After thumbing through the art book for the original Titanfall I was immediately struck by the volume of content and designs that had been created for the game and never used. It seemed as though a lot of effort had been put into building a world with a surface that would barely even be scratched by the multiplayer-only experience at the fore. And sure enough Titanfall released clearly feeling as though it was meant to be something bigger. Now the dust has settled, and while the game has retained a meager player base (better than no player base, right Evolve?) those players will likely be pretty eager to migrate to Titanfall 2, a game that delivers much of what we really should have gotten the first go-around.
I am, of course, primarily referring to the series’ very first single player campaign, which is far and away the highlight of the Titanfall 2 package. You play as Jack Cooper, a low tier rifleman who aspires to join the ranks of the hyper elite soldiers known as Pilots. To that end Cooper trains in his spare time with Captain Tai Lastimosa, a highly regarded Pilot who conveniently gets himself killed mere minutes into the game’s first encounter with enemy forces. In his dying breath Lastimosa transfers the link with his Titan, BT-7274 to Cooper and the two begin their partnership on a quest to complete Lastimosa’s top secret mission.
Titanfall’s core gameplay lends itself beautifully to the campaign providing a refreshing blend of different play styles not usually seen in FPS games. There’s traditional shooter segments, augmented of course by the game’s hyperactive mobility, but then there are also Titan combat segments where you’ll board BT and blast away at enemy Titans as well as the collection of bosses that litter the campaign. Tired of gunplay? No worries, the game also has plenty of platforming segments that let you put your wall running and double jump skills to the test. All of these modes are scattered perfectly throught the brief (just under six hour) campaign, so that as soon as you start to feel fatigued with one type of gameplay you’ll suddenly be thrust into an entirely different situation.
Variety is pervasive in the core gameplay but the different levels also offer their own unique hooks. One particular standout for me came around the mid-point of the game where you find a device that lets you snap back and forth between two time periods (yes time travel) with the click of a bumper. One time period features a factory brimming with enemy soldiers, the other has that same factory on the brink of collapse and littered with scavenging monsters and barely functional enemy robots. Flipping back and forth in time is used both to survive some overwhelming combat and to navigate some really creative platforming puzzles. And then by the end of the level the mechanic disappears with something new taking its place. It’s a great experience and it makes Titanfall 2 stand out more than any other FPS I’ve played in years.
The story is competently told but ultimately not much to write home about, featuring all the the cliche story beats you expect from the tale of a man and his giant robot buddy. Of course there’s not really much to sit through by way of cutscenes, so even when it’s not at the top of its game it’s also not ever impeding your enjoyment. Though the story didn’t always tickle me I found that I really enjoyed the enemy pilots who make up your boss encounters throughout the game. Each boss has their own stage and they’ll frequently appear on the radio to taunt you before you’re able to reach them. The battles themselves aren’t anything too special, for the most part they’re just standard Titan models with a little bit of extra shields. Even so the encounters themselves can wind up feeling pretty epic. I especially enjoyed one battle towards the end of the game where you take on a flying Titan atop the hull of a ship cruising through the planet’s atmosphere.
Of course multiplayer makes a return as well. Players worried by the ill-reception of the initial tech tests can rest somewhat easier knowing that by my estimate somewhere around 50% of the most common player complaints have been addressed, with the most egregious concepts being happily excised. Attrition is back and as expected it’s the best and most popular mode to play in. Respawn still lists their incredibly ill-conceived Bounty Hunt at the top of the playlists but I’m sure that it will slowly work its way down over time.
The game controls in largely the same way as its predecessor, overall movement speed was slowed a bit in the first tech test, then subsequently sped up again, I would suggest that overall it’s just a little slower than the original game at this point. There’s some curious changes and new additions to movement in multiplayer, hovering in the air while aiming down your ironsights is now an optional ability, as is the wall hang maneuver. These changes likely won’t please veterans to the series, but they are offset with the addition of some great new features like the grappling hook, which opens up levels to players in a big way. The best addition to movement however is the slide that you perform if you press the crouch button while running. This allows you to sail right past enemies while landing some pretty great looking kills. Shotguns are a much bigger threat this time around as closing the distance between you and opponents is now a much simpler affair.
Despite reports of poor sales player bases seem to be decent on the consoles and I’ve never had any trouble finding a match with a decent connection. I hate giving kudos to a company for having a game work on launch but for a AAA title released in 2016 Titanfall 2 got off to a great start. It is disheartening to see the game get beat up by its mostly inferior opponents: Battlefield, and the almost sure to be more successful Infinite Warfare, but hopefully Titanfall 2’s promise of free map packs and no paid content can keep its smaller player base lasting longer than its competitors.
I enjoyed Titanfall, but I straight up love Titanfall 2, I really wonder how different of a conversation we would be having if this was what the original game looked like. The campaign is short but incredibly sweet, and the multiplayer has more than enough content to absolutely earn that sixty dollar asking price. It’s also a colossal breath of fresh air to see a AAA FPS that eschews the current money-grubbing models that have plagued the Battlefield and Call of Duty series. If you’re sick of seeing multiplayer games killed by overpriced map packs and pay to win concepts then vote with your wallet. It’s not too late to trade in Battlefield for this pretty sweet giant robot game.