Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Titanfall - the closest to a 'Halo' like multiplayer shooter experience on Xbox One

I will admit, I was initially doubtful of Titanfall. Having tried the beta last year, it didn't feel right to me. I tried it on PC at the time and I had a few minor gripes:

- Your Titan went down pretty quick in the beta. 
- There was this weapon called the 'Smart Pistol' which shoots enemies without aiming
- The parkour didn't feel very critical to the gameplay (at the time)

Couple that with the knowledge I had that it won't have a single player campaign, and I ended up dismissing the game entirely. 

So when it finally came out on Xbox One  I wasn't the first in line to buy it. In fact, I bought Titanfall during the recent Black Friday sale where it cost $13 to buy the game, the season pass and all the map packs together. It's a huge steal at that price, so I went ahead and picked it up.

Now note that I picked up this game after I had played the much hyped Destiny from Bungie Studios, Battlefield 4, and Halo Master Chief Collection. These other FPSes were good in their own way, but each one irritated me a bit with their multiplayer implementation:

- Destiny - requires you to grind to be formidable in multiplayer. You can't really have several characters that are viable for multiplayer UNLESS you play all of them religiously....it's a huge time sink and with my priorities to my family and job, I can't give the amount of time needed to have a character worthy of multiplayer. You always have that niggling feeling your character is dying because of equipment or lack of skills. Which is pretty irritating. And the netcode is just OK; not terrible, but not the greatest either. 

- Battlefield 4 - quite laggy when I tried it. Maybe it improved now but I've already sold the game. 

- Halo Master Chief Collection - the single player is excellent, but the multiplayer...oh the multiplayer. Why doesn't it work!!!?? This is a true tragedy for FPS games. This is like the granddaddy of all the multiplayer games we have now on console. And 343 really botched it by overpromising and underdelivering. The list of issues for multiplayer for Halo MCC never ends and it seems to me that it only favors players in the USA right now (in terms of getting you connected to other matches). Maybe I'll blog about this in the future but I'm not very pleased with 343 Studios right now. 

Now, back to Titanfall. This little game that I thought I would just spend around 10 minutes with (for the price i got it for) has now spent about 20 or so hours of my time. And it is glorious. 

This is, i think, the BEST ONLINE MULTIPLAYER SHOOTER ON CONSOLE today. And there's only one reason for this:

The netcode.

Titanfall's netcode is possibly the best netcode I have ever experienced on a first person shooter for consoles, ever since Halo 2 or Halo 3 on the original Xbox. I don't remember feeling like the fights are unfair, or that lag is making me die faster than the other players. 

Titanfall boasts that they use dedicated servers to accomplish this, and once you experience it, it's something else. It's the gold standard of the multiplayer FPS experience. You shoot something, it will get hit, and it will probably die when you expect it to. You get shot at, and you won't die so quickly if your connection is terrible. In my case, I don't really live in the best place for internet connectivity (Philippines) so my bar was set pretty low for a multiplayer-only FPS on console. That's actually the reason I didn't even consider it when the game launched. How would I enjoy an FPS with no single player in a country that has terribly bad internet in the first place? 

And after having played this for 20 hours, with netcode this good, they've made a believer out of me. The netcode and the dedicated servers completely change the game and make this far, far better than the games I've already played now on the new current-gen (Xbox One). 

Other things I love about the game:

- The titans don't die as easily anymore. 
- It seems the smart pistol isn't as strong as the beta version. 
- Parkour-ing genuinely feels right and very useful for handling various situations. 
- the ridiculous amount of action on screen when there are titans, pilots, grunts and all the effects going off everywhere at a smooth, consistent 60FPS. 

I feel pretty sorry for not buying this when it was still 'hot' now. That said, it still has a healthy user base. Probably not as huge as Call of Duty AW's installed base, but enough to get in a game in seconds. 

Yes, seconds. I am so amazed at how they handle matchmaking. They get you in a game very, very fast, and there's practically no waiting, even in a server that's not very populated. I'm not sure how they did this, it's almost as if they warped the time-space continuum to accomplish it but it's brilliant. They get you in any game if they can't get in you in a start section for a match, and once you get in, it just works. 

It's really all about the shooting, whether you shoot at AI grunts, enemy pilots....this game just looks and feels right as a multiplayer shooter. And the Titans add a lot of depth and complexity to encounters since you have to watch out for them and use the environment to your advantage. It seamlessly moves between indoors, outdoors, high elevation, low elevation....just amazing. And a lot of epic moments can happen while you play. Even ejecting out of your titan after a heated fight can be exhilirating every time it happens, because there is just so many possible interesting scenarios that can occur. There was one scenario where I was shooting another titan, we both ejected, then i chased after the pilot in that titan, then won the firefight with him. There was another where the titan i was fighting had ejected, and as the pilot was in the air, i shot him down and got the kill. There's many moments just like this and when it happens to you, it feels cinematic, it feels good, it feels like something you cant get out of any other game right now. 

Unfortunately, Titanfall came out in March 2014, and because of this, a lot of media outlets are going to ignore nominating this game for shooter of the year. I think this game deserves it. It has set the gold standard for multiplayer shooters in terms of netcode, performance and sheer excitement / FUN you can get out of every game you play. Destiny shouldn't win the honor of shooter of the year. Yes you get 300+ hours out of it, but what exactly are you doing in those 300 hours? Grinding for items and you don't get a good item every time? Diablo handled that better. Destiny doesn't deserve recognition for bad design in extending game longevity. Titanfall, however, does deserve it, for the consistently amazing online experience, and I doubt any new player is going to come off playing Titanfall without enjoying it on their first run, or without getting some awesome experience they'll never forget.

Titanfall IS the best multiplayer shooter of 2014.




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