Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Titan Falls, Fails, and Wins

I honestly haven’t found myself enjoying an online multiplayer shooter as much as I enjoy Titanfall since… well, probably since Quake. I enjoy it’s pacing, I like the setting, and I love the fact that it takes multiplayer shooters back to feeling like they’re a real “fight” rather than just a fast-paced slaughter.

I suck at Call of Duty, and I’ve tried and failed to find my groove in Battlefield. I enjoy Halo (particularly Reach) but I really struggle to hold my own in a multiplayer match, and end up dying far too much. But Titanfall? It seems to have clicked for me, and I’m really digging it.

That said, a number of things have struck me while playing, so rather than trying to lay out a lengthy “review,” I thought I’d just list it all out here to try and bring some structure and coherence to the thoughts that have been going through my head each night while playing.

Titanfall screen 6 feature

  • I’m not sure why they bothered with the Campaign mode. It stinks to me of trying to make some kind of nod toward the obnoxiously vocal minority that wanted some kind of narrative structure to the game. It’s simply not necessary, and the half-hearted execution of it just makes me think that it was included with a “well, fuck ‘em - if they want a Campaign, I guess we’ll give them something so they’ll shut the fuck up” mentality. It doesn’t even serve as an advanced tutorial mode, because it only includes Attrition and Hardpoint matches. The story itself is sci-fi cliché nonsensical bumwank that occasionally wants to be Firefly Browncoat stuff, but my 10 year-old could write better dialogue. Also, what’s up with the mish-mash of accents? Is that some kind of attempt to show how multicultural the Frontier is? Or did they just spec “not American” for the main roles? You’ve got Idris Elba soundalike London accent guy, South African dude, and Australian/possibly-New Zealander bloke. Honestly the Spectres give better performances.
  • The map design is superb. The sight-lines work really well both for Pilots and Titans, which is quite an achievement, and they’ve managed to effective encourage vertical play without having to signpost it.
  • It owes some of its effectiveness to MOBAs like League of Legends, as much as it does to older arena shooters like Quake. The map design encourages “lane” play to a certain degree, working as a team with distinctive roles really helps effectiveness, particularly in CTF and Last Titan Standing matches, and the grunts and Spectres are basically Creeps.

  • The matchmaking kinda sucks. It’s far too frequent that you find yourself in a match with people that are substantially more experienced, and have better gear. When I pointed this out on Twitter, I was simply told to “get better friends,” by a sensitive and pragmatic individual - but that’s horseshit. I’m not 15 any more, and I don’t get home at 3pm and have nothing to do for nine hours. I can’t sink the kind of time into the game that’s necessary to regenerate once or twice in the game’s first week. That said, there are clearly a lot of people playing - so is it really necessary to dump me into games so frequently with people that have played it so much more than me? Am I in the minority, or does the matchmaking still need some work? I’m going to go with the latter until I see some data that proves otherwise.
  • I know experience should yield rewards; but I think that the way it follows the Call of Duty model of juicing experienced players with better gear is a mistake for the long-term. When you hit a match where everyone on the other team is wielding a Carbine with a kick-ass scope, and a Titan that’s rocking a Triple Threat and a Particle Screen, it just gets a bit annoying. It’s not insurmountable the way similar situations would feel in Call of Duty, but it can be irritating.
  • Titanfall’s balance seems to come from its imbalance. Things get way over-powered really quickly, especially if everyone’s picking their Burn Cards sensibly for the matches they’re in, so things get pushed way out to the edges of batshit crazy. On paper, I wouldn’t have expected this to work, but in practice it seems really effective.
  • The game strikes me as being one or two patches away from being properly fixed. The Xbox One version tears like a motherfucker when there’s a lot of stuff on screen, and I’ve not seen anything quite like that on a triple-A console game for a long time. When you throw in some dodgy server connections you get tearing and humungous frame-rate drops…which I would think they’ll get a handle on in an update.
  • They need to come up with a better way to represent connection errors. Right now, they blur the screen to show that the connection is messed up…but sometimes the game doesn’t trigger a return to things being nice and crisp, so you end up having to play the rest of the round with the screen looking like it has vaseline smeared all over it.
  • The predominantly static nature of the environments disappointed me at first, as I was hoping that next gen environment design would put an end to everything in game worlds feeling so rigid. That said, the map design being so good means I quickly got over it.
  • love that one of the classes of Spectre is called a Marvin, as a reference to the Paranoid Android from Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.
  • This is the first online multiplayer shooter that I’ve ever seriously considered buying the Season Pass for. Despite all of the niggles above, I enjoy it that much.
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