Titanfall 2 is the successor to the at one time over-hyped, and now overlooked, Titanfall. While the original was critically well reviewed, it never quite caught on with the masses. The gameplay was solid, the maps were well designed, the controls were extremely responsive. Surely a game with all these great features (And giant robots to boot) should’ve been an easy sell? Still, interest soon dwindled. It’s unfortunate, because Titanfall roped me back into a genre that had been stagnating for a decade. Now, due to a shoddy release date, the same fate looks likely to befall its sequel. I seriously hope this doesn’t become the case, because Titanfall 2 is deserving of a much better fate for so many reasons.
A Boy And His Bot
When was the last time you heard of a shooter being lauded for its campaign? I’m willing to bet it was Spec Ops: The Line or, before that, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. It suits then, that the team from the latter would be in charge of the next great campaign in the form of Titanfall 2. Admittedly, the overarching plot isn’t going to wow anyone. At its core, it’s a story about an evil corporation pushing around the working class. It just happens to be on a galactic scale between the IMC (Interstellar Mining Corporation) and the Frontier Militia. At the same time, it never tries to be more than it is, and so resists falling on its face with delusions of grandeur. So, if the plot is so generic, what makes it special? It’s all in the delivery.
One of the shining features of Titanfall 2’s campaign is the nature of the relationship between our Pilot, Jack Cooper, and his Titan, BT-7274. The game doesn’t try to say anything about the nature of human-robot relationships. The social challenges of improving A.I. aren’t discussed. BT does not have a character arc where his internal A.I. learns the meaning of love. Nevertheless, Jack and BT portray a wonderful camaraderie. The dialogue between the two is well written, even when the subject of their conversation is clichéd. BT is shown to have more of an advanced script than a true AI, and is prone to misunderstandings. Meanwhile, Jack is sarcastic and pokes fun at BT. Again, it sounds pretty standard, but the delivery is fantastic. There are plenty of pop culture references and the writing is plenty humorous, all neatly toned down as the story enters more serious moments.
The World Factory
The other major feature that makes Titanfall 2‘s campaign stand out is the level design. Anyone who played the original Titanfall will likely remember its enjoyable tutorial, later adapted into the Wargames map. Titanfall 2 has an equally well crafted tutorial, this time set in an idyllic, holographicly generated meadow planet. After running through this brilliantly designed track, I was extremely disappointed with the introductory level. What was attempting to be an example of gradual growth from Militia Infantry to Titan Pilot, instead managed to become a worse version of the tutorial.
Luckily, Titanfall 2 is the rare game that becomes more polished as it goes along. It also picks up that polish in a hurry. The second level is a good example of the Pilot and Titan gameplay that makes the game special. It has some beautiful scenery and feels expansive, but lacks a hook to make it properly memorable. It’s in the third level that the game goes from enjoyable to truly spectacular. This is the point where Titanfall 2 breaks away from Battlefield and Call of Duty, to set itself beside Portal and Half-Life 2.
The Floor Is Lava
I don’t use the comparison lightly when I say that ‘Into The Abyss’, Titanfall 2’s 3rd level, is up there with “We Don’t Go Into Ravenholme” in terms of level design. Everything is so perfectly placed. It gives Pilots a real opportunity to stretch their wall jumping and wall running legs. Along with that, the scale of what’s going on has a proper sense of wonder. The location is called ‘The World Factory’, so let your mind wander with that.
Respawn Entertainment manage to outdo themselves yet again in another level, ‘Effect and Cause’. Once more, the level design is inspired. If ‘Into The Abyss’ is reminiscent of Half-Life 2, this level recalls Portal. The puzzles may not be mentally taxing, but some precise movements will be required to traverse the locale. Things get a bit wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey. There’s a lot of wall jumping between time streams to avoid sections where the floor is actually lava.
Does Whatever A Spider Can
Titanfall’s movement system set it apart from other shooters (Well, that and being able to call in a giant robot). Pilots in Titanfall were fast and agile, able to double-jump, wall-run and build up momentum to leap greater distances. This contrasted with the Titans which were slow and lumbering, with more restricted movements around the map. Despite the difference between the two control schemes, the transition felt natural, never jarring.
Titanfall 2 continues on that trend of increased mobility. The already fluid controls of the original are tightened up, while more options for movement are added. In addition to the above, the new installment adds the ability to slide to pick up speed, hover in mid air, and grapple from place to place. Sliding and hovering may not sound like major additions, but being chased by an opponent, only to slide, turn, and get a kill is one of the most satisfying feelings you’ll get. Meanwhile, the grapple is ridiculously fun. More than just a zipline from point A to B, it allows full mobility and momentum in the air, giving the player the ability to swing around buildings, and enemy Titans, catching them off-guard.
Titanfall 2 is capable of making the player feel like a badass at any given moment, and make any time spent on the ground feel like a wasted opportunity. A challenge I like to try out on every multiplayer map is attempting to move from one side to the other without letting my Pilot’s feet touch the ground. So far, there hasn’t been a map that failed the test. I’m looking forward to trying it on all future maps. Respawn’s dedication to a single, unified, DLC free multiplayer experience means all future maps will be free. The first batch should be arriving sometime in December.
Dylan! You Son Of A Bitch!
Read any review you like, they’re all saying Titanfall 2 sets a new standard for the genre. Yet, they’re also warning that there aren’t enough players online. That’s an extremely frustrating judgment to read, because it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. If players believe there isn’t a multiplayer market for what’s primarily a multiplayer game, they won’t give it a chance. Let me tell you right now that, even with the small player base, you will not have an issue finding a match. While the concurrent players only number between ten to twelve thousand, it’s not causing long waiting periods.
The same was true for the original Titanfall. I played it from launch, right up until a few months ago. Even when the numbers were at their lowest, waiting times never went beyond a few seconds. So, if the worry that you won’t be able to play in a few months is holding you back, ignore it. Get this game and enjoy it. You won’t be sorry.
You Stay. I Go. No Following.
Titanfall 2 delivers doubly on the promise of the original Titanfall. The multiplayer experience is a nice step forward, while retaining what made the original fun. My only major issue is the removal of AI controlled Grunts and Spectres from certain game modes. This leaves some maps feeling more barren than I’m accustomed to. The single player campaign is a vast improvement over the original’s attempt at a campaign. Far beyond being a fun addition, it’s an experience to be treasured. My only wish is that it was a lengthier experience, currently being quite short, and lasting about as long as Portal 2.
There are so many things worthy of praise in this game. The original was notorious for having a huge download size due to the uncompressed audio. It was worth every gigabyte back then, and it’s just as worthwhile in the successor. Right down to small touches like the change in crosshair movement between Titan and Pilot Even if you hold no interest in online FPS games, I’d highly recommend picking the game up in future, just for the campaign experience. As mentioned previously, if you’re interested, but worried about player count, don’t spare it a second thought. Hop in, Pilot, and I’ll see you on the field!