Titanfall and the Shifting FPS Paradigm


by Jonathan Pilley (@omnicomic)

It’s easy to see why the debut title from Respwan Entertainment is gaining such press at all the big shows: it’s got a frenetic pace that features pilots and mechs fighting each other. Titanfall has something grander in mind though with the gameplay and that is eschewing years of a traditional FPS gameplay dichotomy in favor of something a bit more combative. And that’s why gamers should be excited for the big guns early next year.

One of (if not the) biggest appeals of Titanfall is its gameplay style, which blends single-player campaigns with multiplayer design, offering gamers a chance to experience the best of both worlds simultaneously. In the past, FPS games have typically had a single-player campaign, which took the player through an overarching story. This concept was certainly nothing new to gamers, as it simply altered the concept of a platform or level-based game. The multiplayer component was really more of way for gamers to test their in-game mettle against real life opponents, giving them a chance to leverage the skills gained in playing through the campaign.

When Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 hit though, all bets were off. Multiplayer began snatching the crown as king of the gameplay away from single-player enthusiasts, evidence of a larger sea change in the industry at hand. Gamers were showing that they didn’t want to be isolationists so much anymore and wanted a more participatory experience. What followed was the inclusion of multiplayer in just about every AAA title released, including some that didn’t really need it in there. That–coupled with the rise of F2P games–has largely rendered the single-player campaign obsolete, which is why Titanfall is such a thing of beauty.

Titanfall offers gamers a blend of single-player and multiplayer elements. For example, Respwan recently released a trailer for Attrition mode, where players are tasked with bringing in an ace pilot named Barker from the warzone that is Angel City. En route to extracting him, the team is set upon by an Interstellar Manufacturing Corporation carrier, leading to an all-out battle. One half of the equation gives players the change to be infiltrators, fighting through the city to complete their mission. The other side though gives other players the chance to be stoppers, seeking out the rescuers and destroying them.

Blending the two gameplay styles together is an extremely bold move, but one that might be necessary for the success of FPS on next gen consoles. Prior to the shift in appeal of the different modes, typical gamers would buy a game, play through the single-player campaign and then dabble in multiplayer. This was often because single-player playthroughs offered unlocks in multiplayer. Now–thanks to Activision–players can buy games in the Call of Duty series and go straight to multiplayer with all sorts of perks because of the subscription model they’ve introduced. It’s not necessarily that the single-player is dead, but it kind of is in a way.

Titanfall‘s gameplay doesn’t come without its perils though. As most gamers are aware, there is a special breed of players who play online. That breed typically involves some of the worst of the worst, making it especially tough to play online if you’re either older than thirteen (which is most gamers) or a woman (again, which is a lot of gamers). That’s mitigated by the notion that when you play Titanfall you can play with whom you want when you want, bringing along your trusted friends.

But what’s to stop the one random on your team to wipe out everyone on the way to evac point at the end of each mission? You would imagine that there would be the requisite discipline control tactics included (muting, booting, etc.), but what if there’s not? And how many times will you suffer through countless racial, sexist or generally ignorant insults when you hijack a mech from another player? Stripping away the single-player will disenfranchise some who want to enjoy the game without all the trappings of multiplayer.

It’s clear that Respawn is looking to firmly establish themselves as players in the FPS sphere. The two founders Frank West and Vince Zampella clearly know what they’re doing, as they were at the heart of the Activision/Infinity Ward split and took a lot of the IW crew with them. An argument could be made that the name Titanfall is a subtle dig at Activision predicting the fall of a titan so to speak in the Call of Duty franchise. That may be reading a little too deeply into the tea leaves, but one things is abundantly clear: Titanfall will be a massive game that pulls no punches and holds nothing back. And gamers should have a blast.

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