There’s no denying that Titanfall 2 has found itself in a difficult position. Sandwiched between the releases of Battlefront 1 and Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, it has to try and wrest some of the itchy trigger fingers away from two of the most popular and enduring FPS series of all time, regardless of how vastly different their settings currently are.
While shooters have strived to diversify once again, the original Titanfall led the charge and kick started the recent spate of games with double jumping and jet pack assisted movement. Its sequel looks to build on those familiar feeling foundations.
At its heart, though, it’s still Titanfall. There’s a delightful immediacy and lightness to the movement, and chaining double jumps with wall running comes naturally in the first few moments of play. However, there’s a great deal of learning and dexterity that’s still required to really master the system. You’re given an open invitation to run, jump and traverse the sides of buildings, but you’ll soon come back to ground if you don’t know the map. It teases you into hunting for ways to chain your runs together and keep your feet eternally off the ground.
With the signature addition of a grappling hook to Titanfall 2, things are made ever so slightly easier in that regard, as you can latch onto and drag yourself through the air to a flat surface and instantly shift into wall running or clambering up into a rooftop. It’s more useful than that, though, letting you grapple onto Titans and other characters – with a little skill and a smidgen of luck – and quickly giving you another, more aggressive use for such a simple tool.
It’s one of a number of new additions and abilities that you’ll be able to bring into your loadouts, but honestly, I’d be hard pressed to pick these out as key differences from a single 10-15 minute round. The multiplayer trailer above does a great job of highlighting some of the newer and more fantastical options, from grenades that drag people to their point of origin to the ability to hang in the sky while aiming down sights – at least, I think these are new – but playing Titanfall 2 is like slipping into an old pair of boots.
Calling in a Titan is still a highlight, and you just feel powerful as you step into the cockpit and the multiple screens light up. You have a great feeling of weight to your movements that contrast strongly to the speed and lightness when on foot, and you’re given a bevy of powerful weapons and abilities to choose from here as well, with Titan frames to choose from and their own custom loadouts. Admittedly, while you feel powerful, it’s still possible to be rubbish. You want to avoid getting yourself outnumbered against enemy titans, for one thing, and I felt that it was slightly easier to find your Titan damaged beyond repair and having to eject not long after stepping into the driver’s seat.
Some of that’s down to the fine balance in the battle between the hulking titans and the pilots on the ground. It can be quite tricky to track and shoot down a fast moving target like that, but pilots have a number of tricks up their sleeves. First and foremost, there’s the heavy weapons that are designed to deal a lot of damage to a Titan, but just as in the first game, you can leap onto an enemy Titan’s back and “Rodeo” while you deal a huge amount of damage.
But here’s one of the key changes that I soon noticed. Whereas before, you would leap onto a Titan’s back, rip a panel off and then fire into the AI core to deal damage quickly, ripping that panel off now throws you back to ground. You then have to jump onto its back for a second time, before dropping a grenade down a small hole and sending the enemy Titan into overload. It’s a curious change that shifts the duel ever so slightly more towards needing the skill and timing to mount a Titan twice, but also, I feel, gives the Titan pilot less of a chance to react and save their ride, as they could do in the first game.
Another change is the new game mode, which shifts away from the control points of Hardpoint and pure killing of Attrition to feature mixed objectives, tasking you with taking out specific enemy Titans at times, or holding an area and wiping out the enemy AI grunts and robots that are trying to flood it. The better you perform these tasks, the more the battle shifts in your favour, as the points add up, leading to the climactic round ending extraction that was a hallmark of the original.
However, as the series comes to the PlayStation 4 for the first time, the biggest change has little to do with the fast paced multiplayer. Where the original story loosely wove a fairly uninspiring and inconsequential story around a series of multiplayer battles, this sequel has a dedicated single player campaign that seems like it will explore a key relationship between a pilot and his Titan’s AI in the midst of the interstellar war.
For a lot of people, myself included, that’s a big draw to return to Titanfall or explore the series for the first time. As I said at the head of this preview, Titanfall 2 finds itself launching at a difficult time later this year, but in building on its multiplayer and rounding itself off with a single player story, there’s a decent change it can hold its own against two titans of the industry.