Released in 2014, the original Titanfall was caught in a strange place. A fantastic Multiplayer-only shooter, launched exclusively on PC and the under-performing Xbox One, it should have been a must-own title, but suffered from a huge drop off in player count, rendering it almost unplayable, particularly for non-console players. The sequel comes packed with a full campaign, as well as a few new surprises in the multiplayer, whilst also jumping onto Sony’s platform. With shooter season in full swing, how does it compare to the other heavy hitters?
Game: Titanfall 2
Developer: Respawn Entertainment
(Review copy provided by publisher)
Titanfall 2’s campaign is the biggest bullet point, and with good reason. The original had a story crammed into some of the multiplayer modes, but it never felt fully featured due to the variable nature of the outcome, as well as the fact that, well, you were in a multiplayer match. Given the Respawn team’s history with story focused FPS games, it was somewhat disappointing to see it jettisoned from the original game. Fortunately, Titanfall 2 more than makes up for this, with a tightly scripted campaign that, whilst brief, is full of personality and excellent gameplay moments. Through a series of events, Jack Cooper (a militia rifleman) gets paired up with BT-7274 (Or “BT” to his friends), and embark on a campaign that sees them squaring up against the evil IMC. The story pans out over around 6 hours, which sounds a little short, but is honestly the most fresh and interesting FPS campaign that I’ve played since the original Modern Warfare. New mechanics get introduced at a steady pace, and never feel overwhelming. There are several moments that had me either laughing in disbelief at what was going on, or simply muttering “Wow!” to myself. I don’t want to spoil anything in this review, but the way everything hangs together is absolutely perfect, and it never feels like it’s dragging its heels. The Respawn guys are very clearly fond of their history, and there are some subtle (and some not-so-subtle) nods to their entries in the Call of Duty franchise. The most successful thing about Titanfall 2 though, is just how it makes you feel. There are some moments toward the end of the game that just make you feel like an absolute badass, and it’s almost effortless in doing so.
In fact, any heels in the game are catapulted into the air with a jetpack, and never really given any time to settle down, such is the relentless pacing in the story. The movement was one of the best things about the original game, and this is carried over to the sequel with a great deal of success, with the platforming and traversal feeling more fluid and fast paced than ever before. Wall-running, boosting and sliding around maps whilst picking off enemies is an absolute joy, with every weapon in the game feeling just as good as the last, yet completely different. It’s this feel as a pilot that makes the game stand out from the crowd, and that’s even before you jump into BT and rain down all kinds of mechanised fury. The change in pace between Cooper and BT is massive, but the trade-offs are more than worth it. There’s very little better than narrowly escaping a swarm of IMC troops by sliding into BT’s cockpit, before unloading a volley of 40mm cannon fire into their faces, exacting swift and brutal revenge. In fact, BT himself is an excellent character. With a voice that’s suspiciously close to Peter Cullen’s dulcet tones as Optimus Prime, BT is full of dry wit, innocent humour and an overwhelming urge to stick to his three main protocols. His characterisation and portrayal throughout the campaign provide BT with more personality than the vast majority of most human videogame protagonists, let alone robotic ones. The “big bad” enemies that you face as well are also impressive, with Blisk returning from the first game to provide an impressive nemesis. His band of IMC-hired mercenaries provide ample challenge for BT throughout the story, and I almost wish there was a boss rush mode once the game was completed to get stuck into. Fortunately though, we’ve got the multiplayer to keep ourselves amused…
And what a fantastic set of multiplayer options Titanfall 2 offers up. A wide array of maps, both sprawling and confined, with an impressive subset of game modes, the fast paced action from the campaign is ramped up to a phenomenal degree when you go online. For those of you outraged during the beta, fan favourite mode Attrition is present and correct, with all of the AI grunts and spectres that you’d expect to see from the original, and the mode definitely carries over the ability to make you feel like you’re owning the battlefield, even if you’re not doing all that well against the other humans. A whole range of other modes are available too, including Last Titan Standing, Pilot vs Pilot and Bounty Hunt, which received something of a lukewarm reception when it was introduced in the recent alpha/beta. The breaking up of gameplay to head over to a specific point and bank any bonuses you have is a little jarring, but it adds an element of strategy to the game that’s not there in other modes. Everything about the multiplayer feels as good as the single player, if not better in some areas, and the performance holds its consistent frame rate even during chaotic Titan on Titan fights, which is where the previous game started to falter. New mechanics such as the grappling hook add some new ways to traverse the environments without feeling overpowered, and the variety of weapons has improved as well. The upgrade path for both pilots and titans is deep enough that it’ll keep you coming back for more, although if you want to you can purchase some stuff with in game currency.
Credit where credit’s due to Respawn as well, you can’t buy any of the currency with real world money. They’ve also confirmed that the game won’t have a season pass, instead providing all of the content updates (Maps, modes etc) for free with patches in the coming months. It’s a refreshing attitude for a refreshing game, that seems to have been sent out to die by its publisher. Quite why EA have seen right to release Titanfall 2 slap bang in the middle of the established FPS heavy hitters of Battlefield and Call of Duty, I don’t know. What’s especially confusing is the fact that Battlefield is also an EA property, potentially leading to cannibalised sales of Respawn’s title. It’s a shame, but I hope word of mouth leads to a long tail for Titanfall 2.
Titanfall 2 builds on the very strong foundations laid by the original, improving the multiplayer by improving the progression mechanics and introducing some fun new mechanics. This feels like the freshest and most interesting multiplayer game of the year, and it’s capped off by a wonderful single player campaign that ticks all the right boxes. It’s just a shame that it’s releasing when it is, as this is a game that deserves, if not demands, that any fans of the FPS genre should play it.