In part 1 of our in-depth analysis of Titanfall, our editors examined the lack of campaign, the balance between pilots and titans, the number of cuztomization options, and the variety of maps and game modes provided with the retail version of the game. In this second installment, our returning editors will break down several more aspects of the game and sounding off with their takes on the issues.
Due to the history leading up to the creation of Respawn Entertainment, there are obviously a large number of comparisons made between Titanfall and Call of Duty. How successful do you feel Titanfall has been in differentiating itself within the FPS genre?
Nathan Manning: Titanfall has been extremely successful in differentiating itself from its competition. The main similarity between Call of Duty and Titanfall is the smooth, responsive gunplay. Other than that, Titanfall sets itself apart. The titans themselves are a key factor. They turn Titanfall into two games in one. That is something Call of Duty does not have. Further, the movement system opens up gameplay options in a different way to Call of Duty. While the latter is based on quick reflexes and a steady aim, Titanfall’s gameplay consists of gaining the higher ground and using the movement system to quickly escape from or hunt down enemies. The two games are played completely differently, allowing Titanfall to take a spot among the big guns of the genre.
Robbie Key: Honestly, it’s not unfair to compare the two. Much of the controls in Titanfall are similar to those featured in Call of Duty. The general gameplay is also similar to one another with its fast-paced nature. However, I feel Titanfall is quite distinctive in its crowded market. While some of the gameplay is similar to Call of Duty, it’s much more fast-paced and takes more skill to do well in, partially because players on the ground are more difficult to kill. Of course, the more obvious separation from it is the ability to control titans, which feels like a different game on its own when you’re in one.
Eric Pepper: While I don’t see an end to the comparisons in the near future, Titanfall has certainly succeeded in separating itself from the other military shooters such as Battlefield and Call of Duty. Some of the core mechanics may be the same and that same “realistic” approach may be there moreso than in a Halo title or Borderlands, but the inclusion of the jetpack/parkour elements as well as the titans ensure that the game stands out in the crowd.
Titanfall has already had significant success in regards to sales, and it will be interesting to see if these numbers continue to climb over the next few months or if they taper off quickly. Obviously Respawn is hoping for the former, but the sales numbers will truly determine if the franchise was different enough to stand apart from the rest of the FPS genre.
Ryan Livingstone: While the shooting mechanics are very similar, the overall gameplay is completely different. It is a lot faster, a lot more chaotic and much more dynamic when compared to Call of Duty. Instead of most battles typically taking place with both teams generally staying on separate sides, Titanfall has people jumping from every direction. Having those jetpacks really opens the map up and you have to be so quick to react. Plus, the titans and AI soldiers really fill the map and make it seem like there are more people than there actually is and because of that it’s a different style of shooter in a way.
Do you feel there is enough variety within the burn cards? Are there any you would like to see removed or added?
Ryan Livingstone: I would say there is definitely a big variety of burn cards, but that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily a good variety. I’m constantly clearing out my deck with cards I’m never going to use which gets annoying after a while. I can’t say I’d like many of them removed because it may be cards other players like to use more than I do. Overall at the moment I’m generally happy with the current selection of burn cards.
Eric Pepper: As the player unlocks some of the rare burn cards, there is a lot more variety to draw from, although you are significantly limited by the number of cards you are allowed to have at any given time. None of the cards seem terribly overpowered, although the immediate titan card played at the start of an attrition match can certainly slant the scoreboard.
I never found myself wishing there was another style of burn card available to me, but I frequently desired more of a deck capacity for burn cards. As the player begins to complete more of the higher tier challenges, a player may receive 5 or 6 burn cards after a single match but only have been able to utilize 3 (supposing they used all of their chosen cards in the match) and this leads to a serious lack of room over time.
Robbie Key: There is certainly enough variety in the cards, and while there aren’t any particular cards I want removed or added, I wish they would do one of two things with them: either tone down how many you frequently earn or increase how many cards you can hold at once. There have been too many times I have gotten an uncommon card pack or more rare, but because they game only allows you to have 26 cards at a time, I miss out on those cards.
Nathan Manning: The burn card system is quite a good addition. The burn card choices have been carefully planned and do not make the game unbalanced. There is enough variety in the burn cards to satisfy every playstyle, for example there are burn cards to enhance the run and gunner or stealthy players equally. None of the burn cards, in my opinion, are overpowered so I do not see any reason for some to be removed or added. It’s always nice to unlock a rare pack of burn cards, by completing challenges, which give you an extra special edge in battle – such as calling in a titan from the get go.
On the other hand, the aforementioned titan burn card is somewhat overpowered. A titan against pilots can quickly turn the game into a one sided affair in which the other team just simply cannot make up the lost ground
How accessible is Titanfall to players new to the FPS genre? To seasoned FPS gamers?
Eric Pepper: There is certainly a steep learning curve attached to Titanfall, especially if you are playing with more experienced players, or have little experience with the likes of Battlefield or Call of Duty. The inclusion of Grunts and Spectres go a long way in helping out new players, as it allows them to progress through levels and therefore unlock new equipment even if they are unable to score many kills on other pilots.
