth, with Microsoft’s dedicated servers offering one of the slickest online experiences I’ve ever had.

Technically speaking, Titanfall isn’t the most accomplished game on the market today. Although the action usually maintains a steady 60 frames per second, there are noticeable drops when things get crazy. There’s also persistent screen tear, and the game runs at a bizarre resolution of 792p. Nevertheless, Titanfall is a testament to the mantra of “gameplay over graphics”, because everything else pales into insignificance when you’re blasting bolts of lightning at the troops below, or ripping an enemy pilot out from the safety of their Titan cockpit and discarding them like a worthless rag doll. The art style also goes along way to ensuring that the game’s universe is believable, and separates it from becoming another bland military arena to fight in.

A review code of Titanfall was provided courtesy of Xbox. The game was reviewed on Xbox One.

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