Having broken away from the Microsoft exclusivity of the previous Titanfall game, EA and Respawn Entertainment have brought out the big guns for its sequel, Titanfall 2. Not only have the publisher and developer finally brought the series to the PS4, they’ve also seen fit to include a proper story-driven single player campaign this time around – a key element that was sorely lacking from the series debut. That it turns out to be among the best shooter campaigns of 2016 is just the icing on the cake.
Gotta keep moving
Speak to any Titanfall fan, and they’ll tell you that the game’s sense of momentum is unparalleled in the shooter space. The ability to easily wall run, double jump and climb up on ledges, all while constantly on the run, gives Titanfall a breakneck pace and fluidity that has yet to be topped. Though the Call of Duty series (which Respawn Entertainment founder Vince Zampella was instrumental in creating) has since adopted several of these traversal techniques in its more futuristic titles, it can’t quite match the sense of speed and agility that Titanfall seems to achieve so effortlessly.
This parkour-style movement works so well in Titanfall 2 because its levels are designed to take advantage of it. Nowhere is this more evident than in Titanfall 2’s single player campaign, where the mastery of double jumping and wall running will be crucial to your success.
The Iron Giant
In Titanfall 2’s story campaign, you play Jack Cooper, a rifleman in the Militia who dreams of becoming a pilot. Jack’s dreams become true sooner than expected when an IMC attack forces his mortally-wounded mentor to transfer ownership of his Titan, named BT, over to him. Thrust into the war, the new pilot and his Titan quickly develop a bond that carries them through this violent conflict.
At first glance, the storyline in Titanfall 2 resembles the kind of generic sci-fi premise that you’d expect to see in an iOS game. While the story itself is far from original, the game’s humour and the unlikely friendship that grows between Jack and BT elevates the story mode into something that’s truly rewarding. You quickly believe that these characters really care for each other, which is repeatedly demonstrated by their actions throughout the campaign. In many ways, the relationship reminded me of a war shooter version of Brad Bird’s classic animated film The Iron Giant, and I’m sure I’m not the only one to walk away with this comparison in mind.
Stay on your toes
By now, you may have heard some comparisons to Half Life 2 thrown around in regards to Titanfall 2’s campaign, and for once, this correlation is justified. The most surprising aspect about the game’s story mode is that it manages to switch up its gameplay entirely on a level-to-level basis. Each mission, a new device or mechanic is introduced which forces you to change your approach to battles and traversal. Because of this, the campaign in Titanfall 2 never once grows stale.
While the core gameplay ratio remains the same throughout, switching things up between on-foot and Titan-focused battles, these sections change drastically when new mechanics are introduced, such as when time manipulation or wall placement is factored in. One level sees you flipping between past and present versions of the same facility. Depending on the timeframe you’re currently in, the ground or certain walls or doors may or may not be there, and harmless scientists may be replaced by violent enemies. You’ll have to keep your wits and reflexes sharp in order to make it through. It’s one of the more refreshing first person gaming experiences in a long while, recalling the likes of Portal in its clever design.
Titanfall 2 also has a lot of Titan vs Titan boss battles throughout its campaign. Thankfully these bosses, which are almost always voiced in an over-the-top and stereotypical way, never feel overpowered. While you may die several times while taking them on, their defeat always feels achievable. Best of all, the many Titan skirmishes that occur throughout the campaign also allow you to polish your skills for multiplayer.
Let the games begin
During Titanfall 2’s multiplayer beta earlier this year, there was a lot of fan outcry calling it a step backwards, with many feeling it took too long for the losing team to be given access to Titan drops, among other balancing qualms. Others complained about the game making players choose between a sidearm and Anti-Titan weapon (a horribly unfair decision to make, given the popularity of the game’s Smart Pistol). There are also the issues of reduced pilot mobility, the lack of Attrition mode and bots were also removed from matches, making it harder for players to rack up points.
Thankfully, many of these issues have already been addressed for the game’s final release, though some are still unresolved. Attrition mode is back, player and Titan mobility has been increased, and Titan drops now happen quicker, thanks to a change which sees players receiving a small passive amount of Titan meter every few seconds. Meanwhile, the HUD has been improved, and bots are available in certain modes such as the new addition Bounty Hunt.
Along the aforementioned modes, players can also compete in Mixtape, which constantly changes modes with each game; Amped Hardpoint, which has you stealing and protecting bases; Pilots vs. Pilots; 8v8 Mixtape; Last Titan Standing; Coliseum, which provides 1v1 Titan battles that can only be accessed with tickets that come with purchases of Doritos and Mountain Dew (I’m being dead serious); Capture the Flag and Free for All.
Though some issues from the tech beta still remain, Titanfall 2’s multiplayer remains fun and addictive. There’s no season pass either, meaning every player is given access to any new map, weapon or mode for the life of the game.
Verdict: Play it now
Titanfall 2 has arrived in a packed season full of war shooters. While some may have overlooked the game in favour of Battlefield 1, Gears of War 4 or Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, Titanfall 2 is arguably the best of the bunch, featuring terrific multiplayer and the best shooter campaign of the year. With Titanfall 2, the series has risen to the upper echelon of futuristic war shooters. Quite frankly, this game has convinced me that Titanfall should be getting the reverence that Halo no longer deserves. If you haven’t picked it up yet, it’s still worth grabbing. All hail the new king.