Opinion Piece

Titanfall And The Noob Criticisms

Titanfall_Boxart

Advisory: this is an opinion piece, and therefore, strangely, is my opinion of something. In some cases it may not even be the opinion I personally hold, but rather one formed as an potential argument or point of debate, because yes, people can do that.

Advisory 2: A small amount of foul language is used. You’ve been warned.

Like so many other people in the UK I’m patiently awaiting the release of Titanfall, having refused to attend the special event held by EA because, to be blunt, review events are bullshit. These controlled events so often, to my mind, fail to replicate the real experience that gamers will have with the title in question, especially in regards to something like Titanfall. The connection will be flawless, representing what the game should be like, but not will it will be like. Meanwhile reviewers play games differently, because that’s their job. They spend a lot of time messing with mechanics in order to better understand them, but if the only people you’re playing with are other reviewers who’re all doing the same thing, it once again creates an imperfect representation.Above all else it’s incredibly easy to get caught up in the moment during such events, influencing the finished review. So, instead I’m waiting for review code to turn up tomorrow. I’m excited. In fact, I’ve not been this excited by a game release in a while.

I tell you this so that you understand that this entire article, this rant – because in truth that’s likely how it’ll be perceived and is probably what it actually is – is based entirely on my experiences with the beta for Titanfall, rather than the complete product. By time I finish writing this perhaps I’ll have already been playing for a day or two, and my own opinions might have shifted radically. Perhaps I should have just waited to write this, but the mood struck, and so here I am. Also, it’s 1AM and I’ve still got another bottle of beer to finish. So, yeah.

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What I want to talk about today are two of the criticisms most levelled at the game that I see around the magical, often enchanting but usually more horrifying Internet. It’s a place that I almost dread venturing onto these days, because every time I do to watch a review by Adam Sessler or a WTF by TotalBiscuit or video by Jim Sterling there’s always some idiotic, hateful comment, and I’m reminded that a lot of the world sees only these morons who spout hatred at other people for reasons that I struggle to fathom. I can understand on some level, at least, why people get angry at others who don’t like the same games that they do. On some primal level that person appears to believe that in some way their judgement of quality is being attacked. They paid for this game, and so when someone else claims that it sucks or even that they simply don’t like it some instinct kicks in the defend the purchase, and sadly that tends to take the form of an abusive and bloody pointless comment. What I don’t get is people who get angry at others for liking a game. I don’t get why you would spend time ranting at someone because they like Call of Duty and you don’t. Moreover I view it as pathetic. Is your life so bad that you must try to hurt someone who has found a game that brings them a small amount of joy? I may question the sanity of someone who enjoys the fucking awful Guise of the Wolf, but if they someone find some happiness playing it then more power to them. I’d love to enter into a debate and find out what’s making it click for them, perhaps while I also look up the nearest asylum and make arrangements for their incarceration.

But I’m veering wildly off-track, here.

The first complaint that I want to chat about is probably the most common one; Titanfall is just for noobs. There’s a chunk of truth in that statement, because Titanfall really is one of the most noob friendly games I’ve played, going out of its way to ensure that everyone but the most truly atrocious of players can feel awesome, have a good time and contribute, even if the reality is they’re getting creamed by the better players. My main argument against this common criticism is a simple one; it’s accessible by design. Would you take a review that criticises Dark Souls for being hard seriously?Of course you wouldn’t, because that’s what Dark Souls is about. It was deliberately designed to be hard, to appeal to those looking for a challenge. Instead thoughtful criticism would focus on how well Dark Souls achieves its goal. Is the difficulty fair? Does it communicate your failures to you well so that you can learn from your mistakes? Using that same logic criticising Titanfall for being accessible is something I cannot do, and therefore probably won’t do when writing my own review. Instead I’ll be focusing on how well it accomplishes that goal.

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But wait, you may cry, did you not just mention in your recent South Park review how easy the game was? You’re right, I absolutely did, and while I did not fault it heavily for this it was still a point I brought up in my review. However, there’s an important difference between talking about Titanfall and this: South Park lacked depth. Simple, easy gameplay was all it had, and while this was accessible to just about anyone there was no room for more practiced gamers to maneuver. It didn’t matter how good you were at RPGs, in South Park you were just as good as a complete beginner. One must always remember that accessibility and depth are not mutually exclusive concepts – they can live and thrive within the same game, but sadly the Internet seems to have adopted the term “accessibility” as nothing but a negative. And in truth that’s largely the fault of the developers. How often have they thrown around the word “accessible” and then delivered a game that truly was dumbed-down to the point of being laughable? And thus the word has become associated with disappointment and simple gameplay mechanics, morphing into a term with only bad connotations. But it does not have to be that way. The developers of Dark Souls II bandied around the accessibility word and the Internet cried out in horror, and yet the resulting product is a great example of what I mean; small tweaks have made resulting in it being a bit more accessible to those wanting to experience the game’s many joys, without sacrificing that difficulty and depth that made the first game so great. By no means is Dark Souls II easy for newcomers to get into, but it still stands as a testament that both accessibility and depth can thrive within the same environment. This is what I hope Titanfall can also prove.

