Prepare for Titanfall.
AN INTENSE EPIC THAT REFINES THE SHOOTER GENRE
Respawn’s Titanfall 2 is everything I hoped it would be. The writing was on the wall thanks to a supremely awesome debut title in 2014, shortly after the launch of the Xbox One. Though the original Titanfall was a fresh, organic new take on shooters, it laid the groundwork for an ever better follow up.
Enter Titanfall 2.
Titanfall 2 takes everything from the original and does it even better this time around. Heck, it takes things from rival shooters and makes them better. From Destiny’s failed “campaign” mode, to Call of Duty’s sleek, tight gunplay, to Battlefield’s large scale epicness, Titanfall 2 is the best the genre has to offer. It’s pure excitement and challenge at every turn provides something for every kind of shooter fan, with a low barrier to entry but a tough to master dynamic.
2014 was an interesting time for shooters. Lots of developers and publishers frequently discussed single player campaigns and how they statistically were rarely played past the first few episodes or levels. The original Titanfall opted not to have one – though there was a sad backstory that played during online matches, that doesn’t count. Evolve didn’t have one. Star Wars: Battlefront, featuring an opportunity to include some of the richest lore in storytelling history, passed. Activision discussed the possibility of not including one in future Call of Duty games. Thankfully, that phase seems to be gone, with enough of a backlash from gamers.
Titanfall 2’s campaign was better than I expected it to be. It certainly has a Call of Duty: Modern Warfare vibe and that’s no coincidence, as Respawn’s Vince Zampella was a studio lead over at Infinity Ward when MW was released. The direction of the theme is key: the bond between a Pilot and a Titan.
If you aren’t familiar, a Pilot is a soldier from the Frontier Militia. Not only is your Pilot incredibly agile, but they can parkour and run along walls. The Titan is the mech you control. You play as Jack Cooper, a young Pilot thrust into the ongoing war. You’re forced to learn on the fly, and Respawn does a phenomenal job of showing you the ropes. Whether you played the first game or are new to series, the opening tutorial gives you a nice refresher or introduction on the game’s mechanics. You’ll feel like a pro immediately.
As Cooper, you take over BT-7274, a Titan that had been formerly assigned to Cooper’s squadmate. The voice acting behind BT is particularly awesome, providing presence and personality. The banter between Cooper and BT actually separates the campaign from the tradition futuristic military shooters we have become accustomed to. There’s no constant foul language or cliches. This is a fun story that gives depth to the relationship between a Pilot and its Titan. After playing hours upon hours of the original, it was evident that the universe Respawn created was begging to be explored and developed.
Each of the game’s 9 missions feature varied, deep worlds. I was incredibly in awe of how well constructed and unique each level was. Each one takes full advantage of the game’s sterling mechanics and as the campaign goes on, you are expected to be able to use your skills masterfully in a culmination of everything you’ve learned. Thanks to the wall running dynamic, there’s a fair amount of platforming built in. One level in particular has loads of moving pieces, as you are forced to navigate through a giant factory without getting crushed or burned to death. In a different level, you gain a special ability to jump back and forth between the past and the present, where your actions in one affect the other. This is something that even Quantum Break didn’t execute as well as this. I was floored by the amount of variety that was set forth.
Periodically, you’ll come into contact with a boss. For better or worse, these bosses didn’t provide any significant challenge. Rather, they were just another soldier in a Titan, albeit one that talked more than a typical soldier. My only complaint with the campaign (and it’s a small one) is that there were no cutscenes between levels. With all of the leadup and marketing prior to the game’s release, I had hoped to see some gorgeous pre-rendered visuals and animation. The in-game worlds absolutely make up for it, but hey, I can still dream.
Titanfall 2 has made me feel something that I haven’t in a long time in gaming – the feeling of your stomach turning over, not knowing if you are quite going to make a jump high above a large abyss or fall into it. This happened on numerous occasions thanks to the exquisite level design. The game’s mechanics are perfectly polished, so I knew it was my fault if I made a mistake.
