Ever since it was announced, Titanfall was touted as a big game for the Xbox One's first year. Though it was also coming to the PC at the same time, the focus of most previews and advertisements was the Xbox One iteration. The game was also slated for the Xbox 360, something that was barely mentioned save for console owners who were excited for the game but unwilling to invest in a newer platform. After a one-month delay, Titanfall finally hits the Xbox 360. Given the difference between cross-generational games like Battlefield 4 and Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare, how different is the Xbox 360 version from the more heavily touted one?
Titanfall is a multiplayer-only, first-person shooter that is built around two specific concepts. The first is basic ground soldier combat, which should be familiar to anyone who's played a first-person shooter in the past few years. Before you begin the game, you select between three different pre-made classes, each with its own weapon and equipment set that includes basics like assault rifles and shotguns and more exotic weaponry, such as cloaking devices and automatic pistols with lock-on. Aside from the standard running and jumping, your soldier has a jetpack for rocket-assisted jumps, essentially giving you a double-jump. You can also do wall runs and automatically clamber up platforms and outcroppings. Given your fast movement speed and these parkour-style abilities, fighting is both a horizontal and vertical affair. You can quickly dash between buildings and reach roofs at a pace that reminds veteran gamers of older fast titles, like Quake and Unreal Tournament, but with some modern attributes, like regenerative health and faster kills.
The second concept is your titan, a big hulking robot. As expected, the titan is a lumbering beast that can't jump but can dash. Like the basic ground soldier, the titan comes in three classes and has a small assortment of weapons. It also has a shield that catches incoming projectiles and tosses them back at the opposition. Even though the natural inclination is to board and control the titan, you can also get out and set it to guard a specific spot or follow you. It acts as an extra source of firepower that is powerful and imprecise but can squash opposing soldiers in its path.
There's a delicate balancing act with the faster soldiers and slower titans, and it works quite well during combat. Soldiers can be easily killed by titans, but their mobility makes them harder to target in closed areas. Their anti-titan weapons pack a decent punch but are slow to reload, so their ability to rodeo a titan is a viable technique. On the flipside, calling down a titan from the sky to crush an enemy is always satisfying, and the chance to eject before your titan explodes gives you a second chance at life. Titan melee attacks are almost certainly one-hit kills for soldiers, and performing a melee attack on a titan that's near death also rewards you with pilot kills.
There are other things done in the name of balance and fun. Leveling is still in place, and class/titan customizations and new weaponry are hidden behind those upgrades, but the default weapon sets are powerful enough that a good player can stick with them and rack up a good number of kills. The perk system, which some have complained has become too powerful in the hands of skilled players, has been removed in favor of burn cards. Players can only carry up to three burn cards per match, and they can only be operated once someone dies. Card attributes may include increased speed or increased XP gain but nothing as devastating as a nuclear strike or a mobile airborne gun turret.
Perhaps the most interesting of these mechanics is the grunts. Much like their roles in MOBA titles, grunts are weak soldiers designed to move in groups and easily die. As such, it takes pure luck or a completely inattentive player to be killed by them, especially since they aren't smart enough to take over objectives or call upon titans. While they may seem useless, they serve several purposes. Even though they're worth the least amount of points, killing grunts reduces the time period you have between titan drops, so hunting them down means getting to your titan faster. They are also a good boost for less-adept players. Though new players may keep getting decimated by more skilled players, they can still feel like they're contributing by picking off waves of grunts, resulting in some fun for players who may not be overly dedicated to the title.
Titanfall comes with several different multiplayer modes that are all quite familiar despite their new monikers. Attrition is the standard team deathmatch mode, where you score points for actions like making kills and calling on your titan. Capture the Flag is self-explanatory, and Hardpoint has each team trying to take over checkpoints to attain points. Last Titan Standing gives the game a mechanized Counter-Strike feel, as everyone automatically has a titan but only one life for the round. Pilot Hunter takes the Attrition formula but only attributes points to player kills, with grunt and titan kills not counting.
The final mode, Campaign, takes on a novel approach in conveying the backstory. In essence, the game takes you through a preset map list with a chosen faction and has you play with predetermined modes. It isn't any different from the rest of the game, but the only indication you're in Campaign are somewhat extended pre-battle cut scenes and lobby dialogue that explains what's going on. The approach could work if there was anything interesting to see or hear. The story isn't that exciting, and while it is great that the game lets you progress whether you win or lose a match, you don't feel invested in a predictable story you've heard a few times before in different games. It is worth checking out for the two extra titan models you get, but that's about it.
What was omitted or modified for the transition from the Xbox One to the Xbox 360 version? Not much, really. The player count remains at 12, and the grunts are still there in roughly the same numbers. The level count remains at 15, and the ones that featured sentient creatures in the background still have them present. The online performance is rock solid, with none of the growing pains seen in the game's first few days on the Xbox One version. It's even getting the same patches in a timely manner compared to the other two versions. From a gameplay standpoint, the only change is the reduction in the number of grunts seen during Last Titan Standing matches, and even then, the change feels insignificant since you're concentrating on the titans.
The major difference between the versions is in the graphics. If you slow down to observe the environments, you'll notice the textures aren't as sharp and the polygon count for a number of the objects is much lower, removing some of the roundness. The particle effects aren't as abundant, and the lighting is toned down, so soldiers show a bit more against the environment. There's also a lower draw distance, but curiously, no texture or object pop-in. The frame rate also runs uncapped, so it jumps between 30-60fps, depending on what's happening on-screen. It never drops below 30, but screen tearing is very apparent, and those who want to get rid of that have the option of locking it down to 30fps at all times.
What is amazing, however, is the rest of the game's presentation is so close in quality to its more powerful brethren. Despite the limitations, the models and environments are still beautiful. The titans are rather imposing, and animations are quite smooth. In still shots, the parity is so close between this and the Xbox One version that only those with very keen eyes or who have played an extensive amount of the newer console version can tell the difference. In motion, the game still moves at a quick pace, so taking the time to look at blurry textures gets you killed rather swiftly. The audio track features full Dolby Digital surround and samples that sound the same as the other versions to the untrained ear. The developer, Bluepoint, has to be commended for delivering the same experience to hardware that should be incapable of pulling off some of these feats while forcing Respawn to step up when it comes to the inevitable Titanfall 2. The only caveat is you need a hard drive, so the game can do an installation of necessary files. Flash drives and the 4GB of internal memory in the HDD-less models of the 360 console won't work in this case.
The Xbox 360 version of Titanfall is definitely the weakest version of the game thus far but only if you care about looks. The frame rate might not be at the sweet spot for multiplayer shooting aficionados, and some of the graphical elements aren't as sharp in some spots. Having said that, the game makes no other concessions for the weaker platform in any other areas. The overall presentation is nothing short of impressive, the online performance is close to flawless, and even though the gameplay isn't revolutionary, its focus on fun and fast gameplay without feeling that you're being hopelessly overpowered is fresh enough when compared to the multiplayer experiences in most modern triple-A shooters. Those who are sticking with the eight-year-old platform are being rewarded with a great multiplayer experience and shouldn't hesitate to add this game to their multiplayer libraries.
More articles about Titanfall