Titanfall’s Unfinished State is Insulting to Players
If there’s a reason for Titanfall to fail, it’s that Respawn Entertainment and Electronic Arts deigned to release a half-finished game into the already overcrowded multiplayer first-person shooter market, and expected it to subsist on hype alone.
That’s a frustrating conclusion for me to reach, frankly, because I love Titanfall. I’ve logged nearly 100 hours in the multiplayer-only title despite its many shortcomings. I just hit my fourth “generation,” which is Titanfall speak for prestige level – meaning I’ve fully ranked up my character four complete times. I find combat in Titanfall often to be fun and exciting because it rewards players for quick thinking and intelligent use of the level design. There are a lot of things I like about it.
And yet playing Titanfall is an highly frustrating experience, even after its many updates, and paying for it is even more so. That the package as it was released earlier this year was priced at a full $60 at retail is criminal. Titanfall has a healthy offering of multiplayer maps for players to work through but is absolutely bankrupt when it comes to creativity in its game modes. Despite having a two-tiered gameplay system in the Pilot and Titan offerings, meaning that matches evolve over time to change how players choose tactics and even how they move from one point to another, Respawn opted for absolutely vanilla game modes.
Attrition, Pilot Hunter and Last Titan Standing are boring variations on traditional deathmatches. Hardpoint Domination is a king-of-the-hill mode that makes no sense when players alternate between fast-moving free-running Pilots and giant, hard-to-kill bipedal tanks. The newly added Marked for Death mode creates one point-scoring target in each team, encouraging half your squad to play defense around the marked player while the others hunt that of the opposing team, but it often means missing the bulk of the action by chasing or avoiding people. Capture the Flag is a perfect mode for Titanfall, and yet Respawn previously pulled it from the PC version for a rework because the developers failed to think through the fact that if you carry the flag into your Titan, you gain de fact invincibility in crossing the map. It’s an element Respawn finally changed when CTF was patched back in, and rightly so.
That there are only six game modes (five until last week) is only the least egregious of Titanfall’s issues. Few things about the game feel complete. A number of features have been patched into the game post-release and the fact that they weren’t included in the boxed product is straight-up laughable. Private matches, for example, are a “beta” feature as of this writing because Respawn didn’t ship Titanfall with the ability for you to play with only friends online – you’re forced to make a party of as many as six players and go in against random opponents.
Likewise, matchmaking was a broken heap of idiotic sharp edges at launch (and in some ways, remains so). Respawn thought it would be fun to leave players on their teams to play against each other over multiple rounds, which sounds good on paper: it can create camaraderie among players and help stimulate relationships and friends-list adds. But the developers neglected to move both teams on, meaning that players would get stuck playing (and getting trounced by) the same six opponents over and over. Matchmaking had to be patched to do something as simple as bring new opponents to bear against players, or to create teams that had at least comparable skill levels.
Matchmaking hasn’t been well improved, however. The game still systematically dumps players into numerically uneven matches because it prioritizes players’ set parties over even teams. The result is being stuck in a slow-loading, uneven match that’s hard to leave. The game still isn’t very reliably able to find opposing teams of comparable skill, at least on PC. And even if players manage to make it out to the menu, chances are very good they’ll wind up getting chucked right back into the match they just abandoned in hopes of finding something more fun. And there’s still no server browser, which means you’re at the game’s mercy in finding matches you want to play.
There are plenty of little things that irk as well. Titanfall’s maps often seem like they’ve been built to look pretty first and function well second. Despite a major emphasis on the ability of characters to move quickly and smoothly throughout the world, random bits of detritus constantly get in the way. Pilots will climb on structures, only to come in contact with a three-inch lip around an edge and get stuck. Titans step easily over or through concrete barriers in some levels but get hung up on similarly sized obstructions in others. And don’t get me started about the way satchel charges seem to just fall out of players’ hands about half the time, resulting in an inordinate number of suicidal explosions, or the fact that the “campaign” is the same set of multiplayer missions where you get periodic, distracting updates about what the real heroes are up to elsewhere.
It all feels a bit sloppy; it seems like no stretch at all to say that Titanfall was rushed to market, and that it was incomplete when it reached players’ hands.
That should really be infuriating, given the continual hype pumped into the game, as well as the gall EA has in already pushing premium add-on downloadable content. Key features that are basics in the shooter genre, from quality matchmaking to the ability to choose who you play games with, are haphazard in EA’s shooter, and yet the publisher wants you to pay $10 for three extra maps or $25 for nine.
The frustration is that Titanfall is a good multiplayer experience. Respawn made a very good game, with very good ideas. But to push out the title in such an incomplete state speaks volumes about the marketing of games and the feelings of those who sell games about those who purchase them. The hype machine sold Titanfall, and it should have been shelved until it was ready to stand on its merits as a proud entry into its genre. One day Titanfall will be a complete and impressive multiplayer title, worthy of a franchise, providing an alternative shooter experience in a genre that doesn’t offer much in the way of distinct variety.
Right now, however, Titanfall remains something of an insult to those players who bought the hype and paid up front for a title curiously devoid of features that are standard throughout the genre. EA has serious long-term plans for Titanfall, but before it should even think about releasing yearly updates, it must find a way to rebuild the trust of those players to whom it sold an unfinished game.
The answer is certainly not more paid DLC.