PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.
Games

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 and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Television

How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.

Music

Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.

Music

CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.

Music

Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.

Music

While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.

Music

Peter Frampton Asks "Do You Feel Like I Do?" in Rock-Solid Book on Storied Career

British rocker Peter Frampton grew up fast before reaching meteoric heights with Frampton Comes Alive! Now the 70-year-old Grammy-winning artist facing a degenerative muscle condition looks back on his life in his new memoir and this revealing interview.

Books

Bishakh Som's 'Spellbound' Is an Innovative Take on the Graphic Memoir

Bishakh's Som's graphic memoir, Spellbound, serves as a reminder that trans memoirs need not hinge on transition narratives, or at least not on the ones we are used to seeing.

Music

Gamblers' Michael McManus Discusses Religion, Addiction, and the Importance of Writing Open-Ended Songs

Seductively approachable, Gamblers' sunny sound masks the tragedy and despair that populate the band's debut album.

Books

Peter Guralnick's 'Looking to Get Lost' Is an Ode to the Pleasures of Writing About Music

Peter Guralnick's homage to writing about music, 'Looking to Get Lost', shows how good music writing gets the music into the readers' head.

Film

In Praise of the Artifice in George Cukor's 'Sylvia Scarlett'

George Cukor's gender-bending Sylvia Scarlett proposes a heroine who learns nothing from her cross-gendered ordeal.

Music

The Cure: Ranking the Albums From 13 to 1

Just about every Cure album is worth picking up, and even those ranked lowest boast worthwhile moments. Here are their albums, spanning 29 years, presented from worst to best.

Television

The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'

This is a timeless list of 20 thrilling Star Trek episodes that delight, excite, and entertain, all the while exploring the deepest aspects of the human condition and questioning our place in the universe.

Music

The 20 Best Tom Petty Songs

With today's release of Tom Petty's Wildflowers & All the Rest (Deluxe Edition), we're revisiting Petty's 20 best songs.

Joshua M. Miller
Music

The 11 Greatest Hits From "Greatest Hits" Compilations

It's one of the strangest pop microcosms in history: singles released exclusively from Greatest Hits compilations. We rounded 'em up and ranked 'em to find out what is truly the greatest Greatest Hit of all.

Music

When Punk Got the Funk

As punks were looking for some potential pathways out of the cul-de-sacs of their limited soundscapes, they saw in funk a way to expand the punk palette without sacrificing either their ethos or idea(l)s.

Music

20 Hits of the '80s You Might Not Have Known Are Covers

There were many hit cover versions in the '80s, some of well-known originals, and some that fans may be surprised are covers.

Music

The Reign of Kindo Discuss Why We're Truly "Better Off Together"

The Reign of Kindo's Joseph Secchiaroli delves deep into their latest single and future plans, as well as how COVID-19 has affected not only the band but America as a whole.

Books

Tommy Siegel's Comic 'I Hope This Helps' Pokes at Social Media Addiction

Jukebox the Ghost's Tommy Siegel discusses his "500 Comics in 500 Days" project, which is now a new book, I Hope This Helps.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

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