It has been a long time since I have played a shooter and have not thought to myself; "Oh this is a variation of Call of Duty." That was until Titanfall had its beta recently, and finally I felt like I was playing a game that was not inspired by the same mechanics that appeared to be recycled for the past 6 years.
When the 360's major title Halo 3 hit in 2007, I found myself having a great time with Master Chief's latest adventure, but it was still just more Halo. I like many others were eagerly awaiting the next big thing that a new wave of consoles would bring, and when Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare hit, I like many others were blown away by the sheer amount of enjoyment I was getting from a console Shooter that did not have the name Halo in it.
Modern Warfare started something big for games, and for a while every single developer wanted to get in on the excitement and make their own flavor of a modern shooter. At that time it was acceptable, because Call of Duty took a year off from the Modern Warfare style and released a WWII shooter, and the market was not flood of modern era shooters.
As time went on, every gamer started noticing a trend that every shooter they picked up was some spin on Call of Duty. From Homefront to Medal of Honor, everything that seemed to be somewhat different ended up being a spin on the Call of Duty Formula. This was on top of the annual releases we saw from Activision and the COD franchise. Infinity Ward had created something that started out as the next big thing, but then turned the FPS genre into a 5 year cycle of the same recycled mechanics. Even the big first party games like Halo took design ideas from COD, and implemented similar features in games like Halo Reach and Halo 4.
As Microsoft introduced the Xbox One and Sony revealed the PlayStation 4, that trend did not seem to falter. Call of Duty: Ghosts was coming along both consoles' release, and to no one's surprise ended up being the most popular game on both platforms. It seemed that this trend was going to follow gaming even longer, and probably hinder the progress of game design for even longer. I thought that same thing until I played Titanfall.
Titanfall logo pilot running
Respawn entertainment is the group of developers that actually inspired the COD revolution back in 2007, so part of me thought that Titanfall would be "Call of Duty with mechs" as a lot of the world called it when trailers hit at E3 2013. In a Few ways that is true, but Titanfall is so much more than just a game with guns and mechs, which brings me faith that possibly this trend of having the same game repackaged over and over will finally start coming to an end.
Titanfall does borrow some things from Call of Duty, which is to be expected since it is essentially coming from the team that made Modern Warfare, but Respawn has been very careful to make sure that Titanfall feels unique and different. While the menus and upgrade system seem to be identical, the other 90% of the game play feels fresh. I ended up playing the beta for more than 15 hours, and not once did I say to myself, this is just a call of duty with mechs. That was such a relief and gives me a little glimmer of hope that this era of the realistic modern shooter will start to end, and gamers will start getting some fresh new shooters and not recycled content.
Activision is still going to make Call of Duty games, and even recently announced that they are moving to a 3 year cycle on the Call of Duty development cycle, but with the release of Titanfall this March maybe Activision will see that even Call of Duty needs Some sort of shake up. If you look at the reviews for Call of Duty: Ghosts you will see that it did not review very well compared to previous titles. I was given the opportunity to review Ghosts on the PC, and I honestly thought it was a rushed game that had zero inspiration. Most importantly, I felt as if the entire Call of Duty genre was focused on how many weapons you unlock and how high your rank can go, instead of focusing on how much you are having while playing.
Fun factor was a word that was used a bit in the 90's and early 2000's by game reviewers, but overtime that idea seems to of vanished. Now the trend seems to be stuck on realism and graphics instead of fun, which is something that needs to change sooner rather than later. Titanfall is the best example of a game that's releasing that is about fun first. It is not the most impressive game visually by any means, and in many ways uses dated technology such as the source engine, but not once did I think Titanfall was a poor quality game because of its visuals.
I think Titanfall will be that game that makes developers look at their game and focus on enjoyment instead of the most cutting edge realism and graphics. It might not really push this idea until the inevitable Titanfall 2, or it could even be a different game that really pushes this mentality, but Titanfall will be the game that starts a new movement in high budget game design.