PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.


On the Frontier's Edge with 'Titanfall'

Riding into the great unknown in the belly of a metal beast. This beast also has a machine gun.

Titanfall’s second DLC pack, Frontier’s Edge is out and the name couldn’t be more fitting. It’s not really because of the in-game thematic meaning; the Titanfall’s unobtrusive space imperialists vs. space rebels remains an interesting, yet relatively unimportant backdrop. The idea of the frontier is more of a meta theme. Where does the game go from here and am I going to be able to follow?

“How did he do that?”

When it comes to competitive multiplayer games, I’m a casual bandwagon jumper. I rarely get in on the ground floor and usually sample a game during its popularity only to flit to the next thing that captures my attention In a break from my usual habits, I started Titanfall on launch day and have been relatively faithful to it for almost six months.

Still, it’s been hard to keep up. In the early days, I would hover around the top third of the rankings for any given match, but that has begun to slip. I miss a weekend here and there and suddenly people just seem to see me before I know what’s going on. I’ve hit the level cap several times, but I’m still usually one of the lowest level people in a match. It’s still frustrating to see that kill cam pop up after something from across the map blows me up, but those precious few seconds have become my curriculum. I now have to meticulously study my own demise in order to have any hope of beating what I imagine to be an army of cybernetically-enhanced teens with more time than money.

I want to deny it, but I may be approaching the boundaries of my skill. While others blaze a trail with new techniques and increasingly high kill-death ratios, I might have to settle down and start a farm.

Rebooting the HUD

Months after its release, Titanfall continues to receive meaningful balance patches and feature enhancements. However, these enhancements call attention to some of the game’s usability challenges. It’s hard to describe clunky menus and difficult workflows, so I made a video instead:

Titanfall already had a lot going on and unfortunately those that play it the most will feel the pain of its interface limits most acutely.

War Has Changed

The biggest question Titanfall's latest update raises is more existential in nature. What is the fate of a traditionally-priced multiplayer shooter in today’s video game landscape?

I still admire Titanfall’s approach to addressing nearly everything that bothers me about Call of Duty’s mechanics. Other than the obvious inclusion of huge mechs, Titanfall brings a sense of speed and mobility back to the FPS scene that I haven’t felt since Quake 3. The Titans and burn cards take the place of perks but instead of being locked away and doled out to only the best players, they allow the losing side to turn the tide and give leaders the chance to prove their skill when they’re outgunned. The MOBA-inspired dynamic of downing AI infantry for faster bonuses is a brilliant way to add some long-term strategy into the match, and it’s something I’m sure we’ll see in more games very soon.

Still, Titanfall doesn’t quite feel like the genre-altering event that Halo or Modern Warfare were. Perhaps it's that the oft-ignored single player modes of those games are more important than we realize. A story and characters (even a silly ones) make a game easier to market in a cinematic way. Another very real possibility is that the multiplayer landscape has shifted to the MOBA space. Dota 2 and League of Legends are leading the way but behind them is an army of other team-based RTS games. Perhaps their best weapon is their price, or rather the lack thereof. In a world dominated by free-to-play multiplayer experiences, a developer that emphatically states NO MICROTRANSACTIONS! may be choosing nobility at the expense of liquidity.

I hope that this isn’t the case because Titanfall blazes some promising new paths. It’s taken me to what feels like the edge of my FPS skills and is straining against some of its internal boundaries. At this point, the Frontier’s Edge could the start of a new way forward or the beginning of a journey’s end.

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.





'A Peculiar Indifference' Takes on Violence in Black America

Pulitzer Prize finalist Elliott Currie's scrupulous investigation of the impacts of violence on Black Americans, A Peculiar Indifference, shows the damaging effect of widespread suffering and identifies an achievable solution.


20 Songs From the 1990s That Time Forgot

Rather than listening to Spotify's latest playlist, give the tunes from this reminiscence of lost '90s singles a spin.


Delightful 'Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day' Is Good Escapism

Now streaming on Amazon Prime, Bharat Nalluri's 2008 romantic comedy, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, provides pleasant respite in these times of doom and gloom.


The 10 Best Horror Movie Remakes

The horror genre has produced some remake junk. In the case of these ten treats, the update delivers something definitive.


Flirting with Demons at Home, or, When TV Movies Were Evil

Just in time for Halloween, a new Blu-ray from Kino Lorber presents sparkling 2K digital restorations of TV movies that have been missing for decades: Fear No Evil (1969) and its sequel, Ritual of Evil (1970).


Magick Mountain Are Having a Party But Is the Audience Invited?

Garage rockers Magick Mountain debut with Weird Feelings, an album big on fuzz but light on hooks.


Aalok Bala Revels in Nature and Contradiction on EP 'Sacred Mirror'

Electronic musician Aalok Bala knows the night is not a simple mirror, "silver and exact"; it phases and echoes back, alive, sacred.


Clipping Take a Stab at Horrorcore with the Fiery 'Visions of Bodies Being Burned'

Clipping's latest album, Visions of Bodies Being Burned, is a terrifying, razor-sharp sequel to their previous ode to the horror film genre.


Call Super's New LP Is a Digital Biosphere of Insectoid and Otherworldly Sounds

Call Super's Every Mouth Teeth Missing is like its own digital biosphere, rife with the sounds of the forest and the sounds of the studio alike.


Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.


15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.


Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.


Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.


Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.


Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.


The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.


British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.


Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.