Along with our group-selected 2014 Game of the Year Awards, each member of the PC Gamer staff has independently chosen another game to commend as one of 2014's best.
Every time I publish a news story about Titanfall at least one guru pipes up in the comments to say “this game is dead”. Quite why the tide of public opinion turned against Titanfall so quickly I’ll never understand, because it’s dizzyingly fun. It’s the best multiplayer shooter I played this year, chiefly because it let me run along walls.
I played this game for hundreds of hours and I have no idea what the ‘lore’ is or why I’m shooting other people and riding inside of robots. I would boot up Titanfall of an evening for the same reason I might boot up an arcade racer, or go for a ride on my bicycle. I longed for the speed and control, the freedom to pull off tricky moves, the acrobatics. As someone who played a lot of Quake and Doom as a teenager I hate the plodding movement in most modern shooters. I hate their obsession with authenticity, their macho military bravado. Just let me double jump around in space while shooting mechs please, video games.
Thankfully Titanfall let me do that. It felt really good to play on a second-to-second basis. Even if I was not winning, even if I could not pull off a single kill, I was still having fun just getting around. Titanfall let me perform: I could feel special gliding through the levels gracefully. I fell in love the first time I rocketed into the air from a burning titan, only to land on an enemy titan on the other side of the map, all the while dispatching AI grunts from the skies. Unlike a lot of multiplayer shooters, Titanfall felt like a series of encounters rather than a roulette wheel of deaths and kills. The parkour mechanics offered the potential for a quick escape if an enemy happened to see me first. Enough time to equip a satchel charge and send them to their doom.
Since Titanfall released it feels like I’ll never play a shooter that doesn’t let me double jump again, or at the very least run very quickly. Making the switch from Titanfall’s silky, graceful, beautiful movement to, say, Wolfenstein: The New Order (also good!) was as jarring as tasting eggnog when you expect beer.
It’s definitely true that Titanfall’s community shrank a lot quicker than you would hope for a purely multiplayer experience, thanks to a longevity problem our Chris Thursten identified in his review. It was impossible to get a game of Capture the Flag last time I checked (the best vanilla mode for sure) and standard team deathmatch (Attrition in Titanfall) is a dreary, directionless experience. The modes which required you to get from point A to point B as quickly as possible (Capture the Flag, Marked For Death, Hardpoint) were the best, as they forced you to hone your traversal skills.
And that’s where the game shines: as a more violent Mirror’s Edge. It took Respawn over 6 months to release a parkour-centric game mode (Deadly Ground, a ‘the floor is lava’ mode) but it should have been there at launch. With Titanfall 2 a dead certainty, I feel like we’ll remember Titanfall as a mere promise compared to its inevitably much better and more feature complete sequel, but even as a promise it kept me and my friends occupied for months.