When Titanfall showed up at E3, it was immediately hailed as a masterpiece and a true innovator leading the way to the future of FPS games. Now the launch of Bungie’s new FPS franchise, Destiny, is imminent and the hype machine is working overtime to tell us it will change the FPS landscape forever.
Both Titanfall and Destiny have legitimate claims on showing true innovation in a genre that has become stagnant. But it’s interesting now to think about how differently they go about it.
Titanfall’s main contributions were in its gameplay and controls. The most obvious new feature is the Titans themselves, but there are also numerous other innovations like wall-running, jet packing, and various little tweaks that discourage practices like spawn camping. The game is a joy to play and in many ways feels like a completely new way to play a shooter online.
On the other hand, Titanfall’s campaign mode is so laughable that one wonders why they even bothered. The story is completely inconsequential since, after all, it still has to hang together somehow regardless of which side wins each match.
Destiny aspires to revolutionize the entire online aspect of the FPS genre with a persistent world that players can explore alongside other online players whom the system matches with them. The game is only just now being released as you read it, so it’s not clear exactly how this persistent world is going to interact with other online players. However, if Bungie is clever enough to take advantage of the exploration format in order to find new ways to convey the story, they will have made something truly new. It will literally be an experience that cannot be replicated in any other medium. Movies can’t tell stories this way.
On the other hand, the actual running and gunning gameplay does not appear to be anything new. Of course, I haven’t seen all the abilities that can be unlocked, so there may be something groundbreaking to be found. So far, though, Destiny appears to play pretty much like Halo with some upgradeable abilities and weapons.
On the face of it, Destiny would seem to represent a much more profound change in the FPS genre than Titanfall does. Titanfall adds some neat new tricks. Destiny could change the whole genre fundamentally. And yet, I have a feeling that Titanfall’s innovations will be more widely adapted just for plain pragmatic reasons. Implementing a jump pack, some parkour, and giant robots is relatively easy for an FPS developer to do. Doing something similar to what Bungie is attempting is much harder and even harder to do well. Ten years from now, we may find that Titanfall was the more influential game whereas Destiny was a fascinating one-of-a-kind game that nobody else replicated.
And that’s ok. But I really hope the sequel to Titanfall gets a better story.