Titanfall 2 seems doomed to the second place, and through no fault of its own, either. Not only did it premiere between two shooter titan franchises Battlefield 1 and Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, but also is the second, after BF 1 EA release. This very unfortunate timing spells uncertain sales to Respawn Entertainment’s and EA seems to be in heavy denial. And all of it is a shame, because Titanfall 2 is excellent.
A soldier and his 20 foot Titan
With some surprise from pretty much everyone interested, the singleplayer campaign in Titanfall 2 instead of being tacked-on and forgettable is a fast-paced, creative, diverse adventure. This makes it the second EA-published shooter this Fall with a campaign not only serviceable, but actually very, very good. Respawn team redeemed their name tarnished by the campaign-like multiplayer mode in the original Titanfall. Everyone expected more of people who previously worked on CoD: Modern Warfare or MoH: Allied Assault. Well, Titanfall 2 campaign is this “more” we’ve wanted all this time.
The campaign tells the story of Jack Cooper, a rifleman with a forgettable name and a dream of becoming a Titan Pilot, for which he is being groomed by a legendary Pilot Captain Lastimosa. That is, for the first couple minutes he is, before Lastimosa dies of severe damage to his character arc. In his dying words he commands his Titan, Vanguard-class BT-7274 to take Cooper as a pilot. What follows is a series of missions putting you through a six-hour intense training in being a pilot. And no bottomless chasm with stand in your way as long as there are some walls around. Thankfully this is among the most interesting and entertaining bootcamps in video games.
If you’ve seen the Titanfall 2 trailers, you know about the focus on mobility this game has. What you don’t know, is how well the singleplayer campaign prepares you to take full advantage of this mobility. Within an hour of gameplay you will powerslide, jet-pack, rotate mid-air, and wall-run like the best of Persian princes. Your incredible mobility not only allows you to dispatch of your enemies from almost any angle, it will play into clearing long and creative obstacle courses covering the levels. Whether in combat or in traversal, the motion gives a rush, and the freedom of three-dimensional movement is what makes Titanfall 2 such a treat. And it’s not like the sets you move through during the singleplayer are a bore, either. The game takes great care to switch things around every so often, so that nothing overstays its welcome. From hostile environments of the planet Typhon, to time-travelling level oddly reminiscent of Dishonored 2’s similar setup, Titanfall 2 campaign is fresh and energizing.
…and the Titan
While the plot itself is entertaining and justifies very well why exactly you have to jump through all those environmental hoops, its highlight is definitely the interaction of Cooper and BT. Embellished occasionally by limited conversations, the clash of personalities between the quipping soldier and logical, deadpan titan AI is fun and oddly endearing, despite tugging at all the familiar clichés. In the end, TF 2 makes sure the player doesn’t treat BT as just another weapon but rather as a partner, and many scripted moments drive this goal home.
From the gameplay standpoint, BT can handle different loadouts despite having a clearly defined class. Switching between other Titan classes on the fly to match the battlefield situation gives a sense of flexibility very different from the Pilot’s. This is essential during occasional boss fights, showcasing the abilities of the six Titan classes available in multiplayer. The fights are of variable interest, but all Titans are piloted by a diverse bunch of psychos.
Titanfall 2 multiplayer: revamped and refined
The multiplayer was literally what carried the original Titanfall’s weight, due to the absence of singleplayer campaign. And it did manage quite well to push TF1 into becoming sequel-worthy. How does the multi in the successor fare? Even better.
Titans do not fail
The most apparent change made to multiplayer is in a greater diversification of Titan classes. In the original there was a selection of just three classes, Atlas, Ogre, and Stryder. There were almost generic, with differences mostly limited to stats. In Titanfall 2 Titans have much more going for them. To begin with, they are now divided into six distinct classes. Northstar is the jetpacking sniper. It can launch rockets as a secondary attack, but won’t survive outside of long distance. Ronin is the sword-wielding hit-and-run optimized Titan, with high burst damage and high mobility to get it out of enemy sights and in position for a surprise attack. If you’re one to play with fire, pick Scorch. Between solid damage and area denial, Scorch doesn’t need speed to be effective. Quite deceptively, Ion is more about lasers than electricity(although ion lasers are a thing, and an interesting one at that). It even has a Predator-style shoulder-mounted laser cannon and chest-cannon like Iron Man’s Unibeam. Lasers all the way. Legion is focused mostly on defence and suppression, able to switch between short- and long-range ammo on the fly. Finally Tone trades quick firing for devastating, guided ordnance.
Each Titan has four abilities from four classes mapped to different buttons on your controller of choice. They are Ordnance, Tactical, Defensive, and Core. While the first three are pretty self-explanatory, the Core ability (itself a carry-over from the original Titanfall) is a devastating ability which takes a long while to charge, but when deployed wisely it makes all the difference.
The modes are a mix of old and new. There are thirteen total game modes, but some are just variations of classics or even a rotation of other modes. From the new arrivals the most interesting is the Bounty Hunt, having two teams hunt AI-controlled grunts and titans for cash. The trick is, if you get killed before you bank the cash, you lose half of what you gathered. This creates a great risk-reward mechanic and a sense of loss more tangible than having to wait for respawn. Another curious arrival is the Pilots vs Pilots mode, seemingly ditching what makes TF 2 so unique, but the range of mobility makes for an engaging ballet of death, full of wall-running, jetpacks and grappling hooks. Other than that there is a 1v1 arena with access paid with in-game currency, the typical Free for Alls, Team Deathmatches, and Capture the Flags modes. Hardpoint from the original game was revamped into Amped Hardpoint, netting you more points if you stick around to defend it. The selection is very good and is certain to keep anyone playing for a long time. Given that Respawn announced that new maps and modes will not be hidden in any paid DLC, Titanfall 2 may have a long multiplayer life.
The bells and whistles
Visually Titanfall 2 is definitely a very pretty game, detailed models, great lighting, amazing level architecture and all. It isn’t until one pays attention to the faces and facial animations that the limitations of the aging Source Engine start to really show.
It is nowhere near distracting, by any means. Outside of cutscenes it is very unlikely it will be noticed at all. Other than that the textures are nice and sharp, so the numerous skins you can unlock for your titan never looks like multi-colored smears, unless this is the skin’s theme, of course. The sound does a good job conveying the “punch” of guns, Cooper and BT are nicely dubbed, especially BT sounds great, like a younger and less “80s” brother of Optimus Prime.
There are still many things to say about Titanfall 2, but many of them would spoil the fun of discovery. From maps to gadgets, and gameplay mechanics, Titanfall 2 is a fun, fast, incredibly engaging game and it doesn’t deserve to be spoiled by a talkative reviewer. Although squeezed between two titans of the genre, it manages to come out on top by production and gameplay qualities, if not by popularity. It has a campaign no worse than Battlefield 1 (although certainly without the emotional and historical baggage), and multiplayer which can give Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare a run for its money. A bit of an underdog among the Fall releases, Titanfall 2 in a truly cinematic fashion manages to make a name for itself and correct all the shortcomings of its predecessor. Where this year’s DOOM was a perfect oldschool game, Battlefield 1 and Call of Duty comfortably and capably stick to their own ways, Titanfall 2 looks to give the players something fresh and creative. For this, Titanfall 2 is well worth a 90100.