Why I'm in love with Titanfall
This isn't going to be a review for Titanfall as a game, as there are tons of good comprehensive ones out there. As a competitive gamer at heart I want to look at Titanfall as a potential eSports title.
That having been said, in case you haven't bought Titanfall yet: buy it. If you have any interest in first-person shooters, it will be well worth it. Seriously, do it. Now.
It been a long time that I've had such a blast with a shooter. Playing Titanfall feels so natural, fast and fluid. It breaks with current shooter formulas and is both old school and fresh at the same time. When was the last time you could perform mid-air instagibs?
With that out of the way, the big question is...
Is Titanfall a (big) eSports title?
Potentially, yes. A huge resounding yes. The core gameplay simply screams for competitive gaming. It's easy to pick up and get into the action, but mastering the (vertical) movement, knowing the best routes through all the maps and maximizing aiming efficiency will take a little while for most people to improve on.
That said, at the moment it's all just hypothetical as there is no way of actually doing eSports with Titanfall at the moment - as there isn't even custom matchmaking. This was a real shocker for us. However, the game's creators Respawn Entertainment have promised to patch these in (although no ETA on this yet). Same goes for other important eSports features like replays and a spectator mode - which are all missing. At the moment, it's 'only' an online public gaming shooter with automated matchmaking. And this makes my competitive heart cry.
Game mode-wise, I would love to see a big return of my all time favorite mode for clan war: Capture the Flag. Titanfall is perfectly suited for Capture the Flag because of the skills required for air-based movement and maintaining wall running momentum as well as team coordination and knowing when to attack and defend. As an example, take a look at this 17 second flag capture video:
Hardpoint Domination would also be a great competitive mode, and as there are more game modes to come, we should definitely have a good variety to choose from.
Potential issues for competitive play
A big concern of many players were the 'bots', the AI-controlled grunts filling the maps. However, one can just think of them like creeps in Dota or League of Legends. They are not like the AI bots meant to replace players in other games - they are cannon fodder which help you get your Titan faster. They aren't as big a random factor as you might think, and I don't believe they will be a problem for competitive matches.
The Burn Cards, on the other hand, are an issue, and shouldn't be allowed in 'real' matches as they may to lead to temporary unfair advantages. In public matches, this isn't a problem (even though I don't like them at all).
Titanfall doesn't have any kind of single player, but this is a good thing as the developers can focus on multiplayer. One of the many benefits of this is the huge amount of maps - it will take many hours to really master all fifteen of them, and they all seem the be very polished and balanced.
Apropos balancing, the most crucial balancing issue, and probably the most difficult one - combat between the Pilots and Titans - is perfect. Neither in a mech nor as a man do you feel a big disadvantage, even if a Titan will one-shot kill you. For the most part, the weapons also feel well-balanced - even the heavily discussed Smart Pistol does not seem to be overpowered. The regular assault rifle possibly needs some polishing, and there is definitely still some room for optimization, but nothing major.
The release of Titanfall laid down a fantastic foundation for a big, new and great online shooter franchise. It is lacking some important features, but the core mechanics are outstanding. If the missing parts are added in a reasonable timeframe, we might have a really big new eSports title.
Still not convinced about buying it? If you want to know more about Titanfall, check out the links below.