And it’s a good thing that so many people can enjoy it. Wonderfully fluid controls and intuitive game design make it a breeze to pick up and play. Beginners can focus on taking down the AI and tackling the occasional Pilot while still contributing to their team. But Titanfall works on two levels. Sure, it’s easy to get into, but during the beta I quickly learned that there’s plenty of room for skilled players to flex their muscles, allowing Titanfall to potentially keep almost everyone happy. Sure, the less skilled players are busy demolishing Ai grunts, but talented players will still be at the top of the leaderboards as they tackle Pilots and Titan’s alike, while understand how best to abuse the poor cannon fodder. There’s a place for everyone on the Battlefield, unlike something like Call of Duty where a struggling players is going to find themselves letting their team down and growing more frustrated. What’s worse is that those people may turn out to be the very best players around, but because of that initial lack of fun they may simply stop playing.

I’m going to sound stupid trumping my own horn, but I’m very good at games, and very good at shooters in particular. I’m not the greatest out there, but I’m pretty good. Like many others I initially wondered whether Titanfall would be able to hold my interest upon firing up the beta. Sure, I was having fun, but was there more the game could offer me, or within the first 30-minutes of play had I already hit the skill ceiling? To my pleasant surprise, there was more. Most of it derives from the movement systems. While the jump-pack and wallrunning enable everyone to feel like a badass, it also allows for some crazy chains and skill to be displayed. Watching a deadly dance between good players is awesome, as is witnessing a Pilot smoothly navigate the map, far outstripping everyone else on the field of battle. With everyone able to utilise such a degree of verticality and agility situational awareness is king, as is the ability to predict movement. But again a good player can alter and change their path in wonderous ways, if they understand how. The more I played the more I enjoyed myself, especially with Titans. Even in the beta going up against a skilled opponent in a mech is immense fun because there’s a neat counter-counterplay at work, one which I hope will be expanded upon with more varied loadout options. And then there’s battling Titans as a Pilot, which just feels epic.

Titanfall_jumping

Look, I’m not saying Titanfall has a lot of depth or complexity to it. Indeed my biggest concern about Titanfall is the same I have about most online shooters: longevity. The full retail game will bring more options, but even then Respawn’s effort will never be able to lay claim to that particular throne. But I do firmly believe Titanfall has more depth than people are giving it credit for. Once again the artificial hype train that I despise so much is hard at work, and so many people have responded by simply wanting to rebel. They look at the action and all the see is a noob-friendly mess, and fail to see that underneath that there’s more going on. Even in the beta it was clear that the vast majority of people will still stuck in a standard FPS mindset. I was outmaneuvering them at every turn, and quickly dispatching other Titans with my own because they didn’t understand some of the mechanics at work. They just pulled the trigger or stormed in for a punch. Even those understanding that movement is key were clearly unable to use the system to its full potential.

But let’s move onto the second criticism, which is usually uttered by people storming onto Youtube in order to declare the game sucks. Their justification for this, rather than actually providing some sort of reasonable argument, is this outstanding piece of intelligent thought; “It’s just Call of Duty with mechs.” There is a chunk of truth within this statement. Even from the beta it’s clear that the Call of Duty DNA is running through Titanfall, which is hardly surprising given Respawn’s origins. It makes sense that their first foray would be a mixture of what they already know and things that they have not attempted. The menus and fonts bear a striking resemblance to the Call of Duty franchise, while Titans are almost heavily reworked versions of the Killstreak system, albeit actually good. The Burn Cards are a twisted and tweaked version of Perks. And indeed if you simply move around on the ground and fire your gun there’s an unmistakable Call of Duty feel, albeit somehow smoother and more fluid. However, this is not a bad thing, depending on how you feel about CoD. Personally while I’ve moved away from Call of Duty in recent years I still believe the core gunplay to be superb for the style of game that it is, therefore Titanfall imitating it is actually a good thing, from my perspective. But all of this doesn’t exactly add up to it being just Call of Duty with mechs.

Let’s examine the sentence for a second; “It’s just Call of Duty with mechs.” To me this means that the majority of the game needs to feel like Call of Duty for it to hold any sort of weight, and that’s just not the case. Seriously, I’m going to have my own foot-stomping fanboy/Internet moment here; what the utter-McFuck? If you spend your time on the ground then yes, it does indeed feel like Call of Duty, but spending any length of time with your boots on dirt is like obeying all the traffic laws when playing Grand Theft Auto. Yes, you can do it, but it’s sort of missing the point. Titanfall is built around its movement system, and the last time I checked Call of Duty didn’t allow for wall-running or leaping into windows two-stories up. Nor does Call of Duty have giant Titans that change the pace of the action, or for that matter maps with open spaces and plenty of verticality. To claim that Titanfall is somehow just Call of Duty but with stomping robots is doing a vast and unfair disservice to Respawn and their work. You might not like the game and even declare it God-awful shit, but comparing it to Call of Duty is, in my eyes, just plain idiotic.

But hey, Titanfall should be in my hands soon, and then at some point I’ll have to sit down behind this keyboard and type out the review. I’m intrigued to see if the opinions I voiced here will change much, though I think they’ll stand. The gist is simple: let’s see if Titanfall actually does have something to offer competitive gamers, because I think it will, and for crying out loud it’s not Call of Duty. Not even close.

It’s 2am. The beer is all finished. I wonder how I should finish this artic….*snore*

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