Review – Titanfall 2

Titanfall 2 offers up much of what a modern FPS should be and raises the bar for any futuristic shooter. An engaging single player campaign, really good player movement, and an overall feeling of being badass sets this game apart in a field becoming increasingly one note.

Titanfall 2, the sequel to 2014’s Titanfall, is an FPS developed by Respawn Entertainment and published by EA. The game is set in a future where mankind has colonized the stars, and, as with any great colonization story, separate factions eventually go to war. In this case, the Frontier is made up of the militaristic organization, the IMC, set to run the area while the Militia is trying to break away and set their own destiny. Both sides are made up of ground troops known as riflemen, large robots known as Titans, and the pilots who link with the Titans control them when on board. As is well described and shown in the introduction of the game, the pilots are the cream of the crop in the factions, gaining the skills and gear to take down any number of riflemen.

In the game’s single player campaign, you play a rifleman, Jack Cooper, who is in training to become a pilot for the Militia. As luck would have it, you are quickly thrust into a situation where you must don your pilot’s helmet and embark on a journey with your new best friend, BT. Over the story that follows, BT and Jack grow on each other more and overcome the obstacle of attacking IMC installations and discovering their nefarious plots.

Knowing that the single player campaign in Titanfall 2 can come in around six hours, I decided to pick it up one weekend for a playthrough on the Playstation 4. It quickly moved up the cache list from “To Be Loaded” to “Running”. Sure enough, five hours and fifty minutes later, it had been graduated from the cache into a good memory of that time. The simple fact that I played the game from 9pm to 3am is a testament to just how good and refreshing the single player campaign is. The story, while predictable to anyone who has seen buddy AI sci-fi, sets a great pace and does not let go. The single player campaign is set over the course of roughly a day, and the timeline never seems to jump very far between the game’s chapters. I never felt like I missed much of the action surrounding the main character or his story with BT, flowing seamlessly from one setting to the next.

Having never played the original Titanfall, I was unsure what to expect from the gameplay going into the night’s session. Very early in the game, as Jack Cooper goes through his pilot training course, it was easy to tell that the movement provided the player is an innovation rather than a copy of some other game’s mechanic. The wall running feels adequately sticky and not difficult to engage. The double jump ability requires a bit more finesse than would be typically found with timing and judging of distance being more important. The run slide also is a personal favorite, often being used to rush by enemies while simultaneously unloading my weapon on them. It definitely felt like I could live up to the army of one portrayal of the pilots given in the first few minutes of the game.

Movement in the Titan, in contrast to being on foot, left me scratching my head a bit. Quite frankly, segments broke immersion rather quickly. Piloting the Titan felt as I expected, with movement of the large robot coming in a bit faster than the mechs I drove in my Mechwarrior days. The movement had weight while still being smooth enough to properly engage enemies of every variety. That being said, sequences where Jack Cooper is on foot next to BT showed the Titan practically dancing around the area. Enemy Titans also showed similar tendencies when appropriate. It was just a bit odd to see the complexity of movement while there was no human pilot dumbed down to more “robotic” walking and limited boost sliding with a pilot. Again, this should not take away from the fact that I really enjoyed piloting through the appropriate segments of the game, but largely because of the weaponry I could bring to bear.

Speaking of weapons, Jack Cooper is able to carry a variety of weapons, two at a time. These mostly consist of rifle style weaponry with the primary difference being fire rate and magazine size. There are a couple of other weapon types thrown in, such as an energy rifle, that provide some variation in the flinging of lead around the levels. There is also a rocket launcher, but I did not use it other than one required scene. The pilot’s weapons were not incredibly varied, but did feel solid enough to never take away from the overall game experience. The Titan is a different story altogether. As the main story progresses, kits are found that provide new weapon loadouts to the Titan. Each kit comes with a primary weapon (machine gun, grenade launcher, etc), a secondary fire ability, and two Titan abilities. These kits cannot be mixed and matched, but I did find that later kits had similar abilities to earlier ones. The kits were definitely varied enough to give the player different choices in how they wanted to take on the situation. I found through most of my gameplay that I used the first two kits in the game, only switching to one of the others to take on a particularly annoying boss.

Enemies in the campaign were probably the least varied aspect of Titanfall 2. The pilot’s enemies came in four or five basic types (depending on what makes a type) and were found throughout the game. The tactics of each unit did not change as well, making it relatively easy to know where any unit would be and how to pick them off. The basic rifleman unit, for example, almost always went for cover, which meant I spent a lot of time running around the other side of the cover and finishing them with a hefty punch to the back of the head. The pilot’s enemies were also not very daunting with death only coming in a few instances of being overwhelmed or charging forward to a particularly bad position. The enemy Titans also appeared in about the same variety with each one named for the type of kit they employed. Some Titans required a slightly different tactic, but I primarily found I could brute force my way through almost all of them (standard shooting while moving to avoid getting shot). Only some boss fights presented a difference in movement that forced a new way of fighting (one such boss fight was an ode to Top Gun that made me smile the entire sequence).

Titanfall 2 lived up to being a modern game in the visuals. The overall art style is super saturated with characters and settings getting a flat but vibrant look. The game may not have the character models of Uncharted 4, but the characters and enemies are well represented. The set pieces are well constructed with an appropriate amount of props populating each. One particular setting later in the game with towers and construction cranes left me wanting to just stand and look around for a while. Throughout the game the Source engine gives a solid 60fps performance, which is likely largely due to the dynamic resolution feature (ability to lower resolution to maintain frame rate).

Sound in Titanfall 2 were, at the very least, a match for the visuals. Weapons sounded appropriately weighty with solid thuds from the heavier calibers. Titans stomped around the levels with the right impact. Enemy comments during combat also never got annoying, and the positional audio often gave away their location. The voice acting was also very well done, never feeling over the top for the given situation. Perhaps my favorite piece of audio in the game was a small bit that could be overlooked: the sound of the player’s pilot kit. Throughout the game you never see what gives the player the ability to wall run or double jump to such great effect, but you do hear it. Each time I engaged a wall, I could hear the kit jets kick in to keep me stuck to it like glue. It was small, but I greatly appreciated it being present.

The single player campaign is not all there is to Titanfall 2 (in fact, the first Titanfall did not have one, which is largely why I did not play it). I did not spend much time at all with the multiplayer, but the mixture of combat definitely seemed to offer something new to the twitch shooter scene. The ability to have great impact as a pilot with sheer movement and then great damage as a Titan with weaponry offers up a new strategy not typically seen in these games. I am sure that anyone primarily interested in multiplayer competitive experiences would enjoy more than a few rounds.

Titanfall 2 was definitely worth my time with the single player campaign and I am happy I took the opportunity to play before it passed me by. As a person who likes story and immersion over most other aspects of gaming, the game did not disappoint. I highly recommend anyone out there add it to their cache and give it a playthrough.

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