Titanfall 2 is one of the best all-round FPS games this year (and perhaps many more to come).
The first Titanfall generated a ton of hype for its time. It was unlike anything anyone had ever seen before despite so many familiar tropes. The most intrinsic characteristics of its gameplay set a tone for what Respawn Entertainment, founded by the minds that started Infinity Ward and the Call of Duty series, would be all about. The familiarity of its gunplay combined with the game-changing and fluid verticality and movement, coupled with the addition of giant robots and a David vs. Goliath dynamic of battles made Titanfall a breath of fresh air among the typical military shooters. One could argue that no other sci-fi FPS has been able to pull off that level of multiplayer quality.
"There’s an awesome single-player campaign that elevates the overall package from must-play to must-buy."
However, that “multiplayer” quality did come at a price. There was no real sense of progression or reward outside of simply playing for fun. Competitive play didn’t really hold any real sense of accomplishment aside from personal gratitude (plus it arrived months after launch). Chaos ruled the battlefield above all else but matches would quickly devolve into one-note affairs. Perhaps it was that repetition that prevented the first game from really achieving any longevity. Maybe it was the lack of any real rewards or accomplishments. Either way, the focus on multiplayer also didn’t help that lacklustre “campaign” which did very little to take advantage of its unique universe.
Titanfall 2 rectifies much of those issues immediately. In many ways, it feels like a more focused, sharper version of the first game’s multiplayer. This isn’t to say there’s nothing new about the mechanics or gameplay but its incredible how Titanfall 2 could feel so familiar and yet offer so much that’s new in such a seamless package. And unlike before, there’s an awesome single-player campaign that elevates the overall package from must-play to must-buy.
Let’s get the story out of the way first. The IMC suffered a huge loss due to the Battle of Demeter but the Frontier Militia’s war isn’t over yet. Several advancements have been made in that time – the Militia has invented its own Vanguard class Titan that can equip different load-outs – but overall, the IMC is still a juggernaut of massive killing potential.
"The other characters are interesting and suitably more developed than the original game."
You play as Rifleman Jack Cooper, a soldier unofficially being trained as a Pilot. When your ship is ambushed by the IMC en route to the planet Typhon and your trainer dies, Cooper takes on the mantle of Pilot for BT-7274. In the process, Cooper and BT must link up with the other Militia forces and find a way to survive the harsh wilderness of Typhon. It also doesn’t help that the Apex Predators, a mercenary faction led by Kuben Blisk from the first Titanfall, are also after you.
On its own, the story for the campaign isn’t anything especially exceptional. If anything, it’s very simple as you’re constantly on the run from IMC forces, heading to waypoints and enabling switches. It’s everything else that’s designed expertly, starting with the relationship between Cooper and BT. You get a real sense of the bond forming between the Pilot and Titan, especially when BT is hauled away and it’s up to Cooper to retrieve him. The ability to issue responses to BT, especially in the midst of heated combat, offers up some nice little moments of humour.
It did get somewhat annoying to listen to BT spout my order to rendezvous with Anderson again and again but that’s to be expected from an efficient AI. The other characters are interesting and suitably more developed than the original game. Blisk is revealed to be much more calculating and ruthless though he’s still the abject professional from before. Kain strikes an odd balance between annoying junkie and cynically sadistic wisecracker (which was probably the point since he meets his demise very quickly) while Ash is a crazed android that loves playing dangerous games with her subjects.
"The gun battles themselves employ an almost arena shooter-like feel, allowing you to truly show off your skills…"
All of these “boss” characters synergize incredibly well with the level design. Sure, you need to retrieve two batteries to revive BT back to full health but this is punctuated by platforming, wall-running, sniping and navigating a wrecked ship. The “shortcut” through a sewage facility leads to you regrouping with other Militia pilots while engaging in pitched battle with other Titans. The gameplay fluidly shifts from Titan combat to on-the-boots gunplay, offering the same excellent movement from the multiplayer. It also helps that BT can discover different load outs to further up the variety, thus attaining Scorch’s launcher or Ronin’s blade as the campaign progresses.
The true beauty of the level design is brought about early when dealing with Ash’s twisted machinations – houses are built before your very eyes and an entire assembly plant is one big playground of death and parkour as you try to survive and re-link with BT. The gun battles themselves employ an almost arena shooter-like feel, allowing you to truly show off your skills (but without being unkillable, especially at the higher difficulties. Thankfully, the AI is no slouch either when it comes to kicking your ass).
If there’s one criticism that could be made of the campaign it’s that the length is somewhat short. However, when you have so many awesome moments and such quality minute-to-minute gameplay, it’s hard to find fault. Here’s hoping that the single-player receives some kind of score-attack mode or co-op support because it definitely deserves to be revisited.
"Regeneration nets you a nice looking skin. Finishing challenges earns you skins. If you earn enough credits, then skins can be purchased as well."
