Despite the awkwardness of the Xbox One launch, Microsoft managed to put together a strong lineup of exclusives for the launch time, including Killer Instinct, RYSE: Son of Rome, and my personal favourite, Titanfall.
It was the year 2014. With a rocky Xbox One launch, Microsoft completely shattered its brand image. We were blissfully unaware of the nonstop roller coaster of catastrophic international events that would unravel less than a decade later. It was also the first year I began writing as a pastime, in between shifts at my old IT work, a little Xbox here, a little Windows Phone there.
Today, Respawn Entertainment, now part of EA, announced that Titanfall 1 is leaving storefronts for good, and won’t be welcoming new players. It pledged to keep the dedicated servers online for the time being, but we all know that it won’t be forever.
Titanfall as an IP lives on in the success of the titan-less (for now) Apex Legends, EA’s unlikely smash-hit battle royale that saw Respawn head Vince Zampella promoted to the upper echelons of EA’s creative output. Fans, however, cry out for a faithful sequel to Titanfall 2 amidst vague hints from both Respawn and EA.
Titanfall was Respawn’s first game, and probably the first game I truly fell in love with last gen. Its unique blend of unmistakable Call of Duty: Modern Warfare DNA spliced with truly ambitious tactical “titan” mech gameplay was unlike anything we’d seen on the market. And even now, its successor, Titanfall 2, remains an oasis of uniqueness in a AAA games industry that at times feels like it’s running out of ideas.
With Titanfall 1 riding off into the sunset, I reflect back on what made it so utterly incredible, and why cynicism makes me wonder if it was the last twitch-styled shooter I may ever truly love.
Among the ashes and chaos of Microsoft’s Xbox One pitch, Respawn cut through the drama with a console exclusive like lightning through darkened skies. Titanfall was among the first titles Microsoft used to showcase its vague promises around how Xbox One would utilize the “cloud” to power next-gen gaming experiences. It’s a tad ironic considering the cloud has technically been a staple part of the Xbox diet long before it became a marketing phrase, typically in the form of dedicated servers for multiplayer games. Even in 2021, Microsoft is still trying to figure out what a fully cloud-native game might look like according to reports, but that’s a discussion for another time.
With regards to Titanfall, I remember Microsoft making a large deal out of how the game’s swarming AI mobs had their behaviors calculated remotely, away from your local Xbox. It’s weird looking back how little about the game I knew beyond the fact it was using the cloud in some way. I ended up grabbing it because it just looked awesome. I saw huge robots across rich extraterrestrial worlds and lumbering alien behemoths in the background, with sci-fi weaponry that also looked authentic and grounded in reality. Titanfall was truly inspired, and given the game’s pedigree, it’s not hard to see why.
Respawn Entertainment literally respawned out of Infinity Ward’s notorious litigation between Zampella and others, who alledged parent company Activision had cheated them out of owed royalties. After all, Zampella and his team were responsible for Call of Duty’s rise into the mega-hit that it is today, on the backs of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare and the technology powering the various spin-offs and sequels. Titanfall had all the best aspects of Call of Duty, with reactive, and restlessly satisfying gunplay execution, with thoughtful map designs and, crucially, tons of reasons to keep returning to the game.