Titanfall needs new modes and weapons, but for now the talents of Respawn Entertainment show no signs of deteriorating. Creating maps fit for nimble soldiers and mechs the size of moving vans is no ordinary endeavor. A level laden with too many interior nooks and low ceilings would alienate the game’s titular titans, but littering war zones with open fields and sporadic elevation would leave pilots powerless on the ground. The Respawn team thwarts these obstacles; their first map pack, Titanfall: Expedition, preserves the balanced tug-of-wars between man and machine, though its eye-catching vistas come at a high price.
The trio of stages – Runoff, Swampland, and War Games – are not easy sells. Today’s online games hemorrhage viewers; they seldom stay in disc trays once fans hit the level cap. While Respawn’s devs were upfront about the contents of the season pass, two months is too a long time to keep consumers waiting without extra guns, playlists, or challenges. For people on the fence, another ten bucks for a shooter that they'd already written off is a gamble, since one of the Expedition maps plays like a carbon copy of existing levels.
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Runoff is the ugly duckling of the bunch. Home to a water filtration plant, the industrial setting looks and feels familiar, and not for the better. Shades of rust cover catwalks and factory equipment, which shine in the scenic sunset. A canal splits the map in two like Smuggler’s Cove, separating pristine offices and unkempt machinery. The trench appears ideal for flanking once the action turns up the decibels, yet its ankle-deep water betrays invisible pilots. Without discernible features of its own, however, Runoff reeks of wasted creativity – a job rushed to meet a deadline.
The remaining maps are the DLC’s saving grace. Swampland’s forgotten marshes contain mossy ruins and trees that pierce the clouds, their leafy canopies gorging themselves on sunlight. I almost expected Ewoks to leap out of the rubble or for Stormtroopers to fly by on speeder bikes, so alike are the surroundings to Endor. Swampland transforms weaker players into hunters, too. I stuck to the vegetation, delivering silent justice to my rivals before cloaking and fading into the scenery. Still, snipers in search of vantage points can wall-hang from tree trunks while shotgun and SMG addicts prey on pilots and mechs from the comfort of mazelike temples. Swampland supports all styles of play, even with Titanfall’s focus on momentum and flow.
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War Games’ visual flourishes also give Swampland a run for its money. Rather than warping to the battlefield on a dropship, the pre-match cinematic straps players into a pod for a simulated VR mission. The opening is not the sole distinction, either. Electronic grids prevent competitors from exiting the area, enemies explode into polygons when killed, as if a system admin terminated their programming, and half the world remains unfinished. Apartments and warehouses stripped from Angel City dot the map, along with spotless towers inspired by Titanfall’s tutorial. The rest of the level consists of artifacts and absent code.
Aesthetically, War Games is the closest thing to Tron outside of Tron, as well as the best parkour playground of its siblings. Parallel tunnels of yellow and blue connect team spawns with the map’s central alley – a killbox that reduces titan movements to a single-file line – yet their transparent walls expose hostile wall-runners. Moreover, the close proximity of the buildings allows players to navigate the arena without touching solid ground – perfect for objective gametypes like capture the flag. If you can accept Runoff’s generic architecture, then, Titanfall: Expedition's two exceptional maps provide compelling reasons to rodeo mechs once more.
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Respawn Entertainment
Release Date: May 15, 2014
Number of Players: 2-12 (Multiplayer)
Platforms: PC (Reviewed), Xbox One, Xbox 360