ONLINE OPTIONS A LA MODE
Titanfall 2 brings back the solid, if not limited online modes back from the original but adds to it this time around. Attrition is my favorite, as it is the antithesis of all that Titanfall stands for. It features the perfect blend of Titan, Pilot (user controlled), and AI controlled-characters. In this 6v6 mode, your objective is simple: score more points than the other team. This is achieved through kills, with each class of kill scoring a varying amount of points. For the AI-controlled soldiers (which add an ideal balance to the battlefield without feeling cheap or unnecessary), you gain 1 point per kill. For human controlled Pilots, 2 points. For knocking off a Titan, you acquire 5. As a Pilot yourself, you gain access to your Titan after an allotted amount of time. This can be sped up by scoring kills and assists. Once your meter reaches 100%, you can call in your Titan. I felt there were no balancing issues in the first game, and TF2 is no different. My only quip is that it feels somewhat easy to destroy a Titan/be destroyed while as a Titan. Regardless, Attrition features a surprising amount of balance (though no surprise if you played the first game).
Last Titan Standing is for those who want to jump into a Titan immediately. The title speaks for itself – take control of a Titan among a team of 3 other players and be the last one standing to gain the match’s victory for your team. Pilots Vs. Pilots is straight forward no-Titan deathmatch. The interesting thing here is that Respawn’s seemingly dumbed down, bare bones mode does online competitive shooting better than any of the other juggernaut franchises do (Battlefield, Call of Duty, etc.). And that’s no slight to those franchises, but rather a major compliment to Titanfall. It’s partially run-and-gun while mixing in a bit of strategy, a balance that generally eludes other big shooters.
Capture the Flag returns but mostly feels like filler material and is consequently my least favorite mode in the game. Amped Hardpoint is a new game mode that takes a known entity such as the classic Hardpoint and adds a caveat to make this more interesting. There are three points, A, B, and C. Your objective is to take over the opposing bases while protecting your own. After your take over an enemy hardpoint base, you can stick around and double up by “amping” it. This essentially adds a layer of time to how long the enemy would need to surround the base in order to steal it. A nice addition to help differentiate things.
My favorite addition to Titanfall 2’s multiplayer is Bounty Hunt. There are different stages to this mode. First, you must kill as many players as you can. When you do, you gain a base amount of money. If the player you killed had built up money, you will capture 50% of their total. After a short period, the “bank opens” and you must rush your earnings back to this point on the map. If you are killed, you lose all of your earnings and your opponent gains 50%. If you make it back to the bank, your funds get deposited and count towards your team’s point total. Pretty spiffy, huh? I thoroughly enjoyed this mode and I think it’s the one I’ll be coming back to most frequently.
In addition to the slew of Multiplayer modes, there is a deep level of customization akin to what you might find in the Black Ops series most notably. There are loads of different perks you can obtain for your Pilot, such as temporary invisibility or faster regenerating perks. Each weapon can be upgraded and leveled up through successful matches or through completing specific challenges, such as wall running for a set amount of time. The same goes for your Titans, which have multiplied from 3 variations to 6. It’s fun experimenting with the vastly different play styles of the different Titans, as some favor strength and bulk while some favor speed and precision. There’s always a sacrifice to be made, but it’s reassuring knowing that there will be one to fit each player’s given style.
Another aspect of my overall online experience is something that should be a constant requirement but sadly in today’s gaming world, is has become the norm – a successful launch. There have been no online issues with connectivity or servers, dropped matches or audio problems. Titanfall 2’s multiplayer launch has been nothing short of immaculate. Too many developers take the gamer for granted and not enough appreciate them enough to get it right – there have been no patches and no issues to date. That is commendable and as I said, should be expected in each and every game that is released. Hopefully, Titanfall 2 becomes the norm and not the exception.
I can’t say enough good things about Respawn Entertainment and Titanfall 2. The sequel is an improvement in every way from the original title which, by the way, was a quality product all its own. I look forward to playing TF2 for months to come.
+ Impressive single player campaign with highly detailed worlds, meticulously crafted levels, and a fun dynamic of a story to boot. The story in itself is a breath of fresh air into the shooter genre that is so typically full of cookie cutter, cliche campaigns.
+ Multiplayer has somehow improved over the the first title, with more game modes, more customization, and more classes of Titans.
+ Soundtrack matches the epic feeling of the fast paced, heart pounding action.
+ No game on the market features better balance, whether in single or multiplayer.
– No cinematics in campaign. A small gripe, but one worth mentioning.
Titanfall 2 was reviewed on the Xbox One. All in-game photos taken using the screenshot feature on Xbox One.
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