Analog Analysis: Breaking Down ‘Titanfall’ Part 1

Titanfall Screen 6

As many of you know, Titanfall launched on the Xbox One last month and received an overwhelmingly positive response including a 9.1 from Analog Addiction. It is also due out later this month on the Xbox 360. In anticipation of this, a number of our editors, Robbie Key, Ryan Livingstone, Nathan Manning, and Eric Pepper, have taken it upon themselves to dissect and analyze every aspect of the title. Due to the sheer volume of content to analyze, the discussion has been broken up into several feature articles of which this is the first. In this entry, the editors will examine the campaign, balancing issues, the degree of customization available to players, and the hotly debated topic of game modes.

The topic of the multiplayer-only game model is heavily discussed. Do you feel Titanfall suffers due to the lack of a traditional campaign offering?

Nathan Manning: No, I do not believe Titanfall suffers due to a lack of a traditional campaign. For years games like Battlefield and Call of Duty have offered short four to six hour single player experiences. While slightly enjoyable for the duration, not playing them would not have detracted from the overall game. The aforementioned franchises are now designed with multiplayer at the forefront. Titanfall takes that idea and recognizes that a vast majority of consumers who buy first person shooters do so for the multiplayer (games like Spec Ops: The Line, Far Cry, etc. are an exception). If anything, Titanfall benefits from not having a traditional campaign because as a consumer I knew I was buying a multiplayer focused title. 

Nevertheless, Titanfall‘s attempt at a new style of campaign failed. The events did not appear to link properly, and I found that I missed out on the little splices of story because I was concentrating on the gameplay rather than dialogue during the missions.

For some reason, Respawn Entertainment felt they required some kind of campaign to satisfy people. Thus far, it has been traditional to have a story in first person shooters, even if it plays a back-seat role. With the new generation, tradition is there to be broken. Titanfall slightly did this, and it did not suffer as a result.

Ryan Livingstone: From a sales perspective, sure it might suffer in that regard because when you look at a game like Call of Duty or Battlefield a lot of people buy it for the campaign. It’s never anything ground-breaking but it’s usually an entertaining ride and in Battlefield’s case it allows the developers to show the best visuals. But when you look at Titanfall’s campaign it is one of the most pointless and annoying campaigns mainly because you have to play it to unlock the Ogre titan and Stryder titan. For the game in general, I don’t think it suffers too much because the gameplay is very fun and solid with future features set to be released down the track.

Titanfall Screen 2

Robbie Key: As a multiplayer-only title, I do not think it suffers at all from a lack of a traditional campaign. While ones featured in titles relying on its multiplayer such as Call of Duty are fun, they’ve always been there as fun extras instead of an extended limb to help get the games moving. I laugh at the thought of even mentioning Titanfall‘s campaign mode though. If there’s a prime of example of what multiplayer games featuring campaigns shouldn’t be, developers should look at this game.

Eric Pepper: I do feel as if the game suffers from the lack of campaign, but not because it would not have been a great game without one. Had Respawn Entertainment decided to forego the inclusion of a “campaign” entirely and simply stuck to the story-less game modes available in the Classic/Multiplayer menu, I think there would be far less debate over the campaign issue. Because there was a mode included which was referred to as a campaign and it was almost entirely devoid of an actual plot, it became far more detrimental to the game.

Titanfall clearly excels within the multiplayer realm, but as someone who thoroughly enjoys single player games and campaign modes in games, they should have either produced a fully functioning campaign with a hearty plot or simply left out any semblance of a campaign. Referring to their campaign mode as a “campaign” is a travesty against other FPS titles such as Bioshock, Halo, Metro 2033, Deus Ex, and even Call of Duty, all games which have legitimate campaign modes allowing for some context.

All Respawn had to do was leave out the concept of a story and we would not be faced with the impression that the developers truly did not care to make a plot, but  instead slapped the word “campaign” onto a couple of static multiplayer missions assuming it would suffice to appease the players who wanted a story in their game. It is almost offensive that the development team views the general gaming audience as so indifferent and simplistic that nobody would mind a collection of brief, bland dialogues occurring while players select their loadouts being considered a “campaign.” They would have been better off simply leaving out the campaign offering and provided a campaign-free offering.

Titanfall Screen 4

Do you believe there is adequate or proper balance between the pilots and titans?

