Platforms: Xbox One (reviewed), PlayStation 4, PC
When Titanfall launched in 2014, it was lauded for its innovative gameplay which included fun tactics like wall-running and jump boosts in a first-person shooter multiplayer setting, along with mixing it up with giant mech battles. The game received mostly glowing reviews across the board. The issue for some players, however, was that it was a multiplayer-only game, lacking a campaign mode, and the multiplayer lacked content and incentives to keep playing past a certain level. For Titanfall 2, developer Respawn Entertainment heard the requests and seems to have implemented or improved most of them – and it’s pretty darn good.
Titanfall’s campaign mode puts you in the shoes of Jack Cooper, a Frontier Militia rifleman who has dreams of becoming a pilot, being able to operate his own titan. The campaign begins with Cooper in a training session where players basically learn the ins and outs of the game’s control scheme. If you’re a newbie or in case you forgot, you go through the motions of how to run on walls, power slide, jump boost, and aim and shoot your weapons.
Unexpectedly, your training is interrupted and you’re ordered to deploy to the battlefield on a planet called Typhon. Keep in mind, there hasn’t been much of a story setup. When we land on the planet, I’m not sure what’s going on. I know we’re fighting the Interstellar Manufacturing Corporation (IMC), but what’s the game plan here? Where are we going? Why are we fighting again? We’re not told why we’re doing what we’re doing until much later in the game. You just have to run and gun and try to survive. Later, we learn that as a member of the Frontier Militia, you’re revolting against the IMC and their hired mercenaries. They have these secret plans that you’re tasked with revealing to save humanity.
Moments later, on the battlefield, it doesn’t turn out too well. With his dying breath, Cooper’s mentor authorizes control of his titan, BT-7274, to Cooper to finish the mission. From there, you’re tasked with getting some batteries to repair BT to get him back in the action and complete the mission (whever mission that may be).
The campaign is a straight-forward linear experience with more than just your average first-person shooting action. There are elements of platforming, some exploration, and a bit of puzzle solving throughout. One of my favorite parts of the campaign is an area where you’re able to travel back and forth in time to run and jump on walls and platforms that were there in the past to jump on walls and platforms that are there in the present. Keep in mind that you're jumping back and forth while a variety of enemies are continually gunning for you. There’s also a scene where you’re going head-to-head with another titan on the top of a moving airship that’s action-packed, exhilarating, and challenging. I died a handful of times during this battle, but boy was that fun. Another portion of the game requires you to access cranes to move certain wall structtures so you'll be able to wall run and jump boost to different buildings.
For those of you who were worried that Titanfall 2’s single-player would be some quick, thrown together cash grab type of experience, it’s not. It’s a well-thought out, deep, immersive, and fun campaign with a variety of enemies, battles, environments, and weapons. You won’t get bored. And although you only get to play as one titan, once you defeat the handful of bosses in the game and pass certain milestones, you’ll be able equip different loadouts that mirror the new titans in Titanfall 2’s multiplayer. Yes, you’ll be able to wield Ronin’s sword on the battlefield.
The writing could be a bit better, but there was some instances of great banter and funny back and forth quips between Cooper and BT. Later on the relationship deepens and there’s an emotional connection between the two of you where the game pulls at the heart strings a bit. The game took me about six to seven hours to complete, with minimal exploration, which consists of searching for pilot helmets which after finding first several, I wasn't sure of the purpose. I’m sure completionists will enjoy seeking out every helmet in the campaign.
To the battlefield!
The foundation of Titanfall’s excellent multiplayer is intact for Titanfall 2. Wall-running, jump boosting, and power sliding are as tight and clean as ever. Seriously, it’s near perfection here. Along with the tightening of the gameplay mechanics we’re given several new things in the game. Some of the new additions to the multiplayer include an equippable grappling hook for pilots, a pulse blade that reveals enemies in the immediate area, and the ability to launch a decoy of yourself to fool enemy pilots while sneaking around behind them. You also have the option of choosing between equipping different types of grenades or the awesome gravity stars, which pulls enemies players into a sort of gravity hole, making them defenseless. There are also several perks you can equip for your pilot ranging from better health regeneration to being able to hang and shoot off a wall.
Rodeo-ing titans are back this time too. However, instead of being able to just jump on a titan and empty your rifle into its head, you’re taking one of its battery cores, which removes a bar of health from the titan. You can take that battery to your own titan or a titan on your team to add to its health bar. Then you can go back to that same enemy titan and start dropping grenades into the hole where the battery was placed. Sure, you have your awesome anti-titan weapons like rocket launchers and laser beams, but what’s more fun that throwing a grappling hook on a titan and taking it for a ride? They can’t defend it!
On the titan side, gone are individual loadouts. Now you can select between six different titans with different weapons and abilities. Ion totes a powerful splitter rifle and can shoot a devastating laser beam from his chest. Scorch carries a thermite launcher that spreads flames all over the place and has a damage-inducing Flamecore ground attack that incinerates anything in its path. There’s also Ronin, the sword-wielding titan you’ve seen in the game trailers. But two of my favorites are Northstar, because of his use of a high-powered rifle, his ability to hover, and his heat seeking barrage of missiles, and Tone, who is equipped with a shotgun like rifle where after three direct hits on an enemy titan you can launch a bombardment of tracker rockets. Plus, you’re not stuck with the same titan you choose at the beginning of the match. Whenever you die in a match, you can switch out titans and pilots. In addition, each titan, and pilots too, can be customized with different armor and weapons skins to allow you to stand out in the battlefield.
Keep in mind, however, that not every titan is available from the start. You have to level up and earn merits and credits to unlock other titans, weapons, accessories, abilities, and perks. I enjoyed the overall progression system because it felt like I was continually making progress, even if I played a terrible match. You get something, no matter what.
Titanfall 2 will have eight different modes, some players are already familiar with and others that are brand new. Attrition is the popular 6v6 mode from Titanfall that has players not only battling each other but AI as well. Capture the Flag is self-explanatory, and Pilot vs. Pilot is an 8v8 battle that doesn’t include titans. Last Titan Standing also returns, pitting 5-player teams against each other in a Titan-only, no respawn grudge match and Free-for-All sees 12 players going head-to-head in an all-out battle. Amped Hardpoint is a new remixed version of Hardpoint that tasks players with capturing a point on the map and then “amping” it making it a bit tougher to capture for opponents.
My favorite new mode is Bounty Hunt. Bounty Hunt requires your team to earn cash during a match by completing different bounties. Some of the bounties include killing enemies, both AI and opponents, in a highlighted area or taking down a targeted titan. The team that deposits the most cash, wins the match. The challenge, however, is to stay alive long enough to deposit your cash after a bounty concludes. If you’re killed, you’ll lose a portion of your cash. On the flipside, if you kill an opponent before he makes a deposit you snatch his cash. Being that I’m not particularly skilled in most multiplayer games, in Bounty Hunt I felt like I could contribute to my team’s win without having 20 kills a match. Finally, Coliseum is a 1v1 battle where two pilots go head-to-head in a cage in a best of five match.
A beautiful battlefield
Both the single player and multiplayer are played against a gorgeous backdrop. In the single player we get to experience lush environments mixed with rock and foliage with creatures coming and going along with structures that vary from dilapidated research bases to flying ships. On the multiplayer side we get fun maps that range from small towns that have seen better days to narrow canyons that seems like you could barely fit your titan through, which was one of my favorite maps.
On the audio side, the voice acting is okay but the weapons sound as clean and crisp as ever when firing. Of course, we can’t forget the sweet sounds of a titan falling from the sky.