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This week, Zero Punctuation reviews Titanfall.

TranscriptEdit

Regular viewers are probably now snipping the heads off their topiary in surprise. "Yahtzee reviewing a multiplayer-only game?!" they cluck like farmyard hens. "But he's as comfortable with multiplayer as he is with a toddler in a waiting room with a fascination for the crotches of strange men!" Well, this may surprise you, but I've been making more of an effort to do the multiplayer thing lately, partly for therapeutic reasons. Dark Souls helped. That game feels like it's trying to wean you onto social interaction. First you find someone's note advising you to "be wary of fatty", then you hire stalwart fellows to help you out with a boss fight, none of whom have headset mics so close to their mouths that you feel like their every utterance is trying to beat your ears to death with racial epithets. The turning point came when I was invaded, but the attacker bowed upon seeing me, a gesture of recognition to mark a duel between equals. "You know what," I thought, "Maybe I don't need to be so afraid of people all the time." So while he was bowing, I ran up and stuck my halberd up his arse. "Maybe it's people who need to be afraid of me!"

But yes, Titanfall. The other reason I consider it important to review is that it's a multiplayer-only game selling at full price. Which meant Titanfall had dropped a few rungs into my shit pit even before it made me reinstall fucking Origin. The same price could easily buy you a game with solid single- and multiplayer, but it is the nature of AAA gaming nowadays to see how far it can push its luck! It's got less gameplay but we're charging full price anyway, because it's got very pretty blinky lights, and if you're very, very polite and deferential, then maybe we will give you permission to buy the game with your slimy peasant money and be amused by all the blinky lights. And by the way, we've already decided on your behalf that this game is going to be a hit, so look forward to seeing it on the side of the bus you step in front of in the inevitable, desperate attempt to end your miserable life. Sometimes I think the ideal games industry for these people would be one without any players at all, where they can just shake a jar full of of coins in front of a row of applauding monkeys and then go home with all the bananas.

Case in point: Titanfall's plot, which doesn't seem to exist for the benefit of anyone playing it. There's an evil authority with evil South African accents, and the heroic resistance, although they could have been ice cream men, for all I know. And during the campaign missions, while everyone's deathmatching away, a handful of named characters enact an ongoing radio drama over the airwaves. But it's like the instructions of pool attendants trying to be heard over a party of schoolchildren, splashing about in an orgy of screaming and urine. The moment I try paying attention to it is the moment I get hit over the head by a ten-year-old with a polystyrene floater. While the voiceover in the briefing lobby droned on about all the cool story they'd written for the next mission, I conducted a brief experiment by asking in the text chat if anyone knew what the fuck the plot was about. Most people said "nope," some people said "WAR" and then started quoting Edwin Starr lyrics, and one rather odd bloke asked me if I was Jewish.

The players are to the story what head lice is to an unpopular classmate. It's this big thing we're all scurrying about on top of, but we don't have much grasp of the concept otherwise, except that it moves around a lot and sometimes gets the steel comb out. "Oh, just ignore the story, Yahtzee." Should I? 'Cause this game is already pretty malnourished for full price and now you're telling me to additionally hack off a limb or two! Although I'm sure even with context, it's still as generic as one of the Dulux Neutrals range. You're soldiers running around a bunch of ruined buildings. We'll call that Magnolia White. Oh, but there's giant robots as well. Blimey, that's gotta take us all the way up to Barrister White, or perhaps even Quarter Ecru!

What you have here is a sort of two-level first-person shooter: First running freely about on foot in a rather appealing bunny-hoppy-rocket-jumpy Quake III Arena shooter kind of way, then after you've been knocked about a bit, you scream that you're going to come back with your big brother and summon a giant robot, which takes the level back to the current standard of shooters where you stomp slowly around, occasionally ducking behind things. But weirdly, I was actually having fun with it! I especially enjoyed killing the giant robots while on foot by ducking into a building, running up onto the roof, and firing rockets at its dumb head while it was shooting up the lobby. It was like playing a mecha Tom & Jerry.

Matchmaking is a bit arsed-up, though. Maybe it's Australia's abusive relationship with the internet, and the game's just taking the first server that doesn't run like a fat kid lashed to a plow. But for my first game, I was playing against anything up to level 40, all with better weapons than me! Maybe this is an aspirational thing. "Hey, you know that guy who's currently standing on your face and mockingly rubbing his gun barrel between your butt cheeks? Maybe some day you'll be as good as him and can get petty revenge against newbies like what you currently are! Not against him though, he just unlocked the LMG. Jeez, catch the fuck up."

