Titanfall preview: Is this the final nail in the coffin for the single-player FPS?

Titanfall Beta Preview

Having spent more hours than I’d like to admit with the Titanfall beta this weekend, I can honestly say that I’m no longer concerned about whether or not a single-player campaign is featured in my first-person shooters. The developers at Respawn Entertainment decided early on that Titanfall would be a multiplayer-only experience, and in doing so have effectively embarrassed all the other game makers that have their fingers in too many pies.

Titanfall is unlike any other FPS on the market. It’s fast-paced, it’s ambitious and it allows a freedom of movement that no other console shooter has attempted in recent memory. As has been said countless times before, Titanfall really does feel like the beginning of the next generation of gaming, and that generation doesn’t have room for half-assed rehashes of last year’s model.

Call of Duty: Ghosts and Battlefield 4 were two of the most popular games of 2013, dominating both the last generation and the new one despite their flaws. It’s another sign that gamers have grown complacent as developers iterate just enough to release a new version of the same game year after year.

Titanfall isn’t the same game. By eliminating a standard feature of the genre, Respawn has freed itself to focus entirely on innovative features and tight gameplay within the multiplayer realm.

That’s why we buy these games anyway. Sure, there are plenty of gamers who still pick up the latest Call of Duty for the campaign, but critical reaction to the latest title in the franchise was almost unanimously ambivalent when it came to the single-player mode. The vast majority of Call of Duty players are buying the game for the online play — the leveling up, the unlockable guns, the hard-fought matches and comeback victories — and Titanfall is the genre’s natural conclusion.

There are still plenty of opportunities for EA and Respawn to screw this up, but if they can restrain themselves from filling the game with microtransactions and keep the servers steady in the weeks immediately after launch, the rest of the FPS development community is going to be forced to rethink its strategy going forward. If a single game can offer more fresh ideas than every other console FPS on the market combined, gamers will take notice.

Titanfall’s exclusivity deal looked a bit questionable at first, but now that everyone has had a chance to go hands-on with the open beta, it’s clear that Microsoft is going to come out ahead once the dust has settled. Now we’ll have to wait and see how Sony plans to answer the call.

Titanfall will be available for the Xbox One and PC on March 11th, and will come to the Xbox 360 on March 25th.

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