Titanfall: Frontier's Edge Review

Titanfall made a splash, not tidal waves, when it shipped months ago, and the second map pack quietly stirs the waters. Frontier’s Edge brings Haven, Export, and Dig Site ‒ three picturesque battlefields that profit from evocative colors rather than monochrome palettes. The most exciting aspect of Titanfall’s recent updates, however, comes free of charge.

I am referring to the Black Market, where players cash in their unused burn cards for credits. These funds procure booster packs containing amped anti-personnel weapons, combined tactical perks, or extra ordinance. Titanfall also hands out cash for finishing daily challenges, winning matches, and staying in the fight when defeat is imminent. Basically, the game gives away credits like tee-ball trophies; you get them just for trying.

Regenerating your rank also raises the number of excess cards you can hold before discarding the dregs. With seventy cards clogging my inventory as a fifth-gen pilot, it is safe to assume I will never exhaust them all, reckless play style or not. I now have a goal to work towards, a reason to eke out a few additional rounds in my free time. Rolling the dice on the rarer packs, unsure what Respawn would gift me, hooked me as quick as any collectible card game I relished in the past. And what about microtransactions? Still gloriously absent.

 

"For additional rockets, please pay $9.99." Just kidding, folks.

 

Yet I am doubtful of Export’s inclusion in the DLC. As the most derivative map of the three ‒ a summation of Angel City and Colony ‒ the developers need to do more convincing before season pass owners celebrate their investment. Export resides in the shadow of an unscalable mountain, next to the ocean. The cozy port adjoins housing and research districts with long tarmac ramps spacious enough to accommodate multiple titans. Less meaningful, the dock sits idle as an uneventful piece of scenery, which players purely visit to recharge their shields.

Export’s balance breaks down during objective gametypes, too. In the midst of Domination and Capture the Flag, the upper part of the map remains easily defensible, where walls expose a titan’s weapons but guard their lower extremities. The rooftops also allow pilots to spy on attackers at the base of the area and lay mines or C4 for those that seize the lone zipline. On the other side, the dock isolates allies and the buildings barely reach a titan’s knees. They remind players of each mech’s imposing size yet exhibit little protection.

Export does at least test the waters for environmental dangers. Each half of the war zone contains a mass of cables that short-circuits when shot, electrocuting pilots, grunts, and spectres stationed next to the other coil. Except, it seems weak to include a manual hazard that players may not think twice about when assailants could be cloaked nearby. Such risks may be a step in the right direction, but Titanfall needs leaps now, if not for the sequel. Think dynamic times of day, weather effects, threats that occasionally activate on their own.

 

What poor bastard gets to fix that saw when it breaks?

 

Dig Site, trading comfy plazas for soot, could have redeemed Frontier’s Edge in that regard. Dusty caverns ‒ which miners conveniently left uncovered for emergency titan drops ‒ and serpentine control centers provide excellent areas to stage guerrilla warfare on remote mechs. The centerpiece is a giant excavator saw that even dwarfs titans, which usually peer over fences and homes like creepy next-door neighbors. Fighting beneath this mechanical monster, one notices the sheer scale of the thing. Pilots could enter free fall after leaping from its highest point, though it does not disguise the tool's true purpose: to grind rock into smithereens.

Dig Site complements Swampland from the Expedition DLC, in that 1) both appear visually unique when paired against Titanfall’s current roster of maps, and 2) you do not want to get caught in the open. Vast expanses of naked earth surround the saw, leaving pilots with two options: get airborne or get inside. While Dig Site’s internal lodgings might incite hysteria in players wary of tight corridors, outrunning other parkour experts remains a challenge and pleasure. Imagine the change in strategy had Respawn not stuck the saw at the edge of the map. Envision the machine’s teeth crushing careless titans and pilots. Dig Site is a flash of greatness and disappointment.

It falls to Haven to recover the fumble. Haven is the trio’s immaculate star, unsullied by grit. This seaside resort has it all: golden beaches, shady bungalows, lavish condos and stores, and mechs murdering each other in the streets. The sun shimmers in the midday sky and cool blue waters lap at the sand, immune to the mayhem you and your enemies wreak. Haven could be the idyllic picture you see on postcards. “Wish you were here!” Not this time.

 

Stomping infantry, smashing robots, getting a tan: that's what I call relaxation.

 

Haven was made for climbing enthusiasts, with verandas and bridges overshadowing the military’s imperial presence. Gaps in ceilings and multiple stairwells present better sniper positions, and the objective modes and curving architecture spur on acrobatic abilities. I urge competitors to stay out of the ground fights once titans drop. I did marathons around Haven, leaving boot tracks on windows, only slowing to snap enemy necks. I became a predator to be feared, denoted by my status at the top of the scoreboards. Even so, spontaneous hotel lobby showdowns of Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Mechs kept me engrossed in the team's victory. I would not say no to future one-of-a-kind arenas.

I cannot hate the Respawn team for the effort it put into Frontier’s Edge. While fans abandon Titanfall for newer multiplayer experiences, the developers have not thrown in the towel yet. The Black Market merges gambling and skill without asking anything extra of player wallets, and Haven erases most of the bad blood left by the uninventive Export and lukewarm Dig Site. I may not cherish every map, but any incentive to devote more hours to Titanfall is still alright with me.

Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Respawn Entertainment
Release Date: July 31, 2014
Number of Players: 2-12 (Multiplayer)
Platforms: PC (Reviewed), Xbox One, Xbox 360

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