In fact, you have to play through the campaign for the one side before you can do the other, so you can know for a fact that at first the other team will always be more experienced players. Admittedly, "campaign" might be too grand a word for ten five-minute deathmatches, continuing as prepared regardless of which side wins each battle. It's more like an amusement park ride, specifically the Back to the Future ride at Universal Studios. Christopher Lloyd tells you that only you can save the world, but then you just get tossed about for a while and then everything gets resolved regardless of who paid attention and who fell out and was crushed to death in the mechanism. The difference being that the Back to the Future ride didn't charge you $80 to get on!

I've got other quibbles; the interface is a bit wobbly. I don't see why it doesn't let us select a loadout while in the lobby, only once the game has started by calling up a menu over the intro sequence and further ignoring the story. Are you just embarrassed by it? But while everything around it sort of blurs together like the placeholder plot and generic visual design, I found fun in those five-minute clusterfucks. A sense of great freedom from the movement and a sense of great satisfaction from bringing down an enemy mech or squishing the pilot 'neath my steel tread. But there's just too little of it for the price and too little context to make it more than a few fun shooty moments that barely touch the sides of the vast over-used vagina it occupies. Why should I play the same missions over and over to incrementally improve my ability to play the same missions over and over? A jewel-encrusted plate cover is lifted to reveal a single cannoli in the middle of a massive white platter. A tasty cannoli, it's true, and there are plenty of seconds to be had, but do you really want to eat it when it's perfectly proportioned for shoving up EA's arse!

AddendaEdit

  • Titan your grip: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
  • I lost a hat on that Back to the Future ride once. In many ways I never really moved on, emotionally
  • I will learn to love people once all of them have given me a creme egg

