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Review: 'Titanfall' is an exciting appetizer, but where's the main course?

By Terry Terrones, terry.terrones@gazette.com - Updated: April 6, 2014 at 5:02 pm

What is it?: A new first-person shooter from the creators of the "Call of Duty" franchise. Respawn Entertainment is the studio formed by Jason West and Vince Zampella, former co-founders of developer Infinity Ward and the co-creators of the multibillion-dollar "Call of Duty" machine. After a tumultuous split from "Duty" publisher Activision, West and Zampella formed Respawn, and "Titanfall" is their first title. In "Titanfall," gamers battle in a futuristic sci-fi setting on a war-torn planet in six-on-six multiplayer matches. Players fight on foot as fast moving Pilots or inside mechanized machines called Titans.

The good

Fast-paced combat. Speed is the name of the game in "Titanfall." Whether I was running up a wall as a Pilot or dashing from side to side to avoid fire as a Titan, I was moving quickly. And if my Pilot gets killed or my Titan gets destroyed, I'm immediately back into the fray guns blazing. "Titanfall" wants you to be in the middle of the action because it's such an engrossing, fun place to be. Most current first-person shooters feel sluggish and slow by comparison.

A next-gen experience. One of the nagging issues for Xbox One and PS4 owners is that there isn't really a game that defines either console. But as I was playing "Titanfall," I couldn't help but feel that I was finally getting a chance to play a true next-generation title. Yes, this game is also available for the Xbox 360, but unlike other games available on Xbox One, the graphics and game play ooze next-gen. There is no mistaking this as a port of something that had already been released and was designed to be played on another system.

An evolved multiplayer (mostly). Sometimes when playing a multiplayer game, you'll come across a gamer who is so skilled it feels like you're on the "Make Love, Not Warcraft" episode of "South Park." You're just going to get destroyed. "Titanfall" does a better job than most of balancing a wide range of skill levels and game play styles. Whether you've put 100 hours into the game or are just starting out, "Titanfall" can still make you feel like you're succeeding with its multiplayer system.

The bad

A cumbersome multiplayer (sometimes). Playing "Titanfall" will leave you with moments so awesome your mouth with often hang agape. It can also leave you throw-your-controller-at-the-wall angry. Every now and then you'll find yourself battling against a team of much more experienced players. These matches tend to be lopsided exercises in frustration. Thankfully, Respawn is already working on correcting this issue.

Online or bust. This is a multiplayer-only game, so if Xbox Live is down, so is "Titanfall." While there is no better online gaming service than Xbox Live, it does go down on occasion, and when it does, you're left with a game you can't play.

A weak campaign offering. The story of "Titanfall" is told through several short voiceovers while your game loads. That's the extent of the plot you'll be given. What's the point of all this combat? There really isn't one. With no investment to the outcome of online battles, gamers will likely find the action unfulfilling.

The verdict

I enjoyed playing "Titanfall," but if Microsoft thinks it can Jedi Mind Trick players into thinking this is the killer app gamers are waiting for, they're sadly mistaken. An update and some DLC can certainly fix some issues, but "Titanfall" feels more like an appetizer than the main course Xbox One owners deserve.

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Terry Terrones is a veteran video game journalist. He has written for numerous publications including GamesBeat, PC World and GameZone. For his block, click here.

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