And so the latest twist in this generation's saga unfolds. Can Titanfall live up to expectations?
Why do you game? To challenge yourself? To witness spectacular visuals? To spend time with your friends?Any number of these reasons, and more, are valid but the holy grail for any developer is to hit that sweet spot which compels fans to return. To deliver an experience which has people excitedly swapping stories, creating wikis and counting the hours until their next session. If you have a passing interest in videogames, and have opened a web browser in the last seven days, you have likely been confronted with the now meme-worthy question.Have you seen Titanfall?
Having been teased by glowing previews, exciting trailers and vidocs since E3 2013, last week saw the beta for this multiplayer first person shooter trickle out to a select few until, eventually, the floodgates opened allowing everyone on Xbox One and PC to get a taste.
The response has been overwhelmingly positive. Respawn Entertainment appear to have done what they do best, freed from the shackles of Call Of Duty they focused on refining and expanding the formula we have all become accustomed to since Call of Duty 4 introduced it 7 years ago. Wisely pulling in elements from other games such as Halo and Mirrors Edge resulting in a game which is instantly familiar but different enough to feel fresh. Unless the full game pulls an evil villain type last act twist they appear to be onto a winner.
So surprise, good first person shooter developer makes another good first person shooter. At any other point this would be a cause for celebration with fans playing together having fun and reveling in their new shared experience. The fact it comes at the beginning of a console cycle and is not appearing on the PS4 changes all that.
The PS4 is on a roll; the ongoing narrative on-line is clear, the console is cheaper, multi-platform games continue to perform better with higher frame rates and resolutions and Sony have largely reversed the dark days of Ken Kutaragi announcing $599 dollars and massive crab damage. For Microsoft, though, the third console curse of arrogance has been in full effect, from the Digital DRM always on-line back-pedal, delivering an ongoing masterclass in how to alienate and confuse people whilst proliferating everyone's least favourite trend in gaming, microtransactions.
Most viewing this battle from an isometric view would probably be ready to call it right now, news stories of the PS4 outselling the competition 2:1 and multi-platform launch games selling better on the platform would seem to put the writing on the wall. There is only one last battle to be won, the largest battle, the only battle that matters, the games.
Titanfall is a great match for the system, focused completely on multiplayer, even replacing the traditional campaign with the as yet unseen “campaign multiplayer”, it plays directly to the strengths of the Xbox brand. Having been the de facto platform for online console gaming last gen, Titanfall stands side by side with Microsoft selling the virtues of “the cloud” offering dedicated servers and offloading non-player activity like physics and AI.
It’s not quite a golden goal yet, though, the title is coming out on the Xbox 360, albeit delayed and suspiciously clouded in secrecy, some might suggest the game performs adequately fine on last gen hardware and detracts from the goal of tempting current 360 owners to upgrade, hence the convenient delay. The fact it exists, at all, is puzzling and it feels like Microsoft didn't put enough zeros on the cheque to make it truly exclusive to the Xbox One; or simply wasn't confident enough to leave the last gen sales on the table.
As it stands, both the Xbox 360 and PC versions are in great danger of cannibalising not just the Xbox One version of the game but the console itself. The PC version will undoubtedly look and run better if you have the hardware and the Xbox 360 version won’t require a £500 outlay to get what might not be a drastically worse experience. It boils down to whether Titanfall can offset the weaknesses of the system and entice those waiting for an excuse to pull the trigger. Console specifications don’t create successful consoles, games do.
We gamers can have an innate tendency to navel gaze and miss the larger trends on the horizon. Laughing one second at crazy Nintendo announcing their ridiculously named underpowered console and a few months later frantically refreshing spreadsheets of stock levels to find the now wildly popular hardware. If a message - or a trend - hits the zeitgeist as much as we dislike it there is nothing we can do about it, two words: Flappy Bird.
Those of us that visit the news sites and populate wikis make up almost all of the voices you hear in comments and threads but at the tills the mainstream is where the real money lies. Those buyers are the ones who have yet to purchase either console, deterred by the high price and the shallow libraries; they are happy basking in the comfort of their “old” hardware. They don’t care what they play their games on, they care what games they play on it.
And so the latest twist in this generations saga unfolds. Can Titanfall live up to expectations? If it successfully punches through to the mainstream audience could it deliver the boost Microsoft needs? Could they finally dig themselves out of the hole they have been digging for the last 12 months?
Is Titanfall the (Xbox) One?
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