Reviewed on: Xbox One. Copy supplied by publisher.
This doesn’t make any sense. A good multiplayer-focused AAA FPS that also has a good campaign? What is this, 2007? Yes, the follow-up to Respawn Entertainment’s flagship title has built upon everything its predecessor had and even managed a few surprises.
Titanfall 2’s campaign puts you in the boots of Rifleman Jack Cooper and after the untimely death of his mentor, he’s promoted to Pilot of the Titan named ‘BT’. You begin in a training simulator, learning the movement system before being dropped into the first mission. During the start of the mission you’re still a Rifleman, without any of the abilities or movement capabilities of a Pilot. I felt grounded and inhibited, but as I re-acquired the jump-kit and all abilities came back, I began to re-appreciate everything Titanfall lets you do. Movement is at the core of Titanfall, and with that comes a sense of freedom.
Players move slightly slower than in the original Titanfall, in an attempt to make it more accessible. That’s not to say it’s something new players will instantly master—I’m still blown away by how fast people can go through maps with advanced techniques—but it’s a little easier to get into if you’re new to the series. Coupling wall-running with the grappling hook or stim ability in multiplayer to get around is pure joy.
The campaign serves as a perfect crash course into Titanfall 2’s weapons, Titans, and mechanics. Respawn have managed to jam every aspect into the missions. The platforming puzzles are challenging, there’s a surprising amount of enemy types that push you to experiment with different weapons, and the boss Titan fights are great for showing off what each Titan class is capable of.
The one letdown, as is typical, is the story. What starts as a grounded story, where you’re behind enemy lines and trying to return to your team, suddenly shifts two-thirds of the way through when these heavy sci-fi elements and tropes are thrown at you. It becomes standard save-the-world-from-space-Nazis kind of affair. I can’t say too much more without spoiling it, but it gets incredibly ridiculous and barely slows down to explain. But on the plus side it features goddamn amazing gameplay.
The most surprising aspect of the campaign was actually the relationship between Jack and the Titan, BT. I was expecting it to be the standard Terminator 2 or Odd Couple kind of relationship, and while it has some of those elements, Respawn doesn’t overplay it. BT doesn’t suddenly understand the meaning of love or become sentient, it remains a logical robot. Instead, there are small moments that build a subtle connection between the characters. There’s nothing cheesy; BT respects you and you respect it.
And once you respect your Titan, you can start tearing other players’ Titans apart. Titanfall 2’s multiplayer is even more satisfying than the previous iteration. Kills are quick, so you have to move just as quickly to avoid being at the end of the enemy’s barrel.
Thankfully the sandbox is expanded. There are plenty of new weapons which each have distinct roles, as well as new Pilot abilities that will change how you move around the map or engage battles, allowing players to customise their classes to a much broader range of distinct play styles. This is also fostered by ‘Boosts’ which are Pilot killstreaks. These range from increased damage, to automated turrets and more.
There’s also double the amount of Titans there were previously, however in Titanfall 2, Titan load outs are much more restrictive, and only allow for marginal customisation of perks. I was concerned about this at first, but it actually encouraged diverse play, preventing the gameplay from becoming stale too quickly. The new Titans each have a signature play style around their weapons and abilities and I was constantly switching between Titans depending on the map or game mode.
However, there are some serious balance issues its current state. The ‘Legion’ Titan uses a chain gun that includes both close and long range modes, which dominates almost any situation due to the damage output. If you’re playing ‘Last Titan Standing’ and you’re not using Legion, you’re doing it wrong.
The ‘A-Wall’ ability places a barrier which blocks enemy damage but increases the Pilot’s damage, and is a dream for any long-range weapons. Perhaps the worst is the ‘Map Hack’ boost, which basically gives your entire team a constant wall-hack for its duration. Hopefully these are patched soon, but in the current build of the game they are crying out for abuse.
Titanfall 2 does manage to fix the original’s greatest problem: content. There are tons of unlocks in terms of equipment as well as weapon camos and skins, and it’s going to take a long time to collect them all. The game will also be supported post-launch with free maps. The current levels are all well designed but with only nine at launch, additional maps will definitely be welcome. The first map announced is a remake of the popular Titanfall map, ‘Angel City’. But as Tom pointed out previously, the free DLC will likely be funded with microtransactions. As the microtransactions are not currently in the game we aren’t able to tell how invasive they will be, but I’m inclined to think that they will be mostly cosmetic.
Will the ‘free’ content be enough to keep the player count steady? I certainly hope so, as Titanfall 2 is already one of my favourite games of the year. A good campaign, good multiplayer, and plenty to earn, what’s not to love (aside from microtransactions)?