“Well, it’s not a thing where you’re always playing a story.”
Those are the words of Titanfall producer Drew McCoy last August, who, when asked how the game managed to balance the need for a memorable story with the complexities of a multiplayer experience, tried to downplay the importance of the game world’s premise.
Comically, those words couldn’t be truer: you’re never playing a story in Titanfall because it simply doesn’t exist.
Even when you trek the strangely unimportant campaign mode, there’s literally no substance to what you’re doing. And boy oh boy does it turn out to be one of the biggest missed opportunities of recent times.
What’s In A Campaign?
Titanfall’s campaign is unique in that it doesn’t really tell a story: it just blends together certain elements of the world’s conflict with competitive matches you find in the game’s “classic” multiplayer mode.
The question was put to gamers a long time ago: do games like Call of Duty or Battlefield even need a strong story? If you want your game to have a personality, then yes, you do.
In Titanfall’s case, it’s saved by a very, very enthralling multiplayer experience. But unlike the CoDs and Battlefields, Titanfall has a fresh, exciting lore that hasn’t been fleshed out.
Vince Zampella says this first game is meant to set the foundations: from a branding perspective, sure, certainly as a multiplayer shooter. But as a sci-fi world in the middle of a civil war, it needs a legend. And in Titanfall, one doesn’t exist.
Well, it does. The legend is you. I get that. But even Call of Duty at its lowest point had Captain Price: the general consensus is that no one cares about Call of Duty’s campaigns, yet so many people know (and love) Captain Price. Funny, hey?
It’s encouraging that from the very beginning Respawn has been relatively upfront about Titanfall. “It’s a story you’ll play through but it is a multiplayer game,” McCoy bluntly told me during our chat. And perhaps with this first entry, we have a game that is so aggressively focused on perfecting its multiplayer offering.
Yet I’m left wanting to know more about Hammond Robotics. About the real beginnings of the conflict. About the people involved. About the 98% of pilots that supposedly die during training (as noted on a pre-match loading screen). That sounds like something I would want to see actually playing out. Two cadets, close friends, training to be pilots. Statistically, both will die during training. In this case, one will survive. How would that be for space opera!?
I don’t feel Titanfall’s nonexistent narrative is a deal breaker, although I suspect that for some that wanted at least a little substance added to the game’s premise, there will be a disappointment.
But fear not: when the titan does eventually drop, there’s a truly breathtaking competitive experience to be had.
It’s just disappointing that the game world doesn’t really tell us why we should care.