The core team of developers at Respawn Entertainment aren’t just known for their multiplayer first person shooters, but also for some defining single player campaigns as well. So when Titanfall eschewed single player in favour of wrapping its story around a series of multiplayer matches, it felt like a missed opportunity. Titanfall 2 looks to make up for that.
You play as the incredibly blandly named Jack Cooper – you can just imagine him as a soap opera character, can’t you? – a lowly rifleman, one of the cannon fodder that is mercilessly dispatched in the multiplayer games. Except he’s being coached to pilot a Titan by one of the Militia’s elites, Captain Lastimosa. It’s a good thing, as well, because a Militia operation goes very, very wrong, and Jack is thrust together with the Vanguard class Titan BT-7274.
Together, you fight behind enemy lines, work your way through all manner of installations, wildernesses and cities on this alien world, occasionally banding together with stranded Militia groups as you try to complete the mission and put a stop to the IMC’s classic dastardly plan.
Most importantly, the single player builds on the core principles of what Titanfall is. This isn’t just a corridor shooter, but blends those moments with more sandbox open fighting areas, the ability to take a stealthier approach, controlling BT, and sections where you’re faced with areas of traversal and have to lean on the game’s double jumping and wall running. In some ways, and I’ve said this before, it’s more akin to an action adventure game than a traditional FPS campaign.
And there’s no end of spectacle. Each location that you work your way through has its own style, even if heavy industry is a bit of a running theme. A huge moving construction facility that might be the scene of a grand finale in another game pops up early on here and is a sign of things to come. There’s always a new twist or a new ability to play with, but they only stay around long enough to leave you wanting more – at around 5 hours long, the same is true of the campaign itself.
You’re also privy to the comms chatter of the IMC’s mercenaries who are looking to take you down, and with showy introduction cutscenes, these pop up as boss characters to battle against, Titan on Titan. In truth, those are perhaps the weakest part of the single player, and for each one I died a couple of times before finding a way to simply survive long enough to make use of whatever Core ability BT’s loadout has at that time. In other words, you can just use BT’s most powerful Core ability to deal a vast amount of damage in a short amount of time.
BT gets to be the star of the show, as your trusty companion throughout. You talk to him via simple dialogue options, letting you flesh out some parts of the story, and has these play to the script’s humorous slant of BT being a robot that doesn’t know he’s being funny. Of course, it’s in aid of building an emotional attachment of sorts, and from the day Titanfall 2 was announced, the assumption has been that Respawn will kill BT off at the end. All I’ll say is that they have a lot of fun exploring this relationship.
Of course, alongside this fun, action packed romp is the multiplayer. Titanfall was one of the first to absolutely nail the modern fast paced, ultra mobile FPS, and this sequel takes all of that and makes tweaks and changes across the board while preserving that core gameplay.
Things like the burn card system have been given the old heave-ho, while rodeoing an enemy Titan has been reworked to encourage teamplay. It now sees you thrown off an enemy Titan’s back time and again, first stealing a battery that can be used to power up a friendly Titan or overcharge the shield of your own, and then popping grenades into that hole on successive rodeos. It changes the Pilot on Titan combat in the process, but still rewards skilful play.
One of the biggest changes, though, is in having six bespoke Titans that have specific weapon and ability loadouts on specific Titan frames. Scorch can deal huge damage up close with its Firewall attack or by emitting a devastating wave of flames with its Core ability, while Northstar has a powerful charge up sniper rifle and can launch up into the sky to shoot down from up high, but its smaller frame can only take a smaller amount of damage. Ronin uses that to its advantage, being smaller, but faster to get in close and use its sword.
They all have a distinct look, and you’re able to see more clearly what you’re up against because of it. The same is true of the Pilots themselves, with each of the seven main abilities having a particular character model, and those with keen eyesight may be able to pick out whether their target can cloak, spawn a holographic clone, duck into a shadow dimension for a few seconds, and so on.
I spoke at the end of last week about how much I enjoy the guns in the game, and a few days later my opinion hasn’t changed. You have fairly conventional SMGs, LMGs, sniper rifles, and so on, many of which came from the original game, but then you have the slightly more unusual. There’s guns with twin barrels, gradually increasing rates of fire, and across the board I found them satisfying to use, and they felt fairly well balanced. Your secondary is either a big, cumbersome anti-Titan weapon, or can be swapped out for a pistol, my favourite being a triple barrel shotgun pistol that packs a real punch.
Loadouts are rounded out with a variety of grenades – the one which spawns a little black hole is fun, but needs a little luck and precision to get the best out of – perks that let you hang on a wall when you aim, get a faster ability recharge, and so on. Set aside from this are the boosts, which live in a separate menu item. It’s here that you’ll find the Smart Pistol, the ability to reveal the enemy team, scramble their radar, summon little explosive drones and defence turrets. In effect, they replace the Burn Cards, simplifying and redesigning a system that never quite worked into something easier that does.
Of course, the game is just as fast and fluid as ever, and there’s a delightful glee to wall running at a ludicrous pace around the map, or making use of the new ability to slide to sweep round corners gun blazing – the best players combining these mobility techniques is going to be truly frightening to play against. At the same time, it’s joyous to go on the rampage in a Titan and squish the Pilots that you see in your way, though you need to be wary of taking too much damage. Going critical no longer sees you doomed to die regardless of your actions, but simply gives you a serious warning that taking too much more damage will be the end of you if you don’t eject in time.
Attrition makes a return, blending Team Deathmatch with Pilots, Titans and little groups of AI grunts, and this sits alongside the more straightforward game modes like Pilots vs. Pilots, Capture the Flag and the slight twist on Domination that Amped Hardpoint is.
Bounty Hunt stands alone as something new, but also something that doesn’t quite hang together. You’re fighting to be the first to kill waves of neutral AI grunts, spectres and Titans, aiming to get the last hit and earn your team points, except you’re earning points and you need to stay alive long enough to be able to bank them between rounds. It’s just not as easy to pick up and play.
Similarly, Respawn have built a community creating tool into the game called Networks, letting you find others to play with that aren’t necessarily on your friends list. It’s a clever idea and one aimed at extending the game’s longevity, but it’s something that will have to prove its worth, in my opinion.
On the one hand, you have Respawn’s short, but fun single player that’s more free and open than most FPS campaigns, and on the other, a multiplayer that’s an iterative improvement on an already fantastic game. In other words, Titanfall 2 is as exhilarating and refreshing now as the original was back in 2014.
Versions tested: PlayStation 4, PC