The mandatory tutorial at the beginning of the game is also useful for players new to the FPS genre, as it will lead you through every mechanic you could possibly use at the start. As you begin unlocking different perks, it is up to the player to experiment, but at that point the player should be fairly adept at playing.
Robbie Key: With some of the game’s mechanics akin to Call of Duty’s, Titanfall is a fantastic game for newcomers to get into, but requires enough skill to where you must improve in order to do well. Part of what helps potential newcomers ease into the game’s fast nature is the opening tutorial all players must undertake before starting the game. When I say it goes over everything, I mean everything. If you somehow forgot the ‘A’ button was jump or how to move, the tutorial is there to remind you.
Nathan Manning: Titanfall is accessible to both seasoned FPS gamers and those new or less experienced in the genre. The way Titanfall is designed makes the experience less punishing for new players. In one lifetime, a new player could rack up a few grunt kills and free-run around the map a little before being gunned down. This is a much more pleasurable experience rather than being taken out over and over again without achieving anything.
For seasoned FPS gamers, there is room for added strategy. More experienced players can get into intense titan and pilot games of cat and mouse. There have been plenty of times when I have been in a standoff against another titan. Both of us were weaving in and out of cover, picking our moments to release out rockets. Moreover, skilled players often get into cat and mouse games over rodeoing titans.
All in all, Titanfall is great for both seasoned FPS gamers and those not so familiar with the genre. The game allows ‘newbies’ to live longer and achieve more between deaths, making it less frustrating. Meanwhile, more experienced players will feel right at home and find plenty of ways to develop strategies for victory.
Ryan Livingstone: Like any online shooter it’s always going to take a bit of time to take advantage of the mechanics, the maps and everything that comes with the game. What you experience in Battlefield or Arma is completely different to what Titanfall has to offer. It’s not a complex game and is pretty easy to get the hang of once you get the layouts of the maps.
Based on your experiences with the matchmaking system in Titanfall, what are some of the strengths and weaknesses and how would you like to see it modified?
Robbie Key: I absolutely love what little time it takes to find a match. It has been a rare occasion when I don’t find a match almost immediately after I search for one. It truly is astonishing how fast it is. As far as improvements are concerned, I’ve never been one to complain about the level of other players, as I’ve found it rarely means anything in terms of their actual skill, but I can understand why players desire a level matching system. Why would an eighth generation pilot be pitted against a level 15 first generation player? I’ve seen this more often than not, but as I said, it hardly puts a dent in my bothers with the game, which are little to none.
Eric Pepper: Initially I found the matchmaking system to be a significant disappointment. When the game launched, you may be matched up against a team of players who had spent upwards of 30 hours playing the game whereas your own team was comprised of primarily new players. In addition to this, the game did not always wait for even teams before starting a game, which created scenarios you may be guaranteed to lose (i.e. Last Titan Standing while one team has four players and the other has six).
Since launch, there have been some modifications to the matchmaking system which have remedied some of the issues, although there tends to still be a very significant issue with team balancing. There is also a trend to see the same maps appear in matchmaking over and over again, leading to some frustration when variety is desired. Hopefully these issues will be addressed shortly and the system will be smoother.
Ryan Livingstone: I have been unimpressed with the matchmaking so far simply because there is no balancing on teams, or it at least seems like there isn’t. Constantly I’d be going up against teams with three generation 5 or similar players while my team has none. Sometimes we sneak in a win but generally they dominate. Even today I versed a team with a generation 7 and two generation 8 players while I was the highest on my team at level 48. Yes, we did get smashed. I really hope they can tweak the balancing systems to make sure these instances are nearly non-existent because it really takes away from the experience.
Nathan Manning: It is worth noting that certain aspects of the Titanfall matchmaking system have changed since launch. At launch, and currently the situation in all game-types except Attrition and Hardpoint Domination, you would be put in a game based on connection. The team you were put in would not change, and neither would the opposing team.
There are some positives to this system:
1) You stay with the same teammates, over time adapting to how they play
2) Rivalries are created between teams, creating a meta game within the lobby
3) Two equal teams usually means fun, close games
On the other hand, there are some negatives:
1) This system can lead to unbalanced teams
2) The matchmaking system does not prioritise even teams numbers wise, something problematic for a lot of the game modes (e.g. Last Titan Standing)
The updated system, in place in Attrition and Hardpoint Domination, keeps your team together, but every few games finds your team new opponents based on how you performed against the previous opponents. This system, while it still has some flaws, fixes the issue of unbalanced matches. This makes the experience more enjoyable for gamers of all skill levels.
I have, however, found myself matched with team mates which I would consider lower than my skill level. It does make winning more difficult when – not to toot my own horn – you are the only player contributing to a large extent. I would love to see a great emphasize placed on matching based on skill level, not just for your opponents, but for your team mates as well.
This concludes part 2 of Analog Addiction’s analysis of Titanfall. Stay tuned for part 3 where our editors will discuss our overall thoughts on the game as well as identifying what they believe are the major successes and failures of the title.
Eric is an Xbox editor for Analog Addiction where you can find all the latest gaming news, previews, reviews, and everything else that rhymes with those words. ‘Like’ Analog Addiction on Facebook to receive all of the updates as they’re posted.