Drop-Pod: Titanfall Review Supplement

Okay, so I wrote that review of Titanfall like an hour ago. After, as you can probably guess, I started playing Titanfall again. And I realized, as I played, that I’d left a few things out. Some minor things and one important one. I figured I’d throw the minor ones in and let you guess which one made me come back here.

titanfall-wallpaper

The minion-grunts (I refuse to pick a definite title) do a little more than Just add to the theme of the game or act as a mechanic. They’re also there to directly influence your behaviour by playing on your experience. As I was dashing around the world, spin-kicking and wall-running like I was in a wire-fu movie, I noticed that I was drawn to the sound of gun-fire. I realized that they were centralizing combat by drawing players towards them. Whether it was by revealing enemies on the mini-map or just drawing you towards them with their gunfire.

You see, the first minute of a Titanfall game is really quiet. It’s just two teams positioning themselves and crossing the map. But once the shooting starts, all hell breaks loose. And the pace never really stops. Part of the reason for that is the mini-map. Obviously, it shows you where other Pilots are, enemy and ally alike, but not all the time. Only when they’re engaged in combat or in the line of sight of an ally. So, minions break the fog of war the same way in both LoL and Titanfall, because the maps are big enough for giant robots. (They rhyme; now I’ll have to remember that forever. Damn.) But, they also serve a similar purpose in how they compel the player.

You know that desperate post-encounter moment in every FPS? When you’ve just finished securing a kill, And you’re running for your life, bullets pinging off your HUD, red EVERYWHERE, you’re  sprinting, looking for cover, hoping they won’t draw a bead on y…And you die? Well, there are a lot of those moments in Titanfall, except you don’t usually die. Because, usually, right after you’ve killed a Pilot, you’re getting shot at by grunts. And they don’t usually do a lot of damage, but they can scare the hell out of you. Or, in FPS terms, they encourage the application of an Expeditious Retreat. Wait, sorry, that’s D&D, I got my reference books mixed up. I mean, they make you enact a “tactical withdrawal.”

Also, last time, I extolled to you the virtues of the Smart Pistol. I told you that it was great for new players. I hinted that it could target grenades. What I didn’t tell you is how those two things are important to each other. You see, satchel bombs and arc mines are part of the standard Titan Pilot load-out. Most people use them once they get them. So, they can be littering the map. They’re pretty easy to avoid when they’re not being used aggressively, by which I mean, hurled directly at your face. Easy, that is, unless you’re not sure what you’re looking for. But, the Smart Pistol knows, because it’s… well, it’s Smart. It’ll target objects with a red line, alerting you to the presence of mines, bombs and skulls. Just another reason it’s great for initiating new players to Stompy-Robot Land

Finally, I compared Titanfall to CoD: Ghosts pretty frequently last time. And that’s because they’re the militaristic shooters that I’m playing right now. But what I left out were how those games made me feel. Well, I sort of told you how playing Ghosts made me feel. Either helpless or all-powerful. Maybe that’s just my experience of the multi-player, because I have either really good games or really bad ones. But, I didn’t tell you how Titanfall made me feel, besides what you might be able to extrapolate from my over-usage of the word “fun.”

It’s hard to explain, and maybe I’m reading too much into this, but it made me feel humble. Not, like, in awe of its greatness. God, I’m not that into it. I mean, it made me respect the skill of my fellow players and the power of wielding a Titan. Because, when you’re running around on the ground, you really are just an insect. You can jump on a Titan, yes, but if it’s an enemy Titan, and it’s doing any one of the following: dashing, punching, exploding, falling, shooting at you, etc, and you’re in the air in front of it, you’ll die. The only way to safely mount an enemy Titan is by dropping on it or jumping on it when it’s just walking. At all other times, it’s a wall of death. Of course, you can deal with that, because you’re a ninja, remember?

But, when I’m on foot and blowing up a Titan with an Archer missile, I feel that I’m dealing with a dangerous opponent. That it’s on me to respect it or I’ll die. I might still die, even if I do everything correctly, but that’s the truth of combat… That’s some Zen shit, right there. But, it’s true. The Titans themselves are a formidable force, but their power is magnified by the skill of the Pilot. As you become part of the ecosystem of robots, moving between Pilot-gnat and Titan-dog, you start to feel the flow of combat and your place within it at any given time.

Maybe that happens with every militaristic-multi-player FPS when you’re far enough in. I don’t know, because I haven’t used the word “l33t” to unironically describe myself for years. But, in Titanfall, between feeling the flow of combat and knowing the power of the Titans, I felt small as a Pilot. Powerful. Competent. But small. In a way, really human. And maybe this is just Attack on Titan resonance, but I started to respect and relish the power of the Titan. But, equally, to understand my relative size. And what did I do with that power once I had it?

Well, obviously, I used it to blow stuff up. I’d love to tell you that I used it to defend my friends and set up some moral lesson about empathy and compassion, but I can’t, because this isn’t the 80’s and I’m not writing a cartoon. Also, because blowing stuff up is what you do in Titanfall. That’s the game. But the impression stuck with me. And when I walked outside to check the mail, I looked into the sky and glimpsed a Titan in my mind. And I felt small. Singular. I imagined stepping inside, and I towered over my house. There is so much power in a Titan. But you remember, when you’re in that cockpit, what it’s like on the ground. It’s like a Spider-Man thing.

Feeling that power dynamic is nothing I’ve experienced in any other FPS. I can’t even explain to you why, because I’ve driven tanks in Halo. Vehicle combat is nothing new. But, Titanfall made me feel both powerful and tiny at the same time. I was both predator and prey. So, I felt humble.

I don’t know if that will be the common experience, because I got really into it. (It’s super immersive.) But, it’s there to be had, and I think that’s pretty cool. Cheers!

Addendum: Creative usage of Grunts. I saw a guy named IMC_Grumt that ran around with a group of Grunts so people would dismiss him at first and he could get the drop on them. Also, there’s a Spectre camo-costume.

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2 Responses to “Drop-Pod: Titanfall Review Supplement”

  1. I’ve not been a big fan of FPS games. I get bored of them so quickly. The last one I played from start to finish was Half-Life 2 on the PC. The only fun I’ve had in multiplayer was with TF2 and I was beginning to think it was a genre that had completely passed me by. I got Titanfall bundled with the xbox one for a really good price and was initially going to sell the digital download code as I wasn’t really bothered. So glad that I didn’t. Over 20 hours of fun later and I’m still enjoying it. I honestly thought I’d be lucky to get 10 hours of gameplay from it – how wrong was I? It’s not perfect graphically, there are glitches and there are certain maps that aren’t as fun but generally this has been a huge surprise success for me. The match-making is pretty much non-existent but I don’t think it is a problem anyway. Aside from my very first game I’ve never felt overwhelmed even by players who are going through grade 9 lvlling and have played for hundreds of hours. I’m still sure I’ll get sick of it sooner or later but can honestly say that I never expected this to be the game that brought me back to the FPS genre.

    • Aside from being excited from the get-go, that’s been my experience, too. I think they made something special here. I’m sure I’ll get bored with it at some point and put it away for a bit, but, as you said, I haven’t made it to that point, either. Yup, the matchmaking is pretty blah (and the name-tags can be hard to see sometimes), but that can be ignored/fixed. Glad you’re enjoying the fight, Pilot! You’ll need that enthusiasm to overcome. Over.

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