Robbie Key: Titanfall is easily one of the most well-balanced multiplayer games I’ve ever played. Titans are understandably more powerful than pilots, but it’s not in an overpowered sense. These are giant mechs you’re facing. Them being able to pulverize you makes sense, but pilots have their own advantage with their smaller stature among other things.

Nathan Manning: The balance between pilots and titans is amazing. Considering the massive fire power of the titans, a smart pilot can capably take down a titan. Likewise, a smart titan can capably dominate over pilots. Pilots and titans require a different play style and they are both equipped to defend against each other. The maneuverability of the pilots in comparison to the titans is a large factor for the balance. While titans are bigger and stronger, pilots are faster and can quickly get away from titans. I believe there is balance because of the fewer customisation options for both types, but I will address that in a later question. 

To conclude, Respawn Entertainment has somehow managed to find that sweet spot when it comes to balancing humans against giant robots. As a titan you feel extremely powerful when you are mowing down pilots. However, a cunning pilot can quite as easily see you spamming the eject button.

Titanfall Screen 8

Ryan Livingstone: Oh for sure, as a pilot you can take down a titan singe handedly with a bit of skill and evasion. The anti-titan weapons really make it more balanced on the field and makes the titan’s vulnerable too. You can obviously kill a pilot quicker in a titan than a pilot shooting a titan but that’s how it should be, otherwise what’s the point? 

Eric Pepper: The amount of work placed on striking a balance between the titans and pilots is evident as you play the game. The maps have been created with a great degree of forethought, allowing some areas to be much more suited to titans while other, more cramped areas are better suited for pilot combat. Taking this into consideration allows for almost perfect balancing as any titan who walks into a narrow street with buildings on either side will likely be taken down quickly, while any pilot who ventures into an open field will likely meet their demise just as quickly.

The weapons provided to both pilots and titans are fantastic in terms of their power. The weapons that titans possess are obviously far more destructive than those carried by pilots, but by allowing pilots to “rodeo” titans and do direct damage to the health of the titans, a fantastic variable is introduced into the equation. All of the windows, doorways, rooftops, and corners throughout maps allow for quick escape on foot, but all it takes is a split second of vulnerability and a pilot may find themselves gunned down.

Titanfall Screen 7

Should Titanfall offer more customization options for titans and pilots?

Eric Pepper: I was actually quite shocked when I realized how little the title offered in the way of customizing your pilot and titan. Obviously there are custom loadouts you can utilize, but in terms of the appearance, there is nothing beyond simply switching the gender of your character. Being able to create your own emblem and place it on your titan and/or your pilot, unlocking new pieces of equipment (only offering different appearance and giving no functional advantage), and being able to choose different colour schemes are fairly commonplace in a great many shooters now and while few players may opt to make their pilot hot pink, it would be nice to be able to differentiate yourself from the herd of Earth-toned soldiers.

Fortunately this issue is a fairly simple fix, and one that can be applied in a simple update. At this point, any extra customization options are a massive upgrade from what is currently available, and would be welcomed with open arms. As far as the number of weapons and perks available are concerned, I feel their current offering is fantastic, as it allows for everybody to choose a weapon of their liking, but the advantage held over other players will never be insurmountable because each weapon has an advantage as well as a drawback, allowing for skill to take precedence over sheer amount of time played and the weapons awarded because of it.

Ryan Livingstone: Well as it stands I’m fine with the amount of customization options for pilots and titans because it hasn’t been out for too long. Within the next few months though it might be a different story if there isn’t more added. Everyone loves unlocking new equipment, perks and guns to try out but you have to steadily release more for people in an online shooter.

Titanfall Screen 1

Robbie Key: If you take into consideration how players will spend roughly two-thirds of their time as a pilot and the other third in a Titan, I think the number of options – as well as their balance – is suiting. Call of Duty for example, has a many weapon customizations from guns to perks, but you’re also a soldier on the ground exempting the times you temporarily control something else from racking up the kills.

Nathan Manning: Despite the lack of customization options in comparison to other shooters, I believe Titanfall succeeds because of its limited choice. In other shooters, most of the time the community will find a particular gun that is the most powerful for its type. For example, the Remington R5 in Call of Duty: Ghosts is considered the best assault rifle of the options available. In Titanfall, there is only one assault rifle, one shotgun, one light machine gun, etc. With fewer weapons the game is more easily balanced. Weapon classes are not left out, but everyone is on an even slate because of the limited choice. 

