Review: Titanfall 2

I like Titanfall 2. There are so many elements to this game that satisfy an urge or revel in the wonder of what is possible in a modern FPS, but beyond the ticks or crosses against the unspoken checklist of a big note title, Titanfall 2 is enjoyable and engaging.

The first Titanfall game set itself up as an exclusively multiplayer affair, so it will not be surprising that the biggest draw of Titanfall 2 beyond the actual Titans, is the multiplayer. Multiplayer is what will keep players returning to the game for months, striving to master the control of their Pilot and Titan. A brilliant single-player campaign is present in the game, but as good as it is, it is not the sign that gets players knocking on the front door.

Titanfall 2 feels smoother and faster than its predecessor, and there seems to be more happening in multiplayer. It is difficult to make sense of the cacophony of battle at first, but over time, the disorder of combat gives way to an understanding of what is happening. It still keeps the pace and continues to feel hectic, but it is not just random mayhem.

Like many multiplayer games in EA’s stable, the path to new titans, weapons, and customisation is unlocking via play. New players with a solid grasp of the game will be able to contribute to the success of their team, but it does mean that those starting out who want to engage in an alternate playstyle (perhaps one they had adopted through the course of the campaign) have to struggle through mediocrity before they can play how they want to.

Aside from returning abilities, weapons and titans, Titanfall 2 features new options for mobility like grappling hooks which can be used for gigantic leaps as well as getting your rodeo on quicker, new Titans, and a lot more options.

The single player campaign features some of the most incredible level sequences in a game this year, and is at times extremely clever and breathtaking, while others, cheesy and forgettable.

The narrative elements that are told through the environment, through level design and the game’s progression outpace the one laid out by the traditional game-story mechanisms. Regular cutscenes, text and other non-playable sequences try to move the story one way, but aside from the moments between protagonist Jack Cooper and the Titan BT-7274, they feel forced.

As a character, Jack Cooper is pedestrian – a blank nothing to let the player imprint, with a few choice lines put out as a way of suggesting a personality. The way in which Titanfall 2 handles dialogue choices is interesting, allowing different lines to be spoken by Cooper, but the conversations are cosmetic touches that do not amount to an impact.

The best character in the game by far is BT-7274, the Titan you bond with and play alongside (and inside) through the course of the campaign. He (and the game calls him such) possesses charm, and the growing camaraderie between BT and Cooper create a decent bond in story terms, concurrently with the growing in-game bond between Pilot and Titan.

The rest of the characters are nothing remarkable, with the voiced allies being one-dimensional, and the opposing pilots being the embodiment of cliches and cheesy nods to action movies. Ash is the typical brooding scifi, Blisk is imitating every mercenary role played by Sharlto Copley, and Richter is the worst Arnold Schwarzenegger impersonation since Steve Carrell in The Office.

This would not be a problem if the game were shooting for over-the-top machismo, but the style of the campaign missions are a different thing entirely.

It kicks off as might be expected – you have an introduction to the controls, then are thrown into the mayhem of battle. You are fired on from all angles, then circumstances arise that put you on the path to using Pilot skills like wall-running or double jumps, as well as trying to get a working Titan. You use the Titan next, and continue on the mission to meet up with a superior in the Frontier militia. There are some opportunities to use your special brand of mobility, but nothing exemplary.

Without going into specifics that might ruin the experience, the middle of the campaign is where that changes, and where Titanfall 2 becomes truly phenomenal. The means for navigation in the factory areas below the surface start to take advantage of what the game does, as the game plays with shifting environments and eschews conventional perception and arrangements to convey a distinct feel.

Once the mid-term goal of reaching Anderson has been achieved, the game introduces a new, temporary mechanic with which it delivers some of the tightest gameplay and level design seen in years. It is the absolute highlight of the campaign. It is executed so well, and the game stays so fluid with the addition that the real pity is that the mechanic is only a small part of the overall game.

There are three moments in particular that are born from this ability, which elevate an already decent game to something incomparable. The first is when you receive the ability, and understand what it can do. The second is when you realise the environment is responding to your use of the ability. The last is when you get back to BT, and use that ability. These are three wonderful big note moments that epitomise the best of modern AAA.

The final third of the game switches back to a more traditional Titanfall experience, which is a step down when compared to the gameplay that preceded it. It wraps up somewhat neatly, with a hint of a longer story to be told in the setting, but nothing truly left wanting.

Despite the quality of the game, Titanfall 2 also has the circumstances of its release working against it. The proximity to the release of Battlefield 1 and Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare is that sadly, Titanfall 2 will not get the audience it deserves. It could be said that each of the games have their own distinct audiences, they are not wholly separate. The first Titanfall game had issues with a hot and cold playerbase, which poured hours into it to begin with, but later turned into a ghost town.

One truth of Titanfall 2 that might help it retain an audience is that Respawn Entertainment are not doing paid DLC. In opposition to the two mentioned, all content made available post-release will be free to those that have the game. It is still unknown how much content that will turn out in the end, but it does mean that anyone with the game will be able to access any new maps, features or whatever quality of life patches come to the game.

It would be easy to nitpick over Titanfall 2. It’s a small-scale shooter played out in a big way. What is ultimately a fun, frantic game that has some truly magnificent moments is let down by a few details, but they are not enough to sour the overall experience. It is full of solid gameplay that gets better the more you play, and even if it might not be a candidate for hall of fame, shows that Respawn Entertainment have tremendous talent.

We played Titanfall 2 on Xbox One, with a review copy provided by EA Australia, at a launch event for the game.

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