It has been nearly four months since the PS4 and Xbox One launched, and one of them finally has its killer game. The Xbox One is the first to get an exclusive that has the potential to move console sales.
"Titanfall," at $59.99, is the first game in a long time to bring genuine progression to the first-person shooter genre that had grown stagnant for the better half of the previous console generation. This complex yet approachable futuristic shooter has exposed the repetitious nature of the "Call of Duties" and "Halos" by laying new groundwork to carry its massive titan mascots.
Prepare to see this formula copied as these new consoles evolve.
The online-only gameplay strips away the expected single-player campaign, instead putting all its resources into the multiplayer arena. "Titanfall" can't be played alone and has to be played online in competitive battles. Fortunately, these battles are so polished that it excuses the absence of single-player modes.
The battlefields of "Titanfall" are fast-paced and hectic. If pilots aren't under fire by enemies and computer controlled AI called spectres and grunts, they're on the move. Players have the ability to jump high and run fast, performing Parkour-style stunts to scale walls and reach rooftops. Players need to keep up with the pace or perish. There aren't many games that match the manic nature of "Titanfall," but harnessing that frenzy brings an excitement that sets it apart from its peers.
Matches revolve around gigantic mechs called titans. Each soldier begins a match with a short-timer while the soldier's titan is being built. High performance on the battlefield decreases that timer. Once complete, the titan is ready for action and can be called in at will. The simple action of pressing down on the d-pad (directional controller) launches this metal mass from the clouds above directly to the pilot's position on the ground. Mechs have become lumbering behemoths in many conventional games. "Titanfall" makes them into larger extensions of the pilots. These titans feel nimble.
Eventually every pilot receives his or her titan. That's when the arena becomes a fireworks display of missiles and gunpowder -- and when "Titanfall's" chaos feels like something new.
These war tanks aren't invincible. Titans can be taken down by lowly foot soldiers with well-placed explosives, or with the game's rodeo maneuver. Pilots can jump on the back of the titans and remove their metal casings, exposing their vulnerable innards.
Titans and pilots can be customized to protect or exploit their weaknesses. Each match provides experience, which unlocks weapons and abilities. The game becomes an arms race of weapons and abilities to defend against these weapons. The race always manages to keep the battle balanced.
The game comes with the standard multiplayer gametypes such as deathmatch (now called Attrition), capture the flag, hardpoint, and others. A new mode called "Last Titan Standing" starts with everyone in a titan with one life to live. Even though the gametypes are standard fare, there's enough variety to mix up the objectives.
To inject a story into "Titanfall," there is technically a campaign mode, but the name is misleading. Campaign mode is just a series of multiplayer matches that begin with a bit of story before the action begins.
"Titanfall" answers a burning question that has lingered around multiplayer-centric games: Is single-player necessary? "Titanfall" proves that if the multiplayer gameplay is strong and original enough to carry the weight of its $60 price tag, the answer is "no." The game manages to stand tall with its multiplayer-only offerings. "Titanfall" could be the Xbox's new flagship product, a "Halo" for a new generation.
Max Parker writes The Game Guy blog at communityvoices.post-gazette.com. Twitter: @GameGuyPGH.