The year was 2014. Microsoft had effectively nuked its brand image with a troubled Xbox One launch. And we were blissfully ignorant of the non-stop roller coaster of dramatic world events about to unfold not even a decade later. It was also the first year I started blogging as a hobby — a bit of Xbox here, a dash of Windows Phone there, in between shifts in my old IT job.
As awkward as the Xbox One launch was, Microsoft still managed to put together a slate of great exclusives for the launch period: Killer Instinct, the grossly underrated RYSE: Son of Rome, and my personal favorite, Titanfall.
Today, Respawn Entertainment, now part of EA, announced that Titanfall 1 is leaving storefronts for good, and won’t be welcoming new players. It pledged to keep the dedicated servers online for the time being, but we all know that it won’t be forever.
Source: Electronic ArtsTitanfall at its core was a unique blend of reactive twitchy FPS combat with a uniquely tactical mech combat layer.
Titanfall as an IP lives on in the success of the titan-less (for now) Apex Legends, EA’s unlikely smash-hit battle royale that saw Respawn head Vince Zampella promoted to the upper echelons of EA’s creative output. Fans, however, cry out for a faithful sequel to Titanfall 2 amidst vague hints from both Respawn and EA.
With Titanfall 1 riding off into the sunset, I reflect back on what made it so utterly incredible, and why cynicism makes me wonder if it was the last twitch-styled shooter I may ever truly love.
Source: Electronic Arts
With regards to Titanfall, I remember Microsoft making a large deal out of how the game’s swarming AI mobs had their behaviors calculated remotely, away from your local Xbox. It’s weird looking back how little about the game I knew beyond the fact it was using the cloud in some way. I ended up grabbing it because it just looked awesome. I saw huge robots across rich extraterrestrial worlds and lumbering alien behemoths in the background, with sci-fi weaponry that also looked authentic and grounded in reality. Titanfall was truly inspired, and given the game’s pedigree, it’s not hard to see why.
Respawn Entertainment literally respawned out of Infinity Ward’s notorious litigation between Zampella and others, who alledged parent company Activision had cheated them out of owed royalties. After all, Zampella and his team were responsible for Call of Duty’s rise into the mega-hit that it is today, on the backs of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare and the technology powering the various spin-offs and sequels.
Titanfall elevated the first-person shooter formula with incredible parkour gameplay, turning what would’ve been largely flat Call of Duty maps into towering arcades.
Titanfall had all the best aspects of Call of Duty, with reactive, and restlessly satisfying gunplay execution, with thoughtful map designs and, crucially, tons of reasons to keep returning to the game.
Titanfall elevated the first-person shooter formula with incredible parkour gameplay, turning what would’ve been largely flat Call of Duty maps into towering arcades, giving players various sci-fi tools that simply didn’t make sense in the Call of Duty setting. And the cherry on top of this most delicious of video game cakes was the titan gameplay, which let you flip seamlessly from the twitchy and reactive infantry gameplay into a more methodical cover-oriented metagame. To read it like that sounds almost like it shouldn’t work, but it did work — and it worked so well, I played the game adoringly for several hundred hours.
Titanfall was a true masterpiece: a masterclass in online competitive FPS gameplay, and something that still wholly holds up today. Or at least, if EA wanted it to hold up.
Titanfall as a franchise is in a bit of a state right now. After Titanfall 1’s success, Respawn got to work on Titanfall 2, this time with a full-blown story campaign. I think Titanfall 2 took the world by surprise when it launched because the campaign was actually amazing, and holds up even now as one of the best examples of a multiplayer-focused FPS actually having a good story on the side. It was heartfelt with a mountain of variety, good and memorable characters and set pieces, and a ton of lore and world-building infrastructure that could’ve been utilized to catapult it into a much larger franchise. It didn’t make the biggest splash upon release, but appreciation for the game has grown over time.
Alas, Respawn’s unexpected smash hit Apex Legends has EA chasing the Fortnite crown in the realm of the service-based battle royale, wholly bereft of titan gameplay. Apex Legends is an incredible game too, and is also set in the Titanfall universe, but it’s not Titanfall. And many of the franchise’s faithful remain somewhat marooned inside Titanfall 2, which is no longer being updated with new content, and it’s a shame.
Source: Electronic ArtsApex Legends is great, but it’s not Titanfall.
Titanfall 2’s multiplayer seemed to polarize some fans at the time. For me, the titans no longer felt like the walking tanks they had been in the previous game, and instead felt a little flimsier. It was ultimately for that reason I bounced off the game, alongside an increasing workload — increasingly I find it difficult to find time to git gud like I used to. That’s certainly a me problem, though. Titanfall 2 went on to enjoy a passionate and dedicated fanbase, complete with an active subreddit community.
You’d think it was enough of a base for EA to expand on the game, adding new titans, new weapons, new maps, and so on. But it became abandoned not too long after launch, with Respawn pivoting hard to Apex Legends and then another unexpected hit in the form of Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order.
Source: Windows Central
EA is awash with cash from its predatory FIFA Ultimate Team mechanics and other microtransactions. It just reported its strongest second quarter in the company’s history. You’d hope it would be willing to throw a bit of cash on Titanfall 2, but alas, it wasn’t meant to be.
With Titanfall 1 being removed from sale, one has to wonder just how much longer Titanfall 2 has left.
Titanfall: My last twitch shooter
I call Titanfall a twitch shooter, but it was really so much more than that. The layered and disruptive tactical play from its titan mechanics elevates Titanfall far above the Call of Duty protozoa that spawned it.
Titanfall was fun in its purest, most innocent form — smashing a dude into a red mist with a giant, robotic arm.
I say it’s my last because I often wonder if my aging brain and unwieldy workload will prevent me from building the reaction speed necessary to keep up with modern gameplay curves. It makes me sad, but I can’t be too sad, because of all the great memories I have playing Titanfall with my buddies and by myself. Titanfall was fun in its purest, most innocent form — smashing a dude into a red mist with a giant, robotic arm.
Respawn says Titanfall is part of its DNA, and has frequently made vague claims about the franchise’s potential for sequels, yet none have materialized beyond whispered rumors and dashed hopes. It made the DNA claim right after a developer stated that there’s “nothing” coming for the franchise any time soon, though, which isn’t exactly confidence-inspiring.
Both Titanfall 1 and Titanfall 2 are playable on EA Play with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate too, if you fancy giving it a try (Titanfall 1 is leaving in March 2022). For the fans who are still holding up the banner of Titanfall I salute you, and I sorely hope you get the sequel you deserve.
To the devs who worked on Titanfall 1, thank you.
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