Developer: Respawn Entertainment
Fluid parkour and massive robots are all well and good, but Titanfall's maps are the unsung stars of the show. Wide enough to accommodate hulking exoskeletons, tall enough to let us exploit our enhanced mobility, nuanced enough to allow for expressive gameplay in each match yet compact enough to force twelve players into flashpoints, they're an absolute masterpiece of design, form and function.
And now we have three more of them courtesy of Expedition: the first of Titanfall's lightweight season pass map packs that clocks in at an equally lightweight £7.99.
So as always we'll take each map in turn, discuss whether or not they provide reasonable value, and then have an overdue chat about Titanfall's more urgent concerns. It's very much a case of the great, the good and the ugly.
Let's start with WarGames: the first map to be announced. This virtual battlefield is set within a training simulator, right down to the custom pre-match introduction and VR enemies that dissolve into pixels when killed, offering unique visual flair thanks to its neon-edged platforms and eyecatching glitchy design. A central tower plays host to desperate close-quarters warfare, while various thematic zones and wide streets are linked together by lofty wallrun paths that itch to be explored.
It's utterly fantastic. Indeed, it might even be the finest map in the entire game.
Respawn promised a parkour paradise and succeeded. Your route through the map, whether hunting grunts or pursuing a flag carrier, is dynamic and organic; presenting you with a cornucopia of multiple paths that take you across the stage in a trice. Over rooftops you'll scamper, through buildings and across the streets even as Titans duke it out below. A varied mix of engagement ranges and perfectly-placed Hardpoint locations with plenty of potential breaching points put the cherry on the cake.
Titans have a ball too thanks to the complex layout lending itself to flanking manoeuvres, though beware a bottomless pit during dash-heavy brawls. Pro Tip: it's bright red and you can eject before it's too late [no new Titanfail videos then, Jon? -Ed].
Moving on and Swamplands is no slouch either, despite being initially rather disorienting. Without much in the way of landmarks to get your bearings, this swathe of open woodland centred around a cluster of buildings would be unremarkable were it not for the dense towering trees that litter the battlefield. Once you've found your feet, you'll start to indulge your inner predator.
Yes, I'm talking about the Arnie flick. You'll soon find yourself jumping from trunk to trunk, glomming on to bombard foes below with satchel charges or hurtling down onto unwary enemies for stylish stealth kills. Like WarGames, Respawn have clearly laboured to make their fluid parkour the star of the show, while still ensuring that Titans feel relevant and potent. Until Star Wars: Battlefront III releases, we can get our Endor fix here. Squint and Stryder Titans even look a little like AT-STs from a distance.
Our mechanical pals are spoiled rotten here since Swamplands really comes into its own in Last Titan Standing. The forest cover lets Titans engage in tense protracted games of cat and mouse, hunting each other around the periphery before melting into the foliage and occasionally smashing straight through the claustrophobic central complex, while infantry leap from tree to tree and rain down arc grenades with abandon. Some neat chest-high (Titan-wise) cover points also let Plasma Railgun veterans strut their stuff, easy pickings for longtime Generation III pilots grinding out the Titan Killer challenge. Mentioning no names. Me.
Finally we come to Runoff, which ends up as the weakest link in the package due to a horrible first impression. Not only does it sometimes feel like a grab-bag of geometric elements we've seen in other maps -- notably Demeter and Rise -- but it's also the visual spit of these two levels too. The drab rusty aesthetic presents yet another brown hellhole to run through, a genuinely dull and uninspired stage that fails to offer anything remotely interesting or new to look at. Considering that the map pack is called 'Expedition,' it's galling to arrive at such an unimaginative destination.
Stick around, though, and you'll be glad you did since Runoff has been smartly balanced for snipers and marksman rifles. Two gigantic towers loom large over the industrial dustbowl, granting opportunistic Kraber sharpshooters total battlefield control, while an embarrassment of lofty windows and exposed catwalks provide excellent overwatch for HEMLOK and G2A4 wielders with some of the longest unbroken sight lines in the game. Infantry are king on this nervy vertical multi-level affair, free to chart the highest points and claustrophobic interiors, whereas Titans are uniquely vulnerable to distant Charge Rifle bombardment unless they take their chances in the recessed drainage canals -- often leading to some brutal point-blank sewer scraps. A challenging Hardpoint and CTF venue, then, that's infinitely more interesting than it looks.
Regardless, Expedition manages to earn its inexpensive £7.99 with one truly extraordinary map, one great map and one decent-yet-astonishingly-boring-to-look-at offering, but there's a problem. See, Titanfall doesn't need maps anywhere near as much as it needs more modes and metagame... and we're still waiting.
New stages are always welcome, but Titanfall is still far too light on gametypes for its own good. Respawn clearly knows this -- the mode select menu has a scroll bar, for goodness' sake! -- yet they've been aggravatingly slow off the mark. Gamers aren't really clamouring for more stages; they're demanding new modes, more unlocks, more cosmetic customisation and metagame content. More ordinance and kits, perhaps. None of which you'll find here. There's a case to be made that competing shooters cram a lot more into their map packs (just look at Naval Strike's carrier assault, new hovercraft, weapons and more) at an admittedly higher cost.
At least Respawn haven't locked off new gametypes to season pass holders and held content to ransom, I suppose. We still have the promise of massive free updates. Whether they appear, or whether EA would rather encourage gamers to jump onto their big Christmas shooter rather than continue playing Titanfall, is up for debate.
But that isn't really Expedition's fault. It's a cheap and cheerful map pack, no more, no less, decidedly unambitious yet seriously solid and inexpensive enough to be well worth picking up. Plus, I'm still playing Titanfall because the evergreen core gameplay is so astonishingly enjoyable - and I couldn't care less about unlocking a slightly different reticule or outfit.
- WarGames is utterly superb in gameplay and aesthetic terms
- Swamplands delivers a breath of fresh air and brand new showboating opportunities
- Reasonable value
- Runoff is smartly designed for snipers and DMRs...
- ...but is visually dull and makes an awful first impression
- Uninspiring are-bones content
- We desperately need more gametypes soon
The Short Version: Expedition's two outstanding maps and decent-yet-ugly third wheel are easy to recommend to regular Titanfall players. However, it's clear that Respawn will need to deliver new gametypes, features and extra raw value soon.