While I would argue that 2014 has been a decent year for video games (it’s certainly not as bad as many have made out), it still lacked any one genuinely killer title. There were plenty of very decent releases this year and plenty of pleasant surprises (Shadow of Mordor, South Park, Evil Within etc), but the transition between generations has certainly come with its fair share of teething problems and a period in which developers have clearly struggled to find their feet on the new platforms. From a lack of innovation to, well, technically unfinished games, despite the many high points, the majority are likely to remember 2014 for all the wrong reasons.
In fairness, the Wii U is beyond that point and is perhaps the reason that many of this year’s finest games landed on Nintendo’s struggling home console. Believe me, when running through my favourite games of the year, Bayonetta 2, Mario Kart 8 and Smash Bros. were all in the conversation, and while Mario Kart 8 nearly nabbed pole position, it was the Xbox One’s, Titanfall that ultimately stole the crown.
I appreciate that it’s something of a controversial choice and that opinion of Respawn Entertainment’s exemplary shooter has taken something of a nosedive in the months since its release, but I can honestly say that I have never enjoyed a competitive online shooter this much, and thanks to some pretty solid map packs and the inclusion of the co-op based, Frontier Defence, has proved a game that I have gone back to time and again in 2014.
For somebody who rarely dips a toe in to the unforgiving world of competitive online shooters, to find myself not only still playing but still thoroughly enjoying Titanfall so long after its initial release is testament to the games’ quality and, well, probably to my love of giant mech killing machines.
As great as the Titans might be though, it is the core gameplay that holds everything together and allows those classic Titanfall moments to really shine. Of course, we all remember the first time we witnessed our Titan breaking orbit and hitting the ground with a resoundingly satisfying crunch, but those moments are all held together by the perfectly balanced structure of what is one of the technically finest video games around.
The fundamentals of this game are absolutely rock solid with the gunplay strongly influenced by the developers past work on the Call of Duty series. That core solidity to the gunplay, which is often overlooked, has allowed for a shooter that embraces movement, fluidity and extremes more than any other out there. The wall running, the double jump – it all feels perfectly natural from the very first moment you pick up the controller. A combination of exemplary level design and pitch perfect controls ensure that the verticality of levels is immediately appreciable and the speed in which you can move a totally natural extension of those familiar core controls. The Burn Cards, the power ups and abilities, they all just work……they’re all balanced.
And that’s the games’ greatest strength – its balance. It’s all well and good throwing 30 foot Titans in to the middle of a competitive shooter, but unless you can actually take them down, unless you still feel like a threat when on foot, then the whole experience would descend in to a mindless chase for Titan control. Instead, Respawn have created an experience in which, while being in a Titan is usually beneficial, a combination of other mechs and powerful anti-Titan weaponry ensure that there are genuine pros and cons to both being on foot and encased in a Titan.
Yes, it was a little content shy at launch and I for one would have loved a ‘proper’ single player experience, but right from the off, Titanfall delivered on the experience promised, and for my money the best online shooter money can buy. It was great then and it’s even better now. Many will inevitably scoff at my choice (and that’s totally cool), but as far as I’m concerned, Titanfall was the game of 2014.
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