Developer: Respawn Entertainment
Be advised: I'm still playing Titanfall and loving it. Though many players have departed over the last few months, angrily citing the lack of a metagame and arbitrary unlockables, the evergreen gameplay and superbly designed maps of Respawn's shooter ensure me a fresh and exciting experience every time I scamper along a rooftop or crush fleeing infantry into bloody smears under steel heel.
Mind you, Titanfall dropped the ball hard post-launch, which I've poked and prodded at relentlessly. From dwindling player numbers on objective gametypes to long matchmaking times and the lack of cosmetic customisation, there's been plenty to moan about. Thankfully Respawn have managed to patch things up in any sense of the phrase, resulting in a sharper, faster, more engrossing and customisable experience after a sequence of updates. Update 5 brings a new economy into the mix that adds a new dimension to Burn Cards, alongside extra fixes and tweaks that improve and expand the gameplay experience for free.
Frontier's Edge feels like the last piece of the puzzle: three thematic stages that lack the obvious gimmicks of Expedition's trio, designed to tempt players back onto objective gametypes with smart scalable design. Come back for the update, then stay for the maps. We'll discuss both over the next few hundred words.
First things first, the maps, of which you'll get three for your £7.99 or included in the season pass. Set on the far-flung galactic frontier, they're all based around a mining complex that shows different sides of the operation, as well as giving us a look into how the less fortunate and more privileged humans live in Titanfall's far-flung future. There's a pleasing degree of environmental storytelling and 'lived-in' world-building that fleshes out the setting when you get your eye into the detail, but let's face it, we're here to snap necks and drop mechs.
Haven is one of the most colourful maps thus far, set in an exclusive holiday resort on a beautiful sunny day. Your first impressions upon dropping in are of bright blue skies, aquamarine seas and vibrant orange scenery, with most of the buildings and vehicles intact rather than eroded by years of brutal fighting. Once you've got over the striking visuals, however, you'll discover a labyrinthine selection of multi-level buildings, nightclubs and resort facilities clustered around open streets.
It's initially confusing, but a little exploration reveals a truly freeform level that caters to Titans and pilots alike, each room boasting multiple entry points and routes for savvy freerunners. Curved outer walls and angular corridors make for very different spaces to master.
As will soon become a recurring theme, Haven is an absolute blast in Attrition but really shines in CTF and Hardpoint Domination. Capture points (one of which is situated in a multi-level Titan-accessible hotel lobby -- eep!) and flags are smartly placed in locations with numerous breaching options and zip lines, while DMR and Charge Rifle users can lock down rooftop approaches and windows. Shotgunners and SMG aficionados sprint through the maze-like interiors, abusing the complex yet never claustrophobic architecture, all as Titans duke it out in the streets and cramped central plaza below. It's a superb, vertical and versatile map; almost the highlight of the package.
Export, however, manages to steal Haven's thunder. At first glance this port town looks like another hard Sci-Fi shanty that blends Mass Effect with District 9, but the level design is utterly sensational. A network of narrow streets and cramped buildings sprawl down a shallow yet significant hill, with the rooftops acting as a battlefield in and of itself. The whole stage is overlooked by a slope on the side of the map that grants canny snipers full situational awareness, but makes them equally vulnerable in return.
The net result is a nervy and intricate affair that supports organically-flowing engagements. There's always a zip line or a open window, never a dead end, facilitating breathtaking flag escapes and last-second interceptions.
Once again, Export excels as a canvas for objective gametypes, and presents a unique challenge due to its sloping geometry. Fighting your way up the slope is very different from free-running down, unless you take your chances in the tense alleyways that could easily hide an approaching Titan around the very next corner. In a curious twist, a particular room houses an electric junction that fries a portion of the level with electricity when hit, which sounds like a ludicrously cheap way of netting kills in theory yet actually serves as a honeypot for greedy players in practice. Opportunistic have-a-go electricians become easy targets for smart pistols and mines, despite an unnecessary achievement sometimes luring your team-mates out of position. Easily one of the finest maps in the game, then, that eschews pizazz for infinitely replayable substance.
Finally, Dig Site is the weakest link in the package, by which I mean that it's very good indeed. Easily the most visually arresting of the three maps, this massive quarry boasts enormous open spaces for all-out Titan battles (facilitating some of the biggest all-out scraps I've ever seen in the game), centred around a massive mining platform with numerous nooks and crannies for players to hide in, whether atop the monolithic cutting rig or scampering around the superstructure. I'm still finding new shortcuts, cubbyholes and vantage points to take advantage of.
Unfortunately Dig Site's verticality and deep eyecatching shadows lead to some problems. Opponents blend into the background and shadows all too easy, making them almost impossible to identify or retaliate against unless you get up there yourself. Frankly it also feels slightly too big for a dozen players, which is again where objective gametypes come into their own as a way of forcing pilots into flashpoints. CTF and Hardpoint are once again the gametypes of choice, allowing you to fully appreciate zip line and platform placement. It's almost as if all three maps were specifically designed for objective modes.
Let's face it, they probably were. The low player numbers for CTF and Hardpoint Domination hit hard especially on PC, but these sensational maps should help to tempt players back out of their attrition comfort zone.
Seriously, let's play Hardpoint Domination again, folks.
My one major concern about Frontier's Edge is that it could potentially split the fractious Titanfall player base even further. We're already separated by too many servers as it is, and not guaranteed to fill out each session with a full dozen players, with this latest DLC slicing the pie yet again. We've yet to see the full ramifications of this, but personally speaking, some server merges probably wouldn't go amiss.
And some more modes, at least once more people are back on CTF and Hardpoint.
Frontier's Edge was prefaced by one of the most significant updates Titanfall has ever received. It's free for all players, so won't factor into the score in any way, but deserves a quick rundown.
The first major addition is the Black Market, which adds a new in-game currency earned by completing challenges, converting experience at level 50 and selling Burn Cards. That's right, you now sell Burn Cards rather than discard them, then spend the wealth on randomised packs of specific card types or exclusive Titan Emblems. Respawn have once again confirmed that there won't be any micro-transactions to worry about, meaning that this adds pleasing depth to Burn Card system and gives Gen 10 players a reason to keep earning experience.
Other improvements are more subtle, but by no means less welcome. Frame rate has been improved (but still isn't entirely stable yet), assists are now clearly marked with the name of killed players, daily challenges are on hand to reward routine and workflow has been improved by removing the "pre-lobby." Again, little things, but with big impact that's worth coming back for.
- Stupendously-designed maps shine in objective gametypes
- Haven and Dig Site are visually unique
- Good value for regular players
- Will split the player base again
- Dig Site can be too vertical and shadowy for its own good
- Export is visually drab; poorly-implemented achievement can influence player behaviour
The Short Version: Frontier's Edge may not be flashy, but its three maps are as brilliantly designed, vertical and enjoyable as ever. With luck, their smart objective-based layouts will tempt players back into CTF and Hardpoint Domination.
If you're still snapping necks and dropping mechs on a regular basis, I'd advise you to get involved.