During the beta, I posted an article with my Titanfall beta impressions. However, the beta was just a small slice of the overall game experience. I was so impressed by the beta I decided to grab the game for my Xbox. Did the game survive the Xbox 360 port? Is it still fun after dozens more hours of play? I’ll share my full impressions during this Titanfall review, focused on the Xbox 360 edition!
Back during the beta, EBongo and I played a bit of Titanfall on the PC. He’s a dyed-in-the-wool Xbox fanatic, though, so I knew we were going to need to grab the Xbox 360 version eventually. I grabbed a good deal on Amazon, for about $48, which is really good a couple of months after launch. I’ve seen it down to $40 since, so it pays to check in over there if you’re shopping for a deal.
Both Halo and Call of Duty seem like stagnant franchises. Titanfall feels like it’s taken the torch of the first person shooter and carried it at least a bit further than before. I covered a lot of the borrowed elements in my Titanfall beta impressions article, but these improvements really bear repeating.
Halo 4 and most of the modern Call of Duty games feature rewards for doing well – when you reach certain kill milestones, you can call in terribly overpowered rewards to torture the enemy team. Titanfall has just one – the Titan, and everyone gets theirs eventually. If you’re doing well, you’ll get yours faster and more often, but even if you’re doing poorly you can still party with the big kids.
Further, everyone all the time carries a weapon that is good versus Titans. In Call of Duty, you generally had to pick between having a good secondary or an anti-killstreak weapon. Pilots can stand up to Titans far easier than players can stand up to killstreak rewards in CoD, vehicles in Halo.
The double jump, wallrun, and other parkour moves the pilots have in Titanfall make being a pilot so very freeing. It’s much harder to camp when enemies can’t come from a fixed direction. It’s also much easier to evade and make your way around the map when you have varied vertical options available.
Additionally, it’s possible to hang from walls, which lets you get the drop on unsuspecting attackers following you. You can’t hang forever, so it’s not a particularly great camping move, but it’s still another trick you have in your arsenal.
Plus, all this fluid motion is just fun.
More Focused Weapon Selections
The Call of Duty series has a plethora of weapons to choose from. Every time you rank up, it seems like you unlock a new assault rifle or SMG variant. Generally, they’re not that different from one another.
In Titanfall, the gun selection is much less diverse. However, this imbues each new unlock with a more unique role. There aren’t 20 assault rifles that are practically identical, there’s 2 or 3, and each one is clearly differentiated.
Burn Cards are single-use perks that only last for a single life. Some grant you powerful weapons, others change the dynamics of the game ever so slightly. For instance, once makes a tone play whenever enemies are nearby. Another grants you infinite frag grenades, which is a riot.
Since they’re single use, Burn Cards seem like the sort of thing that you should stockpile and never actually deploy. However, the “deck” only holds 26 cards, and an average session is going to give you several. Thus, if you don’t burn your cards, you’ll lose them without getting any benefit.
I tend to bring 3 into every match and plan to use at least one or two. Sometimes they can mean the difference between winning and losing, although since they’re lost if you die, sometimes they’re just a waste… :)
Grunts and Spectres
Grunts and Spectres are AI controlled troops that arrive on the map in waves. They’re cannon fodder, easily killed and squished between the toes of your Titan. So why are they a good thing?
These guys are good because they subtly solve a lot of problems with games like Call of Duty.
New players often have trouble getting kills. Grunts and Spectres are easy to kill and one of the default classes has an ability that shows where they are on the map all the time. They’re good for target practice, and they can help you to understand the basics of the game.
They also prevent camping in several game modes where it would otherwise be rampant. Attrition, for instance, is all about getting kills. If you sit in some corner and wait for the enemy to come to you, they can just kill Grunts and Spectres instead, earning points without engaging enemies that are hard to kill.
Grunts and Spectres also keep “cold” areas of the map from being boring. I can’t tell you the amount of time I’ve spent running around some dead empty portion of a Call of Duty map, trying to find something to kill. These guys keep these boring moments at least slightly interesting.
Spectres in particular carry anti-Titan weapons, and left unchecked they can do serious damage to Titans. They keep the pressure up on you to stay focused on both the small and large things around you while riding your Titan.
The campaign seems like an afterthought, but this is kind of par for the course in the modern multiplayer shooter genre. There are 9 campaign levels and you have to play them as both sides in order to unlock the two additional Titan chassis.
I’ve heard that the plot is paper-thin, and it is to a large extent. Both sides of the war aren’t “good” by any definition of the word. I could at least make sense of the plot in this game, unlike recent iterations of the Call of Duty franchise.
One annoyance is if you want to replay a specific campaign level as a particular side, it’s a real chore. If you’ve cleared the campaign already, yhe game’s matchmaking will pick sides for you randomly. If it doesn’t immediately find a game on that particular campaign level, it will move you back through the campaign until it finds a game that is about to start. This makes a set of achievements (winning all the campaign levels as both sides) a bit more painful than it needs to be.
The Titan (again?)
The downside to all the awesome stuff I said about balance and Titans above is that the Titans don’t really feel powerful compared to pilots. There are certainly times when I’ve neglected to call my Titan in for minutes at a time because I was having too much fun as a pilot.
Similarly, sometimes when I do call my Titan, it’s destroyed relatively quickly. This is kind of a bummer and feels like a waste. I don’t suppose it’s possible to properly balance Titans and still make them feel overpowered, but it does seem like kind of a letdown.
On the other hand, as I’ve played more I’ve unlocked interesting gear for my Titans that has made them feel more useful and powerful, and my overall streaks with the Titans have grown. Perhaps with practice I can learn to wield the Titan just-so for maximum destruction capability.
Xbox 360 Port
Titanfall is really a PC and Xbox One game. You’d be forgiven for assuming the Xbox 360 port is inferior in some way. Honestly, having played the beta on PC and then later the full game on Xbox 360, most of it is exactly the same. It’s just as much fun on the 360 as it was on the PC, although I do miss my mouse and keyboard controls.
It’s kind of weird that Microsoft paid for exclusivity for this title but didn’t limit it to the Xbox One. This seems like the sort of game that should be a system seller. Having it available on the 360 doesn’t seem like something they’d want. Or, at least, it seems like they should have hamstrung the port so that it is clearly inferior. Thankfully, it’s not.
The only downside is the graphics. For the most part it looks good, but sometimes there’s some really noticeable texture pop-in. This doesn’t really bother me, and honestly I’d rather it run at a consistent frame rate and sometimes look bad than focus on having everything super shiny at the expense of performance. Others may disagree, but I’m happy with this balance.
… I don’t really have anything to say here. It’s a solid game, and most of my quibbles are minor, to be honest. There’s nothing that stands out as truly irritating.
Titanfall on the Xbox 360 is really kind of a no-brainer for fans of Halo and Call of Duty. If you like those games, chances are you’ll like Titanfall. If you’re feeling fatigued by the cookie-cutter games that have been in those franchises lately, there’s a lot to love about the changes here.
Hopefully Respawn Entertainment has shown that, given the right amount of time, creativity, and resources, you can produce a fresh shooter franchise. Having another competitor to Call of Duty is a good thing, and it helps to move the genre forward and keep it interesting.