How do you improve on the perfect shooter? One which innovated on the First Person Shooter genre, has some of the best balancing in any online shooter and created the best parkour system in the games industry. I’m talking about Titanfall, and to me, it is the perfect shooter.
It’s been two and a half years since the release of Titanfall, the Xbox One (and Xbox 360) console exclusive shooter. And to this day, it is still my go to FPS, and possibly my favourite shooter of all time. The feeling I had when I called my first Titan down from space was incredible, and one I can still remember to this day. For me, it’s the perfect in between of Call of Duty’s fast paced, precise close quarters twitch-shooter combat, and Battlefield’s huge sprawling battles featuring numerous epic moments throughout each match, often requiring plenty of tactics and teamwork.Respawn Entertainment, a developer born out of the industry changing developer Infinity Ward, managed to take away the best moments and feelings from the COD and Battlefield series, and added Titans into the mix, to create an impeccably balanced and fun match-up between agile pilots and hulking armed to the teeth Titans, which constantly leads to incredible moments every match.
Now in two months’ time, Titanfall 2 is set launch on Xbox One, PS4 and PC on October the 28th. And of course I’m excited. If you’ve read this far, you know that I love Titanfall, so of course I’d be excited for a sequel. But, I’ve started thinking more and more recently, about how do you improve on the perfect shooter? And the conclusion I kept coming to was I don’t think you can. And that’s why I’ve been apprehensive for Titanfall 2.
For a long time, since the official announcement of the sequel, I’ve simply thought of it as a new map pack. Because why would they need to change anything? Its already great, heck, perfect in my opinion. But regardless of Titanfall passing 10 million sales last year, it being universally praised for its well balanced and polished gameplay and despite extensive post launch support, the player base quickly dropped after launch. Which is a big problem.The FPS genre lives and dies online these days, especially now we are seeing the continued shift to a multiplayer focus. And in Titanfall’s case, the original was multiplayer only. So being able to keep players coming back for more well after release, is integral to the game’s success. This is despite this time around the sequel featuring a single player story, revolving around the relationship between a pilot and their Titan. Which although I felt was never necessary, is a welcome addition. As long as it doesn’t take away from the exceptional multiplayer.
So how do they keep players coming back for more and reaching a bigger audience? In two ways, which both I am afraid of. One, trying to appeal to a more general audience, and two, making changes for the sake of changes (making it seem new). Now, neither necessarily means changes for the worse, in fact it could be for the better. Having played the first weekend of the two Pre Alpha Network tests (which you can join in on too this coming weekend), there’s a lot to be excited about.
Particularly, the already great parkour system has been improved, with the addition of sliding which allows you to keep your momentum while moving around the map at high speeds. And more importantly, the addition of the grappling hook. The hook adds nice variety to movement around the map and requires practice and skill to be proficient with. Plus, it features as a perk, rather than a given tool every pilot has, which favours pilots who prefer speed (myself included) and adds another layer of choice in your load out. Speaking of loadouts, the User Interface for menus and loadouts has been overhauled. While the old UI wasn’t necessarily bad, it does seem easier to navigate and a bit cleaner for Titanfall 2.
Another big addition is ‘Networks’. It’s like having a clan, but much more personal. Anyone can start or join a Network when playing multiplayer. It acts as a home base to socialise and match make with fellow network members. Plus, there will be two types of networks, Social and Competitive. Meaning if you are looking for players who are more serious, or ones who are just looking for some fun, you can! Coupled with a feature called ‘Happy Hour’ (HH), which is Titanfall’s version of XP weekends, but once again, more personal. Each Network can set their own time for HH, with the goal of trying to get as many people playing from the same network at the same time, while gaining extra experience, or Merits in Titanfall terms.
Now, despite these welcome changes to the UI, parkour and networking, some of my fears did spring up during my time with the Alpha Network test. As it felt like Respawn have taken one step forward, two steps back with some of their design choices. The core gameplay didn’t feel nearly as fast while playing as a pilot or a Titan. Which was a major concern, as speed and manoeuvrability are some of the key elements of what made the original so much fun.
Another issue was the Titans, which themselves have had a major overhaul. In the full game, there will be six major pre-chosen Titan classes. Each having their own unique abilities, which is intended to add more personality to overall game. However, it feels restrictive in choice and makes the Titan combat feel more predictable. And importantly, I wasn’t nearly excited to call in my Titan, because it wasn’t MY Titan. It wasn’t my loadout. I’d be calling down one which had been made by the developer.
More worryingly, the gameplay didn’t feel nearly as satisfying or polished. Stepping on pilots in your Titan, or taking out AI soldiers just didn’t feel right (and not from a morality point of view, that’s for sure). Thankfully, Respawn are listening to feedback closely and are addressing and fixing many of these issues before the second weekend test. Which is a great sign leading into the release in October, knowing the developers are respecting their communities wishes, particularly from original Titanfall fans such as myself.
With Titanfall 2 set to come out in just over two months’ time, Respawn has new aspirations of taking over the FPS genre again. But will it have what it takes to appeal to a larger and more general audience, while staying true its traditional features which made the original so much fun? No one knows for sure yet, but there are a lot of positive signs already. And you can be sure I’ll be there on day one playing and finding out for myself. And who knows? Maybe they can improve on the perfect shooter.