I don’t like Modern Warfare. “What a shocking rarity,” I can hear you cry. “A hoity-toity game writer who doesn’t like the Modern Warfare series.” Silence, random interwebs commenter, I have a point to make.
I was introduced to the Modern Warfare series with the original. I played the campaign at a friend’s house and messed around with the multiplayer at my cousin’s, but I never really got into the base gameplay. Sure, the story was above average, even damn good in several places, but the actual shooting mechanics didn’t really engage me. I got through the entire thing on Veteran, so it clearly held my interest, but none of it was fun. It got to the point where, thanks to this series and Halo (which I preferred but wasn’t over-fond of either), I thought I hated the entire FPS genre until I bought the original Far Cry in 2011, to which I am currently married.
So you can understand why I really wasn’t exactly looking forward to Titanfall, especially since Respawn, the developer behind it, was an offshoot of Infinity Ward, the creator of the Modern Warfare series. It looked like the same sort of boring military shooter that I’ve hated since Call of Duty 4 waved its sticky, veiny multiplayer at the screens of every racist twelve year old with self-esteem issues. The tidal wave of marketing and relentless emphasis on Xbone exclusivity didn’t help either. I was fully prepared to write it off as another boring, lifeless, corporate slogfest, but everything changed when I heard about the open beta for the PC in February.
“What the hell,” I thought. “It’s free, I’ve got the hard drive space, and I’m all caught up on Doctor Who. Might as well give it a shot.” So, I downloaded it, shed a tear for having to boot up Origin again, and started the program.
Four hours later, the program crashed.
That sounds like a complaint, but it really isn’t. I’m with Penny Arcade on this one: If it hadn’t crashed on me, I probably would’ve kept playing until I dropped dead of hunger, fatigue, and/or unbridled ecstasy. I wasn’t expecting the game to be this good! The weapons are all interesting, unique, and fun to use; getting around the maps is viseral, fast, and frenetic; and the mechs… Jesus, the MECHS! What could easily have been just another frustrating gimmick turns out to be insanely fun, but not to the point of invalidating the on-foot gameplay. They’re powerful, but not game-breaking. Colossal, but not tediously slow. Separate from the pilots, but not obstructively so. Fun to use, but not making ground combat redundant. In short: The Titans are just as gleefully joyous to use as the pilots.
It’s almost like after Respawn split from Activision someone downloaded a copy of Quake and the entire dev team had an epiphany (I like to think it went along the lines of “Holy shit, that’s what shooters are? Let’s make one of those!”). Everything’s fast, but not in a terrifying “I need lag or an aimbot to not die” way, and the whole thing’s fluid and entertaining in ways I thought impossible from the people responsible for the Modern Borefare craze.
I think what impressed me most about Titanfall was how engaging everything was, and I mean everything. Parkouring across four buildings onto a Titan and swiftly disabling it with a few well-placed rounds to some sensitive components being fun is one thing. Making getting crushed into paste by a Titan dropping from the sky engaging is quite another. It doesn’t matter if you’re dishing out pain or taking it in spades, none of it is frustrating or feels unfair. Hell, even getting your neck snapped out of nowhere by BallsJoke420 is a joy, and that’s with the obligatory juvenile teabagging.
The addition of the npc grunts is a particular stroke of genius, since it’s a way for underperforming or frustrated players to get some kind of catharsis and still aid their teams. Stepped on by a Titan? Kick a grunt in the face. Sniped from across the map by someone you can’t even see? Kick a grunt off a building. Laid off from your dream job because one of the higher-ups don’t like people named “Ted?” Kick all the grunts on the map until the emotionless AI feels your pain too!
It all comes down to a game that is, hands down, the most fun I’ve had with an Internet connection that didn’t require lotion and tissues. Now to wait for it to be ruined by the inevitable horde of racist twelve year olds who claim to have carnal knowledge of my mother.