Titanfall: IMC Rising Review

Six maps down, three to go. Statistically, IMC Rising’s Zone 18, Sand Trap, and Backwater remain Titanfall’s last-ditch attempts to entice late adopters. The Expedition expansion added War Games and Swampland; Frontier’s Edge offered Haven. The trio would have been a no-brainer purchase if sold as one. The virtual reality, foggy jungle, and coastal paradise environments presented settings inventive in scope and fun to play, even more than maps that shipped with Titanfall. Does IMC Rising follow the aforementioned luminaries or worship duds like Runoff, Export, and Dig Site?

Judging by appearances, the Respawn crew wanted to pull out all the stops to leave decisive first impressions, and yet Zone 18 is one of the results. The robotic facility is the weakest link in light of its hideous slate-gray colors akin to an aging cat’s vomit ... or half of Titanfall’s core maps. But Zone 18’s strength shakes up titan playstyles. The developers generally give pilots the high ground to lord over, out of sight and out of mind from patrolling mechs. Not so now.

Respawn knows just the right number of montage clips to make me feel inferior.

 

In Zone 18, the high ground barely touches a titan’s shoulders. The scant ventilation shaft aside, the buildings remain low to the ground, their roofs flat and unobstructed from one end of the battlefield to the other. PC players able to render out greater draw distances retain the unspoken advantage. Sounds cheap, right? Not when you miss your targets. Better hardware does not a better soldier make. You will also feel less powerful on the tops of labs and depots when you turn around and notice a mech staring right back, brightly lit bulbs betraying its casual apathy for murder.

That means no more potshots without penalty. Mechs can and will storm right over you, oblivious to your presence as they deliver punches that send opposing robots reeling. To become the MVP, players should (read: must) abuse the dense architecture, navigating untold numbers of windows and staircases to flee or reach enemies. There are a lot of rooms to get turned around in, which became an unfortunate hassle for close-knit firefights. Randomly sticking to walls cost me several kill streaks.

 

Never come between a mech and its prey.

 

Sand Trap seems emblematic of past Titanfall locations. Sand Trap shares the starry night with Airbase, plus massive, yellow fuel pumps and orange-tiled edifices that offset the game’s trademark blues. And as its name implies, the main landmark is the grainy hillside occupying the middle of the map, preventing people from sniping others in the rival drop zone. A side alley does provide ideal sight lines to defensive players, however, and lets titans sidestep king of the hill brawls at Sand Trap’s peak. You may think of stomping over the wasteland terrain as a robotic conqueror, though you have no idea what waits beyond the slope's crest. Dashing over the dune and walking into an ambush prepared by half a dozen titans will force you to rethink your solitary mindset.

Respawn did not forsake pilots, either. That granular ridge conceals a bunker, primarily for avoiding shootouts raging on the surface, which contains vats of scalding, unrefined fuel that scorch players who misjudge their wall runs, too. Sand Trap’s appeal, then, lies in the objective game types, leaving options for players that need to capture a hardpoint, swipe a flag from under the enemy’s nose, or simply retreat to where machines dare not tread. That said, Sand Trap cannot bury fears that Respawn has run out of interesting ways to combine industrial designs. Besides Sand Trap’s gritty mound and deep navy hues, Sand Trap’s lack of visual identity makes it that much harder to remember outside loading screens.

 

Now they're just being bullies.

 

You do not see the developers cross-pollinating forests and skyscrapers, though Backwater is perhaps the closest fulfillment of that dream. Awash with earthy pigments in a mesh of Swampland and Dig Site, Backwater’s vegetation, shacks, and suspended railways protect pilots and titans from pursuers. While Swampland and War Games vied for my favorite Titanfall map, Backwater subdues them both. A frontier town off the grid, Backwater is renowned for its moonshine production, evidenced by the granaries located underground.

The screen rumble from hostile mech action taking place above you is similar to waiting in a storm shelter; you never know when the terror has passed or if it is safe to return to the surface. In Titanfall, it never is. Are attackers hiding in that bush, that shed, or upon that platform? The IMC’s monochrome uniforms don’t stick out like sore thumbs, so guess how well the rebels blend in. I loved getting the jump on foes who thought they were invisible on their plateaus, or ducking around huts to throw heat-seeking missiles off my titan’s trail. Even so, skilled marksmen can bring down fleet-footed opponents from afar, as my acrobatics often ended on the wrong side of someone’s rifle scope.

So I ask again: Does IMC Rising follow the season pass diamonds or duds? I would crown Backwater as my favorite Titanfall add-on, and Zone 18 and Sand Trap play well, though the former doesn’t look it. Above all else, I wanted to revisit the maps after every match, win or lose. I endured what I could of the Expedition and Frontier’s Edge expansions in one pilot generation, but IMC Rising drags the people at Respawn out of their rut without tossing in extra modes or burn cards. If only more fans were around to witness it.

Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Respawn Entertainment
Release Date: September 25, 2014
Number of Players: 2-12 (Multiplayer)
Platforms: PC (Reviewed), Xbox One, Xbox 360 

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