Time to standby (again)! EA and Respawn Entertainment have teamed up with Bluepoint Games to bring a port of this wildly popular sci-fi FPS to the Xbox 360. While there are noticeable downgrades in the presentation department, the essence of control and gameplay are wholly intact. This recreates the frenetic, epic, insanely fun online experience that One and PC owners have been enjoying for over a month.
In my TF review for the One, I go into detail about the "finer points" of the game like specific weapon types, equipment, and other "power ups" that are specific to Pilots and Titans. I don't plan on doing that same there here. What I will do is speak about the differences between the next gen release and this port by Bluepoint Games (experts of the HD redux with work in heralded series like Metal Gear Solid). Further, my focus in this effort will stick with the core gameplay principles and the presentation package.
First off, how the 360 version "feels" to play. In short, it's very, very good. From the first time my Pilot dropped into a match, it was clear the same engrossing gameplay structure was on tap. Wielding weaponry has that fast, yet never out of control, temperament. The RC Carbine with patented HCOG sight reverberated a sense of "sticky-ness" when the middle arrow of the reticle is traced along the path of another real player or NPC. Spray n' Pray feels like a cheap way to extend a spawn when another Pilot gets the drop on you. And if you can utilize jumping and wall hanging well enough (I can't suggest the Bumper Jumper Pilot control config enough!), you may be able to pull off a cheap one and get a less-than-deserved frag. Other defining points, like individual gun intricacies, also made the trip down to the 360. For instance, the LMG is great if volume of rounds is what you're going for, but it takes a second for the cross hair to get stabilized when zoomed in and fired. This was straight from the Respawn build of the game. To include what could be passed off as a "minimal feature" points to the professionalism and attention to detail Bluepoint set forth in their effort. Equipment like grenades and Satchel Charges also inhibit the same damage and "splash" design as last month's releases and are effective in the same situations. The weapon portion of combat held over quite well, as did the other huge construct of playing the game as a Pilot.
As important as recreating a worthy armory is, the control and movement of Pilot play is substantially higher up on the list. Honestly speaking, coming into this build of TF, I thought this is where the devs would struggle. The One's controller melds so well to Respawn's schemes that recreating it without the same horsepower would be very difficult, and if it gets any where close, that could be considered a positive. Bluepoint didn't get close, they got it dead on! The running glide of Pilots, the seemingly effortless way you can scale walls and chain double jumps together to reach the tip top of a high building or scamper along the side an auspiciously slanted sheet of hanging metal is the exact same experience on the 360. Further, the tactile response of the 360 pad seems even tighter than the new Xbox's. This could be from me not completely being used/acclimated to proper One controller hand positioning yet. Even so, from a sheer "moving around" aspect, this release doesn't skip a beat. It feels like the same game, and because of that, it plays like the same game. Bravo.
The good news train keeps on trucking when Titans get involved. TF360 also succeeds in the design department when it comes to scale. The "physical" proportions of Titans to all other objects (NPCs, Pilots, structures, ect.) are spot on. They're big, but not to the point that they don't seem accessible. Rodeos (jumping on the back of a Titan as a Pilot) exhibit the same challenge and the same tricks of the trade to pull off the climb. When inside the giant, wedging through known footpaths that are just wide enough to fit through on particular maps allow for the same margin of travel. For example, on the map called Demeter, the middle building that houses control spot B during Hardpoint matches can be walked through by Titans, but only slightly. These "measurements" are the same as they are on the new Microsoft console.
Much like with Pilots, controlling a mech works extremely well. That "big, but agile" sensibility is finely represented. It's not lumbering per se. More like deliberate marching. That component is hard to convey through typed words; it just doesn't feel like work to make a Titan do what you want it to do within it's abilities. Great evidence for this comes when TF turns into a scene from Real Steel. The Titan v. Titan battles are exciting, tense, articulate, and uber fun. The deadly dance of primary weapon fire and shoulder rockets and melees and dodging and vortex-ing all get infused into the tungsten tango that sets TF apart from the other shooters on the market. An none of this misses a step when reprized on over seven year old hardware. Fantastic!
We must now turn our attention to the part of the deal that isn't so pleasant: the presentation. Undoubtedly, this would be the area that should have the biggest downgrade, and it very much does. Even for current 360 graphics, this is not great. I've been wowed with the visuals of other FPS like Ghosts and even huge, open area titles like GTA V. TF360 looks dated. It lacks a bit of polish, a bit of detailing. I'm not necessarily writing it off completely as an ugly duckling, but there aren't beautiful swan moments, either. Set pieces like terrain and buildings are a few notches above decent, and Grunts & Spectres get by okay. Pilots and Titans are different circumstances. Pilots just don't seem defined like I think the 360 should be able to display. The portions of the character model that glow have a harshness to them. They're "bold," but seem muddled upon the rest of the suit. This effect is amplified at distance, when you might see a Pilot hopping along dozens of relative feet away and you have them targeted in your reticle. There are some "rough edges" that didn't quite get sanded down.
Similar complaints apply to the mechs. Many times, right after the trademark drop from the sky and landing, the outer bits of armor are missing key details. That on-the-fly rendering stumbles along for a few seconds while the game attempts to catch up with the new addition. Once the process is complete, Titans don't look half bad all in all, but still don't have the shine that should be possible on the middle child Xbox. Some of this may spawn from Bluepoint's effort to increase the frame rate beyond the base level 30. Eurogamer.net's Digital Foundry initiative clocked the average rate at 46.5fps across select clips. In times of very low on-screen animations, it can rocket to nearly 60. Ramp up the action to insanity, and it can flat line to low 30s. Again, these aspects could be unrelated. Still, I can't help but be curious if the decision was made to keep the frames at 30 consistently, such a sacrifice could have potentially netted better looking, more consistent Titans and Pilots.