When you finish the campaign, you have a whole suite of multiplayer modes awaiting you. Unlike the first game, the variety on hand is pretty good. Hardpoint is now Amped Hardpoint and offers double scoring if you manage to double cap a point. Attrition returns but now offers an almost wave-based like deployment to its AI units, introducing badder enemies as the match wears on (including the mobile Titan-esque Reapers). Bounty Hunt tasks with you hunting Pilots, Titans and NPCs for rewards while stealing other players’ paydays (and risk losing your own while trying to hit the bank).
Free-For-All enables you to go 1 vs. 11 in an all-out melee and Coliseum introduces a 1 v 1 battle with grenade launchers and ordinance as first soldier to win three rounds emerges victorious. Pilot vs. Pilot throws two teams of eight Pilots each into battle with no Titans or Grunts in between. Then there’s Last Titan Standing, a round-based battle where the team that has a Titan alive wins the round. It’s kind of odd that Frontier Defense – the Horde mode from Titanfall – didn’t make some kind of comeback but I wouldn’t put it past Respawn to be working on some kind of variant for release down the line.
Many concerns that were had during the tech test are more or less put to rest. Customization is broken up amicably, allowing you to choose a variety of weapons – including new ones like the Devotion LMG that increases in fire rate as you hold the trigger or the EPG grenade launcher – and accompanying skins. In fact, there are skins for pretty much everything, including your Pilot and Titans. Regeneration nets you a nice looking skin. Finishing challenges earns you skins. If you earn enough credits, then skins can be purchased as well. And for all the concerns about the limited “hero” Titans, there a number of different ways to customize each robot.
"The weapons are mostly balanced though some – like the Flatline – aren’t as nearly distinguishing enough in their own class."
Each Titan still has its own unique role – Scorch is good for lane control and tanking while Ronin is perfect for hit-and-run attacks and up-close melee situations – and it’s no stretch to say that they’re all lots of fun to use. Ronin is an early favourite since it’s just so much fun to tear Titans apart with an oversized blade.
The new “Boosts” may not exactly light your world on fire. On the one hand, I like being able to earn abilities that can be used to slightly tilt the odds in my favour such as Amped Weapons or the Smart Pistol. On the other hand, they can be slightly unbalanced – the Ticks aren’t as devastating in multiplayer as they are in single-player and Map Hack can be extremely overpowered with its ability to give your entire team wall hacks. Some more fine-tuning should make the Boosts better-rounded especially given some of the cooler ones like the Pilot Sentry Turret or Rewind.
Pilots themselves have been changed up quite a bit – abilities like wall-hanging are now perks that must be equipped. They don’t inherently upset the game’s balance though. The emphasis is still on gunplay and teamwork, especially using abilities like the Firestar or Gravity Star to properly zone and kill enemies or the Pulse Blade which offers useful recon information (albeit in a limited area). The weapons are mostly balanced though some – like the Flatline – aren’t as nearly distinguishing enough in their own class.
"However, no first person shooter package this year offers such an excellent mesh of sci-fi campaign and multiplayer action like this."
The map design also contributes to the changed flow in Titanfall 2’s battles. Thankfully, for all the focus on lanes in maps like Forward Base Kodai or Boomtown, there are some uniquely claustrophobic interior maps and change-ups that you wouldn’t quite expect. One map takes you from rocky cliffs and scenic waterfalls into the annals of a wrecked ship, where your view is appropriately titled.
Though purists will still love maps like Angel City, Rise and Airbase, there’s a more concise and concentrated flow to Titanfall 2’s maps that allow you to get to the action faster. Is this approach perfect? Perhaps not. Does the lane-based nature of some maps encourage more sight-line camping and less parkouring? For sure but there are still ways to flank and dismantle your enemies. Movement is still king in Titanfall 2’s multiplayer although Respawn still needs to iron one major flaw from the first game – spawn logic. It’s somewhat improved over the tech test but it’s still possible to spawn camp the enemy team at times.
On the whole, Titanfall 2 is still a few bits of polish away from perfection. However, no first person shooter package this year offers such an excellent mesh of sci-fi campaign and multiplayer action like this. Battlefield 1 and Overwatch may still see more popularity but the insane yet far more manageable warfare that defines Titanfall 2 is well worth your time and money. Even if it isn’t your game of the year, it’s definitely a contender for more than just great multiplayer action.
This game was reviewed on the Xbox One.
Single-player campaign is phenomenally entertaining with solid level design, characters and challenges. Multiplayer offers tons more customization and dynamics for plays and counter-plays. Same great movement system and weapon balance. Great visuals and performance. Solid netcode barring a few hitches.
Lane-based design of maps may irk some players. Overall story is above average and somewhat short despite great presentation and plot. Spawn logic could still use some tweaking. Few weapons like the Flatline need some love.
An explosively amazing campaign, the same solid multiplayer with new modes and mechanics, lots of customization and excellent performance - Titanfall 2 is a keeper.