ScreenshotsEdit

Episodes
2007 - 2010
2007
Q3 The Darkness Demo · Fable: The Lost Chapters · Zero Punctuation (Episode) · Heavenly Sword and Other Stuff · Psychonauts · Console Rundown · BioShock · Tomb Raider: Anniversary · Manhunt · Peggle
Q4 Halo 3 · Tabula Rasa · The Orange Box · Super Paper Mario · Medal of Honor: Airborne · The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass · Clive Barker's Jericho · F.E.A.R. Perseus Mandate · Assassin's Creed · Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock · Mass Effect
2008
Q1 Super Mario Galaxy · Silent Hill: Origins · Crysis · The Witcher · Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles · Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare · SimCity Societies · Yahtzee Goes to GDC · Uncharted: Drake's Fortune · Devil May Cry 4 · Burnout: Paradise · Turok · Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure
Q2 Army of Two · No More Heroes · Condemned 2: Bloodshot · Super Smash Bros. Brawl · God of War: Chains of Olympus · Mailbag Showdown · Grand Theft Auto IV · Painkiller · The World Ends With You · The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion · Haze · Metal Gear Solid 4
Q3 Webcomics · Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures · Alone in the Dark · Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures · The E3 Trailer Park · Ninja Gaiden II · Prince of Persia Retrospective · Soulcalibur IV · Braid · EVE Online · Too Human · Spore · XBLA Double Bill
Q4 Mercenaries 2: World in Flames · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed · S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky · Silent Hill: Homecoming · Saints Row 2 · Dead Space · Fable II · Fallout 3 · Guitar Hero: World Tour · Mirror's Edge · Left 4 Dead · Sonic Unleashed · The Year in Review - 2008 · Prince of Persia
2009
Q1 Awards for 2008 · Tomb Raider: Underworld · Far Cry 2 · Gears of War 2 · LittleBigPlanet · Thief: The Dark Project · Skate 2 · F.E.A.R. 2 · Spider-Man: Web of Shadows · The House of the Dead: Overkill · 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand · Resident Evil 5
Q2 X-Blades/Halo Wars · Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars · MadWorld · Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X · Siren: Blood Curse · The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena · Valkyria Chronicles · Velvet Assassin · Duke Nukem Forever · Bionic Commando · InFamous · The Second Annual E3 Hype Massacre · Prototype
Q3 The Sims 3 · Ghostbusters: The Video Game · Overlord 2 · Red Faction Guerrilla · Wii Sports Resort · Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood · The Conduit · Silent Hill 2 · 2.5-D Hoedown · Tales of Monkey Island · Wolfenstein · Batman: Arkham Asylum · Beatles Rock Band & Guitar Hero 5 · Darkest of Days
Q4 Scribblenauts · Wet · Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story · Brutal Legend · Washington D.C. · Uncharted 2: Among Thieves · Dragon Age: Origins · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 · Assassin's Creed 2 · Left 4 Dead 2 & New Super Mario Bros. Wii · Demon's Souls · Holiday 2009 · The Saboteur
2010
Q1 Awards for 2009 · Torchlight · Darksiders · Bayonetta · Dark Void · Borderlands · Mass Effect 2 · Dante's Inferno · BioShock 2 · Aliens vs Predator · Heavy Rain · Battlefield: Bad Company 2 · Final Fantasy XIII
Q2 April Fools 2010 · God of War III · Red Steel 2 · Just Cause 2 · Silent Hill: Shattered Memories · Splinter Cell: Conviction · Nier · Dead to Rights: Retribution · Monster Hunter Tri · Alan Wake · Red Dead Redemption · Alpha Protocol · Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands · E3 2010
Q3 No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle · Super Mario Galaxy 2 · Singularity · Crackdown 2 · DeathSpank & Limbo · Shadow of the Colossus · Split Second: Velocity · Transformers: War for Cybertron · Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days · Mafia II · Metroid: Other M · Video Game Voters Network · Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Q4 Halo: Reach · Dead Rising 2 · Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow · Enslaved: Odyssey to the West · Fallout: New Vegas · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II · Call of Duty: Black Ops · IPhone Games · Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood · Splatterhouse · Epic Mickey · Holiday 2010
2011 - 2014
2011
Q1 Top 5 of 2010 · World of Warcraft: Cataclysm · Fable III · Minecraft · A Shadow's Tale · Dead Space 2 · DC Universe Online · MindJack · Two Worlds II · Bulletstorm · Killzone 3 · Kirby's Epic Yarn · Dragon Age II
Q2 Pokémon White · Yakuza 4 · Crysis 2 · Nintendo 3DS · Portal 2 · Castlevania: Symphony of the Night · Mortal Kombat · Brink · L.A. Noire · The Witcher 2 · Hunted: The Demon's Forge · Duke Nukem Forever (for real this time) · InFamous 2
Q3 Alice: Madness Returns · Shadows of the Damned · F.E.A.R. 3 · The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D · Call of Juarez: The Cartel · Bastion and From Dust · Catherine · Red Faction: Armageddon · Deus Ex · Deus Ex: Human Revolution · Driver: San Francisco · Dead Island · Resistance 3
Q4 Gears of War 3 · Hard Reset · Rage · Kinect · Batman: Arkham City · Battlefield 3 · Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 · The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim · Saints Row: The Third · Assassin's Creed: Revelations · The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
2012
Q1 Serious Sam 3: BFE · Top 5 of 2011 · Super Mario 3D Land & Rayman Origins · Sonic Generations · Star Wars: The Old Republic · Amy · Resident Evil: Revelations · Darkness 2 · Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning · NeverDead · Syndicate · Mass Effect 3 · Twisted Metal
Q2 Yakuza: Dead Souls · Ninja Gaiden 3 · Silent Hill: Downpour · Kid Icarus: Uprising · Fez and I Am Alive · Prototype 2 · Risen 2: Dark Waters · Sniper Elite V2 · Diablo 3 · Max Payne 3 · Dragon's Dogma · E3 2012 · Lollipop Chainsaw
Q3 Quantum Conundrum · Spec Ops: The Line · Walking Dead · Inversion · The Amazing Spider-Man · Half-Life · Wreckateer and Deadlight · Steam Roundup · Sleeping Dogs · Darksiders 2 · DayZ · Guild Wars 2
