The original Titanfall was not a very successful game. It had some great ideas but lacked any real substance for people to come back to for a full-priced shooter. EA and developer Respawn Entertainment – the studio that rose from the ashes of the Modern Warfare games – have gone back to the drawing board and taken another stab at their new IP, and they’ve nailed it this time in Titanfall 2.
The biggest improvement this time around is the inclusion of a fully-fledged solo campaign, as opposed to a half-baked quote-unquote “story” woven into multiplayer. The story is cheesier than a stuffed-crust pizza – a tropey human-robot companionship story, caricatured bad guys and non-sensical sci-fi time travelling – but damned if it isn’t just as tasty.
You play as Jack Cooper, aspiring Titan pilot, in another “cadet to super soldier” scenario who gets partnered with Titan BT-7274 after its original pilot, your mentor, is KIA. There’s lots of wall-running, sliding and things to shoot at, but here in Titanfall everything feels fresh. Slicker. More fun.
The game is absolutely stunning to look at, whether it’s admiring the visual design or being in a trance-like state from all the frenetic action. There wasn’t a single moment in-game when the engine had trouble keeping up, which is a feat in itself considering the amount of mayhem happening at any time. That said, unfortunately the game’s action is mostly scripted. The linear story does well to lead the player to some great set-pieces and Titan battles, but the game doesn’t feature particularly free-flowing physics for more dynamic action.
Regardless, it doesn’t keep the bombastic action from being any less fun. At first the wall-running and first-person platforming seems complicated, but after a couple of missions the game has you doing it almost as second-nature, and leaves you wanting this kind of manoeuvrability from all twitch shooters.
The real meat-and-potatoes of the game though are the Titans. The campaign features BT-7274, who starts out with the basic Expedition build but over the course of the game gains new weapons and combat builds. The way the player gains these new weapons is very Megaman-esque: beat the boss and take their weapon to unlock new Titan variants.
In fact as the title suggests, the Titans are the real stars of the show. BT is obviously influenced from other classic robot icons like Optimus Prime, Johnny 5 and The Iron Giant. While stories like these have become kind of cliché with the machine unable to relate to human emotions and the like, BT is written well enough to get some genuine laughs from the moments he tries to understand. It makes the tale more heart-warming than you’d expect.
Whether or not Titanfall 2 will have a lasting effect on the shooter battleground is multiplayer. From here on out EA has declared that any and all DLC will be made available to everyone who purchases the game. No more expenses are necessary for everyone to enjoy Titanfall together.
While I’m not much of a competitive shooter guy myself, I came back to playing Titanfall 2’s multiplayer because it’s just so much fun. The matches last a maximum of 10 minutes and they’re often quick to connect (though I’m still yet to find a Capture The Flag match). The upgrade system is robust and feature-packed enough that I actually want to keep working forward to unlock more gear for both my pilot and Titan.
The multiplayer has a choice of eight gameplay types such as territories called Amped Hardpoints, team deathmatch called Attrition and free for all. And at no point does the game feel unbalanced when Titans drop into the arena, as pilots can be setup with anti-Titan guns. Your Titan can even be set to either protect and follow you, or engage the battlefield on its own so you can both continue wrecking shop separately.
Like the original game the end of each online match finishes with an epilogue, where the losing team’s players have to retreat back to a dropship pickup point to escape. These have no bearings on the match’s result, but is an always fun aspect to the game: the winning team gets to gloat if they wiped out all remaining opponents, and the losing team at least retains some sort of victory if they’re extracted safely.
I can’t stress enough how much fun I had with Titanfall 2, mostly to my surprise. The original game was enjoyable, but lacked any lasting appeal and substance. This sequel on the other hand feels like a package worth the time and money to spend in. The biggest improvement I could see being made in a third instalment is a co-op campaign and possibly air/space battles. But with the more focused, intimate ground skirmishes, Titanfall 2 feels polished to a shine. The sense of scale between being a pilot and a Titan feels great and balanced. Taking down a Titan 10 times bigger than me by grappling on top and sabotaging its power source feels badass. Stepping on a pilot or coincidentally dropping a Titan on top of an enemy his always hilarious.
If you’re someone who’s been itching for a slice of something different in action games this year, you’re in safe hands with Titanfall 2.