When the original Titanfall was released on Xbox One it set my world alight. I’d never been a big fan of online shooters, but the fast-paced movement, battlefields filled with AI enemies and Titan combat created an experience that even a novice like me could enjoy. Quickly, I went from rarely playing online to having a weekly online gathering with friends called Titanfall Tuesday and playing online on my own when they weren’t there. While I loved the multiplayer experience it brought to the table, I was disappointed that there wasn’t a campaign included and the incredible potential a story with these mechanics could entail. With Titanfall 2, Respawn have included one of the most memorable campaigns I have ever played, but have also tweaked the multiplayer in such a way that it no longer feels like the Titanfall experience that I loved so much.
The multilayered approach to multiplayer in Titanfall was one of its most distinguishing features when compared to other first person shooters at release. Instead of a pure focus on standard player vs player combat, it split the focus between AI enemies, pilots and titans, with separate benefits to the defeat and control of each. Killing AI enemies gained you points and reduced the cooldown time for your titan, you could hack certain enemies to have them join your side, and they could kill you as well, resulting in needing to be constantly vigilant of them. In Titanfall 2 the importance of AI enemies has either been decreased or removed completely depending on the game mode you play. Other than in Attrition and Bounty Hunter modes, the AI enemies have been completely removed from the game, resulting in a larger focus on Pilot vs Pilot and Titan combat. Because of this, maps have been altered to match the smaller character count at any one time. Gone are many of the larger, more open maps; instead maps feel smaller and more focused, with more corridors and funnel points than in the past. What results is a multiplayer that loses the variety and freedom of the past.
The removal of AI enemies isn’t the only change to come to the multiplayer of Titanfall 2, with Titans having received a complete overhaul, and not for the better. Gone are the days of Titan chassis that you would then customise with your preferred weapon loadouts, instead you now select from a selection of pre-constructed Titans. Each Titan feels completely different, with different weapons, abilities and Titan Core super attacks. There’s Scorch, who focuses on thermite grenades that cause damage over time, Ronin, who can phase shift to quickly escape damage and whose Titan Core is a sword that causes quick and high damage and many more. There’s a great variety and you’ll never feel bored with the Titans thanks to that, but there was a simple pleasure to being able to make your Titan your own that is now missing.
The other big change to Titans comes in the complete removal of their regenerating shields. Instead, Titans now have a standard pool of health that is recharged by stealing batteries from enemy Titans and placing them in your own. To steal a battery from a Titan, you need to exit your Titan and rodeo the enemy Titan to remove its battery and then go back to your own to install it. This sounds like a cool new metagame within the overall multiplayer game, but its implementation is clunky and unsatisfying. The real issue comes from the act of ‘rodeo-ing’ an enemy Titan, which has been nerfed since the original Titanfall. The biggest issue is that the animation for rodeoing and stealing a battery takes longer than the original rodeo animation in Titanfall, and with the smaller maps you’re never far from a second enemy who can quickly kill you as the animation plays. By the end of my multiplayer experience with Titanfall 2 I had completely given up on rodeoing enemy Titans as it just wasn’t a viable strategy anymore. While I appreciate that Respawn wanted to try some new things with Titanfall 2, the end result is a multiplayer experience that is inferior to the original.
While Titans have been largely changed in Titanfall 2, Pilots themselves control the same as they did in Titanfall with the changes to them coming with the addition of new weapons and abilities. The most notable of these is the grappling hook, which hooks onto an enemy or the environment and reels you in towards them. What results is a new mechanic that can be used in both combat and traversal and is incredibly satisfying to use in both. Hitting an enemy with the grappling hook and reeling yourself in to melee them to death is one of the best experiences in Titanfall 2’s multiplayer and managing massive traversal strings by wall running and hooking on to other parts of the environment makes you feel like a real super Pilot. Throughout this the controls are responsive, the movement mechanics work flawlessly and overall the controls are a dream that other games and franchises should aspire to. Unlike with the Titans, Respawn kept the core mechanics of the Pilot intact and supplemented them with additions that made them feel better than ever.
While the multiplayer was an ultimately disappointing experience compared to the original, the campaign in Titanfall 2 is the complete opposite. It has you following Jack Cooper, a Rifleman in the Militia Corps who is promoted to the position of Pilot while on the field of battle and linked with Titan BT-7274. From here Cooper and BT go on a journey to find their commanding officer and uphold their original mission. As their journey continues, the relationship between Cooper and BT becomes deeper and the characterisation of it led to me quickly developing an affection and bond with both characters that I haven’t felt in many shooters before. BT reminds me of Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator 2, with a distinct lack of understanding of Cooper’s sarcasm and common phrases. As the game goes on he gradually learns and begins to deliver jokes in a humorously deadpan manner. Watching Cooper and BT grow closer throughout the game and gradually care more and more for the well-being of each other is incredibly endearing.
The biggest strength of the campaign comes from the utterly amazing level design that Respawn have employed within it. Platforming and puzzle solving are surprisingly large parts of this, with many levels requiring you to make deft use of Cooper’s mobility and abilities to be able to progress. The absolutely epitome of this is roughly midway through the game when you enter an experimental research facility and gain the ability to phase swift between the past and present. What results in a fast-paced level where you need to quickly phase shift on the fly while traversing platforming puzzles and during combat scenarios. It was one of the most memorable missions I’ve ever played in a game and reminded me of the first time I played Portal. Another great example is a late-game mission where you need to escape a burning facility as quickly as you can. Equipped with the infamous smart pistol, you sprint down hallways and run along the walls killing everything in your path with an efficiency that is incredibly empowering. Suffice to say, the campaign is an incredible experience and is easily the best campaign I’ve played since Mass Effect 2 in 2010.
Overall, the multiplayer mode is a step down from the original Titanfall, but the controls are still the best of anything on the market right now. On the other hand, the campaign is an incredible and empowering experience that absolutely everyone should try. Ultimately, Titanfall 2 is an excellent package, even if the multiplayer is somewhat of a letdown.
- The best campaign since Mass Effect 2
- Movement and shooting controls are still top-notch
- The relationship between Jack Cooper and BT-7274
- Titan customisability has been removed
- Metagame for multiplayer has been changed for the worse