Q4 Borderlands 2 · FIFA 13 · Resident Evil 6 · Dishonored · XCOM: Enemy Unknown · Medal of Honor: Warfighter & Doom 3: BFG Edition · Assassin's Creed 3 · Halo 4 · Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 · Hitman: Absolution · Far Cry 3 · ZombiU
2013
Q1 Top 5 of 2012 · Paper Mario: Sticker Star · Black Knight Sword & Hotline Miami · Anarchy Reigns · DMC: Devil May Cry · The Cave · Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch · Dead Space 3 · Aliens: Colonial Marines · Crysis 3 · Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance · Tomb Raider · SimCity
Q2 The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct · BioShock Infinite · Lego City Undercover · Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon · Injustice: Gods Among Us · Star Trek · Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon · System Shock 2 · Metro: Last Light · Next Gen Buyer's Guide · Fuse · Remember Me · E3 2013
Q3 The Last of Us · Deadpool · Animal Crossing: New Leaf · Ride to Hell: Retribution · Dark · Mario & Luigi: Dream Team · Rise of the Triad · Papers, Please & Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons · Pikmin 3 · The Bureau: XCOM Declassified · Saints Row 4 · Killer is Dead · Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs
Q4 Grand Theft Auto V · Lost Planet 3 · Beyond: Two Souls · The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD · Batman: Arkham Origins · Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag · Call of Duty: Ghosts · Exclusives Showdown · Ryse: Son of Rome · Dead Rising 3 · Super Mario 3D World
2014
Q1 Top 5 of 2013 · Knack · Killzone: Shadow Fall · Survival Special · Broken Age · Might & Magic X: Legacy · The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds · Dark Souls · Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII · Strider · Thief · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 · Dark Souls II
Q2 Titanfall · InFamous: Second Son · Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes · The Elder Scrolls Online · South Park: The Stick of Truth · FTL: Faster Than Light · Child of Day-Light · The Amazing Spider-Man 2 · Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure · Wolfenstein: The New Order · WATCH DOGS · E3 2014 · Murdered: Soul Suspect
Q3 Tomodachi Life · Enemy Front & Valiant Hearts: The Great War · Shovel Knight · EarthBound · Transistor · E.T. · Firefall · Sacred 3 · Risen 3: Titan Lords · Daikatana · Lichdom: Battlemage · The Sims 4 · Destiny
Q4 D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die · Hyrule Warriors · Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor · Alien Isolation · The Evil Within · Bayonetta 2 · Sunset Overdrive · Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare · Assassin's Creed: Unity · Far Cry 4 · Dragon Age: Inquisition · Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric · Top 5 Games of 2014
2015 - 2017
2015
Q1 The Talos Principle · Elite: Dangerous · Five Nights at Freddy's and This War of Mine · Lords of the Fallen · Saints Row: Gat out of Hell · Dying Light · Grim Fandango · Evolve · The Order: 1886 · The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D · Resident Evil Revelations 2 · Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number & Ori and the Blind Forest
Q2 Battlefield: Hardline · Bloodborne · Half-Life 2 Update · Axiom Verge & Stealth Inc 2 · Mortal Kombat X · Grand Theft Auto Online · Broken Age: Act 2 · Wolfenstein: The Old Blood · Cyberpunk Double · The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt · Splatoon · Hatred · E3 2015
Q3 Alone in the Dark: Illumination · Batman: Arkham Knight · Yoshi's Woolly World · Cave Story · Godzilla · Rocket League & Tembo the Badass Elephant · King's Quest: A Knight to Remember · Nom Nom Galaxy & Freedom Planet · Everybody's Gone To The Rapture · Volume · Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain · Mad Max · Gears of War Ultimate Edition · Until Dawn
Q4 Super Mario Maker · SOMA · Rock Band 4 · Assassin's Creed Syndicate · Halo 5: Guardians · Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 · Rise of the Tomb Raider · Fallout 4 · Star Wars: Battlefront · Just Cause 3 · Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water
2016
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2015 · Devil's Third · Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam · Assassin's Creed Chronicles · Xenoblade Chronicles X · The Witness & Bombshell · Gravity Rush · XCOM 2 · Firewatch & Layers of Fear · Far Cry Primal · Stardew Valley & SUPERHOT · The Division · Salt and Sanctuary
Q2 Republique · Shadow Warrior · Quantum Break · Dark Souls III · Ratchet & Clank · Star Fox Zero · Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door · Uncharted 4: A Thief's End · Doom · Homefront: The Revolution · Overwatch & Battleborn · Mirror's Edge: Catalyst · E3 2016
Q3 Mighty No. 9 · Inside & Shadow of the Beast · The Technomancer · Furi & Song of the Deep · I Am Setsuna · Headlander & Quadrilateral Cowboy · Quake · No Man's Sky · Grow Up · Deus Ex: Mankind Divided · Metroid Prime: Federation Force · The Curious Expedition & Mother Russia Bleeds · ReCore
Q4 Capcom Five · Clustertruck & Lichtspeer · Paper Mario: Color Splash · Mafia III · Gears of War 4 · PlayStation VR · Battlefield 1 · Titanfall 2 vs Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare · Dishonored 2 · WATCH DOGS 2 · Final Fantasy XV · The Last Guardian
2017
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2016 · Let It Die · Dead Rising 4 · Hitman · Gravity Rush 2 · Resident Evil 7 · Yakuza 0 · Nioh · For Honor · Nintendo Switch & Breath of the Wild · Horizon Zero Dawn · Nier Automata · Ghost Recon Wildlands
Q2 Mass Effect Andromeda · Yooka-Laylee · Persona 5 · Remastered Editions · Outlast 2 · Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 · Prey · Wilson's Heart · The Surge · Injustice 2 · Vanquish · E3 2017 · Strafe
Q3 Get Even · Hollow Knight / Dead Cells · Fifth Console Generation · The End is Nigh, and Yonder: Cloud Catcher Chronicles · Pyre · Splatoon 2

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