Titanfall 2 Review
As much as I wanted to, I found it a bit of a challenge to become even remotely invested in the original Titanfall. While I did thoroughly enjoy developer Respawn Entertainment’s take on the first-person shooter, their debut title proved difficult to care about, especially if you decided to give it a go well-past its initial release (as I did).
With a lack of a proper, standalone single-player mode, Titanfall chose to focus its efforts on online multiplayer. While plenty of other shooters boast healthy daily active users, Titanfall quickly fell by the wayside, and months after its release, I found it difficult to find anyone to play with, as the game’s paid DLC only served to fragment an already dwindling player base.
To their credit, Respawn has gone to great lengths to fix these shortcomings, and Titanfall 2 is a much better game as a result. There is still a large focus on the game’s robust multiplayer offering, though the lack of any paid DLC will (hopefully) help to sustain a solid player base well after the game’s launch period. Similarly, a traditional single-player campaign rounds out the entire package; a true return to form from the folks who brought us the first couple of Modern Warfare games.
Still, Titanfall 2’s biggest accomplishment is not rooted in its single or multiplayer offerings. As much as I detest having to talk about a very subjective aspect of a game, there’s no denying that Titanfall 2 feels great in action. As vague of an adjective as it might be, the simple act of maneuvering around the game’s environments and worlds feels spectacular in motion, and this is backed up by a handful of mechanics and systems which are meant to eschew the traditional, more realistic physics models which govern the look and feel of most modern shooters.
Aiming is particularly smooth and responsive, and a lot of this is backed up by a handful of tweakable options and settings, including a few ‘analog stick’ modes which alter how the game interprets and accelerates the raw input from your controller’s analog sticks. As you might imagine, shooting is still a large part of the core gameplay, and a set of smartly designed audio and visual feedback lend a sense of efficacy to the game’s many weapons. A punchy noise rings out every time you manage to land a shot on an enemy, and unlike most other games, gunfire sounds more fluid than it does bass-heavy, which lends a sense of speed and momentum to the entire affair.
This all ties into the game’s take on control and movement. Not unlike the original, Titanfall 2 places a heavy emphasis on momentum, encouraging players to chain together moves to quickly zip around the map. Double jumping can provide enough of a lift to make it to a nearby wall, where you can chain together a wallrun to build up speed, or you can use it to quickly change direction mid-air, should you find yourself getting too close to a nearby threat. Powered knee slides and jumping also provide options to tackle small spaces and ledges, and regardless of whether you’re playing online or off, the fast, fluid movement system lends an important role to traversal as a whole.
I was curious to see how Titanfall 2’s campaign would pan out, mostly because the original game’s take on a story mode essentially boiled down to a radio drama that was shoe-horned into standard multiplayer matches. The story puts you in control of Jack Cooper, a military grunt who dreams of working his way up the ranks to pilot, which would allow him to make use of the game’s titular mechs. After his unit is ambushed and his commanding officer is killed, he finds himself teaming up with his captain’s titan, a likeable vanguard-class named BT-7274 (or BT for short).
While the voice acting does warrant merit, the game’s story is paper-thin, and never really held my attention. Part of that has to do with the backstory and lore; for better or worse, Titanfall 2 operates under the assumption that you’re familiar with the world in which it’s set. Rather than providing more information on the ongoing conflicts which are central to the franchise’s lore, Respawn is perfectly fine with filling in more nuanced details.
Still, there are shining moments that are worth mentioning. While the story of an unlikely duo (I’m referring to Jack and BT here) is not the most original idea, choosing to focus in on their relationship kept me invested when the game’s ongoing narrative failed to. The banter between BT and Jack warrants an occasional chuckle, and there are even moments featuring selectable dialogue, which is a nice touch.
Despite its short runtime (you can probably work through the whole campaign in 5-7 hours), Titanfall 2 excels at providing you with new and exciting things to do. Environments run the gamut from jungles and forests to industrial factories and military installations. Boss fights, which are peppered throughout, do an excellent job at getting you comfortable with the idea of titan-on-titan combat, which you’ll undoubtedly run into if you play online. Without going into too much detail, a few standout moments completely switch up the way you play; one level places a heavy emphasis on platforming and maneuvering around an environment which is constantly adapting, while another level makes use of parallel realities and shifting in and out of different phases of time.
As is expected, at some point in time, you’ll have exhausted all that the game’s single-player campaign has to offer (I did find myself replaying each level to track down pilot helmets, which are usually found tucked away in a corner somewhere). This is where you’ll turn your attention to Titanfall 2’s meaty multiplayer offering.
Compared to its predecessor, the sequel makes some smart changes and tweaks, especially when it comes to how Titans operate around the battlefield. Much like the first game, you won’t be able to call in your own Titan until you build up a “titan meter.” This meter can be filled by taking out enemies (both human and AI controlled), and by completing objectives and helping out other titans. However, playing recklessly and getting killed will lower your meter, which provides an incentive for smart, strategic play.
Speaking of which, there are six titan classes at your disposal this time around, and their different loadouts, strengths and weaknesses allow you to pick one that will cater to your specific playstyle. Scorch, for example, is more slow-paced than other titans, but his ability to lay down large amounts of fire-based damage can be devastating under the control of a skilled player. Ronin on the other hand is more nimble and frail, though his electrically-charged broadsword and shotgun can lay waste to enemy Titans if he manages to close the gap on his foes.
In a smart design change, Titans no longer spawn with a regenerating shield, which means that all titans (regardless of what class) are noticeably less resilient this time around, instead relying on batteries to power temporary energy shields. These batteries can be picked up on your own, but the game attempts to foster more team-focused play by allowing friendly pilots to pick up a battery and install it in your Titan for you (which grants them a boost to their own titan meter). Similarly, enemy pilots can remove batteries from your own Titan, which adds more weight to playing as a team, as it can be a little difficult to keep track of enemy pilots should you be engaged with an enemy Titan.
While there’s no co-op focused, wave-based mode in sight, there are plenty of multiplayer modes to try out, though most of them boil down to deathmatch (both free for all and team), capture the flag, and domination/king of the hill. Still, modes such as Last Titan Standing (where the goal is to eliminate all enemy titans) offer a nice blend of Titan and pilot combat.
There’s also the newly introduced Coliseum mode, a 1v1 dueling mode of sorts which requires an entry ticket, and offers the allure of gifts and unlockables should you win. Anyone who’s played an online shooter in the last few years will be familiar with Titanfall 2’s unlock system; ranking up will provide more boosts and abilities to choose from, and using a weapon more and becoming proficient with it will unlock add-ons and attachments.
If you take a look at the current gaming landscape, most shooters tend to focus on either large-scale, strategy focused gameplay, or tighter, reflexed-dependent games that could easily be labelled as twitchy and arcade-y. Titanfall 2, on the other hand, lands somewhere in the middle of all this. While it deftly combines elements of speed and strategy from shooters from past years, its greatest accomplishment is its ability to merge momentum based pilot combat with the more deliberate and weighty feeling of handling a titan.
Neither feels like a tacked-on gimmick, and Respawn’s ability to make both feel separate yet equally important is a testament to their original vision for the franchise. If you’re thinking of ignoring Titanfall 2 this holiday season, you’d be doing yourself a huge disservice.
This review is based on the PlayStation 4 version of the game, which we were provided with for review.
Respawn Entertainment's Titanfall 2 is easily some of the most fun you'll have this year, both online and off.