Hands On With Titanfall 2’s Multiplayer Technical Test

Titanfall was a game that rode the crest of the wave of fast paced, enhanced movement first person shooters over the last few years. Its jetpack-powered movement was something of a revelation at the time, giving you the ability to race from one side of the map to the other without touching the floor, blending double jumps and wall running together in a seamlessly fluid fashion. This contrasted with the heft and weight of the Titans that lend the game its name, all brought together in a compelling multiplayer game.

Going hands on with the game ahead of this weekend’s public technical test, this is still very much true of Respawn Entertainment’s sequel, but all the way through, you feel like they’ve learnt lessons from the first game, adapting to give more of what worked well, reduce the impact of what didn’t, and listening to the feedback of fans. It’s this that spurred them on to create a true single player story for the sequel – which you can read about in our preview from last week – as opposed to bolting a story onto a series of multiplayer games as in the original, but the multiplayer is also a surprisingly different beast.

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The most immediate difference comes from the game modes, with Bounty Hunt aiming to be their new tentpole mode that makes full use of everything the game can do. It’s this that was unveiled back at E3, but even since then, it’s changed in a number of ways to flow better and make more sense. Even then, it’s a difficult game mode to get to grips with, taking place across multiple rounds and with several different ways of scoring points for your team.

Rounds alternate between heading to two drop zones and clearing the areas of AI that drop in as quickly as possible, and hunting down AI controlled Titans. You earn cash for each kill that you make or for damaging the Titan, but have to head back to one of two bank points to deposit your earnings for the team, with each death that you suffer halving your pool of cash and letting the other team grab it for themselves.

The trick is that you and your opponents both have the same objectives, the same AI grunts to kill, the same Titans to take out and the same banks to deposit at. They’re always flashpoints of activity, whether you’re busying yourself with playing the objective or looking to spoil the other team’s plans by preventing them from cashing in their bounties.

Bounty Hunt’s a game mode that takes a bit of getting used to, but thankfully, Pilot vs. Pilot and Amped Hardpoint are much simpler to understand. Pilot vs. Pilot is just that, a Team Deathmatch mode that strips the game all the way back to its central footsoldier combat, without even Titans to back you up, while Amped Hardpoint refines the centrepiece game mode of the original. It’s still essentially a Domination game mode, but AI troops have been removed, and you’re encouraged to stay and defend your point, to charge it up a second time so that it rewards your team with more points over time.

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Interestingly, this all means that you see many fewer AI grunts and Spectre units on the battlefield. Of the three modes to appear in the technical test, only Bounty Hunt features AI, and there they’re the objective, the means with which you score points. They have much more of a purpose here, but it also paints them in a worse light, almost. Where they would have a chance to fan out across the map in the original, it’s more likely that Pilots will be sat waiting to cut them down as they come out of the drop pods in the sequel, barely giving their low intelligence even half a chance to react and start to cause you problems. That’s fine, but when it was such a talking point about the original, it’s a shame to see it sidelined so drastically.

I can’t speak anywhere near a fondly of the now banished cards system, which was never a great fit and added little, but there’s been a number of changes to the rest of your loadout. Many of the same guns, grenades and abilities remain, but there’s plenty of additions, such as the twin shot sniper rifle that fires two parallel bullets at once, the eye-catching grappling hook – I repeatedly tried and failed to replicate the E3 trailer’s audacious mid-air grapple and melee – and Gravity Star grenade, which drags bullets and players into its centre, and makes for a great defensive and offensive secondary.

Titans are now, in keeping with the story-driven single player, more bespoke in their design. You can’t mix and match hulls and weapons anymore, but rather have a heavy titan with a single shot artillery cannon alongside one with a much faster firing high calibre machine gun or sorts. Their secondary and ultimate abilities are also bespoke – the heavier of the two can set the floor on fire in an all consuming wave of flames, the lighter features a vast chest laser that unleashes all hell upon whatever get in its way, while both have variations of the force fields that catch and then fire back incoming bullets. These can then be modified, similar to your pilot loadouts.

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One of the fascinating changes since the original is how Pilot vs. Titan combat is interwoven. As opposed to ripping off a panel and shooting into the machine’s core, rodeoing on the back of an enemy titan now sees you pull out a battery and jump back up into the sky. It’s only on subsequent rodeos that you then pop a grenade into the now open battery hole and spark a great deal of damage. There’s a great deal of satisfaction to being able to chain these together without touching the ground, but it means that a wily Pilot won’t have to step out of their Titan to deal with a rodeoing enemy, and can try and stay mobile.

None of that matters if people stop playing the game after a month or two, and Networks is Respawn Entertainment’s attempt at keeping people playing the game for longer. Every major online title strives to build and cling onto as large a community as possible, but that’s difficult to manage when there are so many games vying for one’s attention. As your friends drift away to other games, there’s less incentive to hop online and play solo, so Networks acts as a kind of LFG or clan system, so that you can reach beyond the players that are in your friends list.

You can set up your own group and be a member of several at once, picking one to be your active group that shows players and messages at the bottom of the main menu, and you can simply send out a message seeing if anyone wants to team up and play. It seems to be a fast and fairly flexible system, with niceties like group leaders being able to message all members, and with the ability to manage the group online as well as in game.

How Networks affect the game’s longevity, we’ll have to wait and see, but it’s window dressing to the fast-paced action that defined the original. The new combat abilities are nice and showy, but it goes much further than that, with smaller changes to a Titan’s individuality in your loadout, and the game’s flow and design in the new and returning game modes. One thing’s for certain, that Respawn learnt a hell of a lot from developing the first Titanfall and are putting those lessons into practice for the sequel.


This preview comes from a press trip to Respawn Entertainment in California two weeks ago, with travel and accommodation provided by EA.

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