Titanfall 2: Review (Xbox One)
Respawn Entertainment are a seriously talented bunch of developers. They have done something quite unexpected with Titanfall 2’s new campaign by introducing extensive platforming, puzzles and a sense of scale which has more similarities with Half-Life 2 than say Call of Duty.
Unlike the first Titanfall, which was a multi-player only game, Titanfall 2 has a fully fleshed out 7-8hr campaign. It was exactly what I wanted for the next installment for the series. So I strapped on the booster pack of the somewhat tritely named “Jack Cooper”, a mere grunt in the resistance army fighting an evil, overbearing government force.
Cooper has dreams of Piloting a Titan mech and the early death of his Pilot mentor, means control of Titan “BT-7274” passes to Cooper. Cooper and BT become a team with the simple mission of surviving long enough to make it back to base with important information on a super-weapon. I’ll grant you, as a narrative it all sounds pretty wrote.
However, the decision to have BT fully voiced and some simple dialogue trees for Cooper to use, created a sense of ‘team’. By the end of the campaign BT had helped me out of trouble, made me laugh a couple of times and I to be honest I had started to give a crap about him. Sure, the characters in Titanfall 2 are still paper-thin, but getting me to follow the story line and to care at all about a mono-tone Mech, is an achievement in itself.
The amount of platforming in Titanfall 2 cannot be understated. I spent almost more time running along walls or making insane jumps than being on terra-firma. In fact Pilots are probably best described as acrobats first, elite soldiers second. And if I wasn’t wall running above lava flows or bottomless caverns, I was usually tucked up inside BT, raining down rocket fire and smashing enemy grunts into a red mist. The juxtaposition of the two intertwined gameplay types is where this games strength lies. When playing as Cooper I had the ability to kill enemies in so many ways, giving me a sense of freedom that so many other shooters don’t, as they still seem stuck in the- find cover, left trigger, right trigger- mechanic. In Titanfall 2, I was seamlessly leaping, sliding and cloaking like a Ninja of liquid death.
Piloting “BT” on the other hand is slower and more methodical. Unlike with Cooper, Grunt enemies are no match for BTs arsenal, however there are a few boss fights against enemy Titans that were a real test. Tactical management my Titans abilities was required to win. When an enemy Titan Pilot taunted me over the radio, then sent a barrage of rockets at BT causing his health bar hit critical. Forget that I was inside a 20ft mech, I strangely felt very vulnerable. All I wanted to do was be mobile again. Jump out, cloak up and run around the walls. The freedom of being in my Titan or being a high-tech Ninja was mostly up to me. There are certainly a lot of levels that required me to be playing as Cooper or BT just to progress, but there are also vast open combat areas that playing as either was a viable and refreshing choice.
All the mobility afforded to Pilots, means that the design team have had to be creative with the environments. The classic FPS corridor is almost non-existent. Levels vary from deep canyons, massive industrial sites and floating platforms in the sky. A real standout level was an automated house building factory. As I boosted and fought, kit-set buildings were being made around me and I eventually had to fight in the end result, a prefabricated town. I remember thinking to myself as the town level was put together in front of me…”geez, the Respawn guys are clever”. The mechanics put over the top of the level design also shows the creative freedom the designers have been afforded. Time travel, unique weapons and manipulation of game environments are the sorts of things that would usually be in a ‘Jak and Daxter’ or ‘Metroid’ game, but they have found their way into a AAA military shooter. It’s brilliant!!
I am predominately a single-player focused gamer, but I dabble in certain online shooters that grab me. Titanfall 1 was one of them. I spent hours in it, even maxing out my character and ‘prestige-ing’, which is unheard of for me! Suffice to say, I loved Titanfall 1.
Titanfall 2 has not grabbed me as hard. It still feels very fluid, the dynamic movement and wall running within levels is still Titanfall’s strength. But everything in the game feels a bit less balanced. The Titans don’t seem to live very long, which is frustrating considering the work/time it takes to get one to fall. The Pilots on the other hand seem too tough, happily going toe to toe with Titans instead of cowering in a building as one lumbers past.The number of Titan classes have more than doubled and have more customisation options, but once again in a change from Titanfall 1, primary weapons are disappointingly locked to each class of Titan.
The Pilots amazing movement in M/P is slick as are the selectable abilities. The thrilling grappling hook, which was in all the trailers, is my favorite. Zipping onto enemy Titans to steal their battery a breeze. Taking the battery and zipping over to a friendly Titan to give it the ill-gotten battery speeds up your own ‘Titanfall Countdown’ significantly too. The M/P game types and class unlocks are varied but pretty familiar to any online gamer.
My major M/P complaint is the stock assault rifle- the R-201. Like Titanfall 1, it is still the best gun in the game by miles. There are some really fun weapons on offer, especially in the secondary weapons slots or Anti-titan weapons, but the strength of the F-201 means there is little point in using anything else as a primary weapon, unless you want to be a sniper….But why sit still in a game about being parkour demon of death. I like that the XP system essentially pays out ‘credits’ at the end of matches. So unlocking new gear is a choice of waiting to get to the right level, or just spending saved XP ‘credits’ to unlock desperately desired gear early.
When I played the first Titanfall, all I wanted was a campaign based in the ‘universe’ Respawn had created. With number 2 , they have not failed to deliver. However the online multi-player has had changes that I would argue were not for the better. Overall, Titanfall 2 has ticked the all the boxes – Unique feeling weapons that encourage adaptation and improvisation, smarts level design and a neat story….what more could you want in a shooter?