During lobby screens I often find myself using up the full 70 seconds agonizing over loadout choices. Sure, more casual players might not do this, but more dedicated players want to have the edge over each other. That requires taking the resources available and figuring out which combinations of perks, weapons, weapon attachments and grenades work best. Couple that with figuring out how best to create your titan loadout to compliment your pilot and that is a lot of customization; it is just split up between two loadouts. 

Understandably, some may be wanting more, but, as I said, the limited options provide a more balanced gameplay experience. That balanced gameplay is what makes Titanfall so much fun. Few deaths feel cheap because you know you were outplayed, not out-powered by a better gun.

Titanfall Screen 5

Do you believe that Titanfall released with enough variety in game modes and maps or should there have been more offered from the start?

Nathan Manning: While I do enjoy myself playing all five game modes, there have been times when I wish for something else. Perhaps a fun, novelty game type like one titan against a bunch of pilots for example. However, other shooters such as Call of Duty and Battlefield usually only see the player base focused around a few game modes. Most Battlefield 4 PC servers are five flag Conquest matches; Call of Duty: Ghosts‘ population is usually split between Team Deathmatch, Domination and Search and Destroy game types. It would be nice to have a little more variety game mode wise though. No free-for-all playlist?!

As for maps, I think fifteen maps is quite a lot. Even though I have played on most of the maps for an equal amount of time, for some reason it feels like only a few maps are constantly repeated. Nevertheless, each map feels unique and requires slightly different tactics which is great. I do not think many games come with fifteen maps at launch. The trick for Respawn will be releasing maps which feel just as unique as the base maps.

Robbie Key:  I must say I was quite disappointed with the number of multiplayer modes it shipped with. Only two of them are anything one could call unique from the wolf pack of modes. When there are four other options – one of them essentially being a random mode selector – and modes that players have seen before across the gamer-verse, there’s nothing complimentary to say there, especially when it’s a multiplayer-only game. I am quite pleased with the selection of maps though. With 15 maps, I’ve never felt like I was going through the same one frequently, not to mention the environments are well-varied for every mode as well.


Ryan Livingstone: For me it certainly did. I’m one of those players who really only plays team deathmatch with the rare appearance on modes like capture the base and those type of modes, but I can definitely understand what people are getting at when they complain about a lack of modes. I never saw Last Titan Standing as a mode which would be played as much as a team deathmatch mode might so it will be interesting to see what they do with different modes. I’d love to see a mode where they incorporate the animals/beasts in certain maps rather than just killing the AI. As for maps I’m a bit on the ropes. I believe there are about 15 maps, which is quite a lot for an online shooter. My only problem is that I only seem to get put in the same maps over and over again. So I’m not sure if its just me who is experiencing that problem, but it is a bit annoying.

Eric Pepper: The number of modes available is not terribly impressive and leaves much to be desired. It has been reported that Titanfall will be receiving new game modes for free which is reassuring, but they are something that the game should have included from the start. There are a significant number of maps and each one feels unique, which aids in mitigating the sense of repetition, but at the end of the day, the players are truly limited in game mode offerings, especially for a title that is strictly multiplayer.

Obviously Titanfall will also be receiving new maps in DLC packs moving forward, but I must applaud Respawn’s effort in ensuring that every mode on each map felt like a truly different experience. Playing Last Titan Standing in the Boneyard is a very difference style of play from Attrition or Hardpoint on the same map. It may not seem like a big deal, but the uniqueness of each mode in each map is arguably one of the best examples of how to execute different game modes on your maps in recent gaming memory. However, like the others, I find matchmaking frequently brings up the same handful of maps repeatedly. Without knowing all of the technical details of how their matchmaking system works, it is impossible to know if this is intentional or simply a freak coincidence, but it should be examined and dealt with if necessary as soon as possible by Respawn.

This concludes the first portion of our in-depth analysis of Titanfall. Check back shortly for the next installment in the series where we will discuss how accessible the title is to new and seasoned FPS players, what improvements or changes we would like to make to the burn cards, how well we feel the matchmaking system works, and how successful the game was in differentiating itself from the current FPS genre offerings.

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.


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