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.


Phil Hornshaw is senior editor at GameFront. Read more of his work here, and follow him and GameFront on Twitter: @philhornshaw and @gamefrontcom.

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15 Comments on Titanfall’s Unfinished State is Insulting to Players

Aedelric

On July 7, 2014 at 9:04 am

You have clock in at over 100 hours playtime, for a game you find personally insulting. That is stupidity at it’s finest.

Serves yourself right for buying and playing an EA game.

Phil Hornshaw

On July 7, 2014 at 9:10 am

@Aedelric

It’s insulting that EA is trying to sell more content even as the game remains unfinished. As I mentioned, Titanfall is a good game that could be great if it would just be finished. It’s getting there.

What’s more, like everyone else, I couldn’t know what EA had put together before I had the game in my hand. Couldn’t see the future of Titanfall before I had a copy of it. What’s there is very enjoyable, but the game is full of problems that are worth mentioning.

Hobot

On July 7, 2014 at 9:36 am

Did these people not learn from Battlefield 4 and previous EA based games? EA is just lies and greed.

AxΣtwin

On July 7, 2014 at 9:45 am

Honestly, the game is exactly what I expected for what it was. I understand your frustration Phil, but this is place the overwhelming majority want the game to be. I’m not saying you’re wrong, it’s just that in this instance you (and me) are part of the minority here.

DJS

On July 7, 2014 at 10:56 am

This is exactly what is wrong with the video game industry. You buy into hype and still commit a ton of time to a product that is not finished. You know it and yet you still keep playing and instead of doing what every gamer should be doing to make the industry a better place (protesting unfinished games) you feed into it. You gave them your money and your time and that is exactly what they wanted. Give them neither of those and maybe games will actually be worth it to buy again cause the companies will realize that nobody will want to buy a game just for hype and for the social aspect despite the fact that you know it’s an unfinished product.

SupremeAllah

On July 7, 2014 at 11:02 am

I bought this game to tide me over until Elder Scrolls Online came out. I knew going in I was basically wasting my money, but I did it anyway just because.

There were two obvious red flags I knew about before hand, that being EA, and that the game was coming from makers of the Call of Duty team. The COD team known for cut and paste mechanics and lack of any imagination or innovation. But I figured, again, something to keep me busy for a few weeks.

And it was a fun game. But not $60 fun. Definitely not worth a full price purchase for such an incomplete experience. Definitely not worth the standard COD/EA style “Pay us another 15 dollars per expansion for stuff that should have been in the game in the first place” way of marketing. Pretty soon they’ve have mini DLC where you can pay three bucks to put pot leaves on your Titan and have a skin where your character has a blunt hanging out of his or her mouth.

And lets not forget that this was supposed to be one of the first big “next gen” titles…which ran on a modified Source engine. The same Source engine that’s been around since what, 2003?

I was almost as upset with the release of the current Wolfenstein, but at least the single player only experience of that was complete, if not way too short.

Jb

On July 7, 2014 at 12:27 pm

You paid half a dollar per hour of play and you claim this nonsense? Compare it to battlefield 4 that threw everything in and none of it worked especially well. Seems like a streamlined experience focusing exactly on what the players wanted is hardly an insult. And you got farmers value for money than any other medium would offer too.

pooleboy87

On July 7, 2014 at 3:04 pm

I feel like these criticisms are kinda diametrically opposed. More games modes means matchmaking would be that much more worse on PC.

I guess, ultimately, I don’t agree that a lack of game modes or private matches are what makes the game incomplete. Those are features that are not necessarily required, and in the case of a PC landscape that already can have long wait times, I don’t understand at all why you think it would make the game better for them to be included. As for private matches…I goofed around in them from time to time, but I feel like they’re a feature that people just want to be present, not one that people as a whole would make a decent amount of use of.

It’s rough around the edges, but has largely been enjoyable to me. It’s certainly nothing ground breaking, and like essentially every game now, it could use some more work. But at least it appears that the developers are very much trying to put in that work.

Derek

On July 7, 2014 at 5:48 pm

EA needs to just die already.

chris

On July 8, 2014 at 1:52 am

One of my favorite games of all time. I would appreciate more PC support and features, but I continue to play because it’s one of the greatest multiplayer experiences and gameplay I have had in a long time.

Mr Glassback

On July 8, 2014 at 4:43 am

All these online only games ( Titanfall, The Division, Destiny) have too many potential problems for me to even consider buying them at launch. All the problems of The Sims, BF4, Titanfall are just the start, the game still has to live and die by the online community and how they act. Cheating and childish online communities can kill a game just as quick as technical issues.
Sound harsh, but if you buy a game at launch these days, you can’t really complain when it all goes t*ts up. Same applies with a console.

Ron Whitaker

On July 8, 2014 at 5:14 am

In addition to the problems Phil describes, let’s not forget the biggest problem I have with Titanfall: the lack of a proper server browser. Despite all the problems Battlefield has had, they’ve managed to always provide a good server browser. Why couldn’t Respawn do the same? A server browser that puts control of selecting a server in your hands, not the hands of some computer algorithm, and it means that all of these stupid “matchmaking” problems go away.

It also means that when EA inevitably drops online support for the game in 4-5 years, players could host the servers themselves and keep the game alive. Can’t have that, can we EA?

Zachary

On July 8, 2014 at 6:24 am

Sorry but if you sink 100 hours into a game, you lose the right to complain about it. You’ve played that much because the game is an enjoyable experience. I, for one, love the game, and that’s coming from someone who hasn’t bought a call of duty game since modern warfare 2 because of the lack of innovation. I will admit, the game did leave me wanting, but at no point did I find myself thinking it felt lazy or unfinished. It’s a first person shooter and the first title from a brand new studio. I don’t know what you expected.

Ron Whitaker

On July 8, 2014 at 9:12 am

@Zachary – You never lose the right to complain about a game. If you’re playing it, why wouldn’t you complain if something is bad? Phil’s had a love/hate relationship with Titanfall since the beta, and I can understand it. I have many of the same issues he has.

It’s not really a brand new studio, either. It’s Infinity Ward, re-badged.

SupremeAllah

On July 8, 2014 at 10:01 am

Yea I never understood the logic that you have no right to complain about a game if you play it. If anything, it is because people are paying customers they have a right to complain about their product not living up to potential or not working correctly.

BF4 players have every right to complain that their game has been out for almost a year and still has many of the same bugs, not to mention that the god-awful HARDLINE is already going to be out in a few months before those problems are fixed. And HARDLINE has a lot of the same exact bugs that current BF4 has. EA claims they won’t make the same mistake again, yet the writing is already on the wall here.

Wolfenstein came out, and I was looking forward to see ID Tech 5 in action again after Rage. And sure enough, I preload the 50 gigs worth of singleplayer only experience just to see the ID Tech 5 “spin too fast and wait while the textures catch up” nonsense. And that’s not a hardware issue, either. Every system from the lowest to the highest has the same issue, it’s a problem with ID Tech 5.

So very sad. Not to mention I was expecting some traditional Wolfenstein action and we get needlessly complicated story filled with strange characters and a woman who bangs you almost immediately after watching her family get executed for some weak excuse at trying to tell a mature story while making teenagers get tingling feelings in their nether region.