Titanfall Is Still EA’s Most Innovative Shooter 10 Years Later

Titanfall Is Still EA’s Most Innovative Shooter 10 Years Later

I still remember the E3 2013 announcement for Respawn Entertainment’s sci-fi first-person shooter Titanfall. The trailer at first made it look like a Call of Duty clone, which makes sense considering the studio was founded by former Infinity Ward staff. Soon, however, hulking spaceships and other sights clue us in that this is no traditional military campaign, and we see soldiers running along walls, a thrilling display of agility absent in Call of Duty games. But it’s the moment, about a minute into the video, when a huge mech descends onto the battlefield and pulls a soldier into its metallic innards to pilot it, that really heralded Titanfall as the arrival of something new in the shooter genre. A decade later, EA’s innovative shooter still lives in our heads rent free, so much so that everyone and their mother can’t stop begging for a third entry, and I’m right there in the choir with them.

Titanfall was a curious game when it launched in March 2014. Here was an Xbox title that would never, ever pop up on a Nintendo or PlayStation console because of behind-closed-doors deals between EA and Microsoft. That was a little strange, but what really raised my eyebrows was the game’s infrastructure. Not only was Titanfall a Microsoft exclusive, but it was also an always-online, multiplayer-only first-person shooter. If you didn’t have Xbox Live, then you couldn’t play what was one of Xbox’s biggest releases. Despite the odd design sensibilities and the lack of a single-player campaign—something its excellent sequel would introduce—Titanfall was still a blast to play, particularly because of its mingling between massive mechs and small soldiers.

Get in the fucking robot, pilot

Now, look. This game’s story is pretty much nonexistent. There are two military factions beefing over the resources of a vast region known as “The Frontier” (the most generic sci-fi name ever), but Titanfall’s campaign is served up on the multiplayer platter. Cutscenes are interspersed between matchmaking lobbies, with dialogue providing some motivations for the faction you’ve sided with this time around. It’s fine, but the game’s narrative certainly left a lot to be desired, especially as the exposition dumps you did get felt like an afterthought to the core gameplay loop. And honestly, while I would’ve loved an actual story here, it really was Titanfall’s mechanics that made me eager to “stand by for Titanfall.” It reminded me of that iconic Neon Genesis Evangelion quote: unlike Shinji, I always did want to “get in the fucking robot.”

Because that was the whole point of Titanfall. As you shoot it out with AI- and human-controlled soldiers, you’d call down a titan to hopefully change the tide of battle. These enormous robots were outfitted with their own gear and skills in a similar fashion to the pilots you’d choose at the start of each match. There wasn’t a ton of variety, with the game only presenting you with three titan chassis, but the differences between them still gave each one an identity. It was fun, mixing and matching different armaments to differentiate your Stryder, however slightly, from another ally’s or foe’s.

What made Titanfall cool, though, aside from merely piloting a big-ass mech, was the amalgam of varying gameplay styles. At one moment, you’d be on the ground in tense firefights with enemy soldiers, grapple-hooking and wall-running from building to building in an attempt to get the positional advantage on the battlefield. The next, you’d double-jump into your summoned mech, load up your firearms, and stomp around the warzone to crush the opposition both literally (with either your robot feet or fists) and metaphorically (by completing the objective and getting the most kills).

These shifts between small- and large-scale combat were exhilarating, and nothing has quite replicated that dynamic since. And unfortunately, it appears as though it may never be done again, as Respawn Entertainment doesn’t seem too keen on bringing back Titanfall in any real way. That’s a bummer because Titanfall 2 is excellent and, although the battle royale shooter Apex Legends was birthed by the series, it doesn’t quite scratch the same itch, and fans are still clamoring for another entry. In fact, that’s all anyone can ever talk about. Even now, following The Game Awards’ tweet about Titanfall’s 10-year anniversary, a myriad of commenters are wondering if a Titanfall 3 is happening. I hate to tell you this, but probably never.

What makes this sting even more is the fact that Titanfall was permanently pulled from store shelves, likely due to the game frequently being plagued by cheaters and hackers. Still, this seminal first-person shooter laid the foundation for Respawn Entertainment’s future projects and ignited a call for more movement-based shooters. The series as a whole went on to influence a variety of recent games, including Gearbox Software’s looter-shooter Borderlands 3 and MAETH’s retro-inspired cyberpunk first-person shooter Sprawl. And if you still happen to have a copy of Titanfall, either digitally or physically, you can still boot up the game and hop into a match. I did recently and yep, it still holds up as one of the mid-2010’s most innovative shooters. Now, please Respawn Entertainment, Titanfall 3 when?

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