Sorry Xbox One Fans, But Titanfall Isn't Perfect And It's Lowering Our Standards

Titanfall

I feel I should lead with this: I like Titanfall. A lot. I've played it a sh-tload the last couple weeks and plan on playing it a lot more. I don't secretly get paid by Sony and I don't own a PS4. I'm an Xbox guy and I like a lot of things about Titanfall, but this column isn't about what's right with Titanfall. It's about what's wrong with Titanfall and, by extension, what's wrong with us. Xbox One owners. Gamers in general, really. Because as much as we like to piss and moan in forums and comments sections about framerates and install times and lots of other myopic, nitpicky complaints the fact remains that we're being ignorant. That we're letting the industry convince us that less is more.

I'll start with the most common Titanfall complaint, and the one most frequently glossed over by the major press. Titanfall has no campaign. And plenty of respectable websites will tell you that Titanfall doesn't need one. I said the same in my initial review. But while I was playing last night a newcomer to the game asked a room full of Titanfall vets the following:

"Why are the IMC and Militia fighting each other?"

The response: Silence.

Nobody really knew. We all kind of laughed it off as non-important but it's true. Titanfall doesn't even make an attempt to reinforce the identity of each side in the conflict. An even better question for Titanfall fans is this: who would you cosplay as? A titan, maybe. Or dress like a pilot. But it'd be tough to see someone dressed as a pilot and know, immediately, they're from Titanfall. There is no narrative and no connection with the pathos of the fanbase. You couldn't even wear a nametag.

But the industry tells us that the multiplayer is so fantastic you will care less about having a campaign. The logic is sound, especially as far as the FPS genre goes. Most shooters are multiplayer-centric affairs anyway, and one need only look at the recent COD and BF games to know that the single-player campaigns are an afterthought.

But they're necessary to justify the $60 price tag. Try to imagine what would've happened if Ghosts or BF4 had announced that last year's game would have no campaign. Do you really think The Verge or IGN would just give it a pass? Would say "Oh, the multiplayer is really the focus of COD anyway and we applaud their decision to skip a single player campaign?" I seriously doubt it. But we were convinced that Titanfall is the future and we bought it so eagerly that we failed to notice that the future is a raw deal for consumers.

Believe me, the industry is going to follow Titanfall's lead. The sales are strong, the hype and reception are of epic proportions and, above all, abandoning single-player development frees up a lot of room on the balance sheet. No cut scenes, minimal voice work and none of that pesky narrative writing to get in the way of pushing out an easily annualized product. And we're supposed to accept it as normal because, after all, the multiplayer is so great, right?

Wrong.

Titanfall released with a season pass. This is a pretty standard feature for games these days but, with no single player campaign, the Titanfall DLC will be nothing but multiplayer content. Multiplayer content is basically just a fancy way of saying maps. And anyone who ever tinkered with Halo's forge mode can tell you that designing a map isn't particularly challenging. Yes, it can be time consuming. I'm sure Respawn has teams of people working on giving us the best maps possible, but it's not like we got a great deal of maps for our $60.

Titanfall only has 15 maps. It's not alone. COD: Ghosts had 14 and BF4 had just ten. To put that in perspective, Goldeneye 64 has 21 maps and was released 17 years ago. How is it that nearly two decades later we're getting less content for more money? Because the industry has been slowly leeching content out of the FPS genre for some time.

Titanfall proves that it's now totally acceptable to pay full price for a multiplayer only game with limited features. (Goldeneye 64 had 4-player split screen co-op, too. Remember that?) All of Titanfall is 15 maps and five game modes. There's no free-for-all, no private matches and no horde mode. More game modes are coming free, thankfully, but other than some rumors about monsters and a promise of no new titan classes we don't know a whole lot about the next Titanfall DLC. Except that it will be one of three coming out this year. Three DLC in nine months and we know nothing about any of them.

They say the greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist.

His second greatest trick? The invention of the DLC season pass.

It is my belief that Respawn's Titanfall was once a complete game that was stripped of its features by corporate suits looking to sell DLC. Or are we really supposed to believe that the tireless efforts of some of the best FPS developers in gaming history only managed to design 15 maps in four years for a multiplayer-only game? With a $60 price tag gamers have basically said we're willing to pay $4 per map. So don't expect any double digits in the Titanfall DLC, either. My guess is we'll get two or three maps and maybe a gun or two for our $10. And we'll pay it. And then we'll get some free game modes that used to be industry standard and we'll say "thank you sir, may I have another?" We're only making it worse.

The most depressing aspect of Titanfall's imperfections is how readily gamers (myself included) overlooked them as we eyed a new and exciting FPS experience. The genre has become stale because of all the annualized titles with terrorists/zombies ambling around that we were hungry for something new. Enter Titanfall, with it's three-story mechs and intuitive fundamentals, and we were bedazzled.

What worries me is the ripple effect this infatuation is going to have. Gamers have said loud and clear we will pay full price for half a game. Titanfall's newness is what we love, not what it actually delivers. Swap out the name for any other FPS franchise. Would you be happy with an always-online Call of Duty or Battlefield 4 with just two squads?

We're witnessing the beginning of the end of single-player campaigns for FPS games. But the anti-single player business isn't limited to shooters. The RPG genre is already starting to disappear. The first major RPG of the next generation is Elder Scrolls Online, an MMO. We won't have an epic single player game until Dragon Age: Inquisition this fall, nearly a year after the next-gen systems launched. After that, The Witcher 3 in February 2015. After that, Fallout 4 "never." After that? Who knows?

The overall direction of the FPS genre and AAA gaming as a whole are way beyond the scope of what I'm getting at. Titanfall is just a symptom of this larger disease of giving gamers less content at higher costs. But instead of looking for a cure we're just looking for prettier, flashier diseases. Until gamers start putting content ahead of hype and begin voting with their dollars then there will always be a strong corporate voice behind what we play and what we buy.

Titanfall isn't the first to undersell us, and it won't be the last.

 

 

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