When you consider the pitch for Titanfall 2, the fact that it’s an awesome game seems inevitable.
Here is a title that mixes Call of Duty twitch shooting with jetpack assisted parkour and huge mechs. The mechanics will likely feel familiar to COD players since both this and the first Titanfall were crafted by Respawn Entertainment, a studio founded by Jason West and Vince Zampella, the same people who handled Call of Duty at Infinity Ward, until they left under a cloud in 2010.
Top off the superb in-game action with a classic “evil space empire versus rebels / rebellion / militia” story backdrop and you pretty much have all the blockbuster bases covered.
While the first Titanfall was beloved by critics and player alike and apparently enjoyed high sales numbers, it was beset by problems. It had no single-player campaign, it was not available on any of Sony’s consoles and, most damningly, the public just kind of forgot about it a few months after release.
Titanfall 2 rectifies a couple of issues – it boasts a single-player and it’s on PS4 as well Xbox One and PC – but is it enough?
Titanfall 2 review: Single-player
Titanfall 2 builds on its predecessor’s narrative backdrop in which two factions war over mankind’s expansion into space.
Players take on the role of Jack Cooper, a rifleman in the Militia, the plucky underdogs in the Frontier wars. Cooper has lofty dreams of becoming a pilot, one of those lucky few with a jump kit that allows them to fly through the air and wall run and, of course, pilot the bloody great mechs known as Titans.
Cooper becomes a pilot in the opening mission after his mentor dies in an assault against the Interstellar Manufacturing Corporation (IMC) – the Empire to the Militia’s Rebel Alliance. Not only does Cooper get to don the helmet and jump kit of his fallen comrade, he also takes control of the Titan BT-7274.
The story is not the strong point of the campaign since Star Wars comparisons abound. Not only does a young hero and his friendly robot need to get crucial information to a group of rebels to stop a weapon of mass destruction, but there’s also a third group of mercenaries hired by the villains to add more problems to the mix.
Luckily, every other part of it is superb.
In case you never played the first Titanfall, this is a series of games that puts as much of a premium on movement as it does on shooting. The FPS mechanics shine; initially they feel very COD, but the moment you start pushing your pilot forward into the battlefield, you’ll find Titanfall is a different beast altogether. When you pull off a perfect wall run, double jump as you fly through the air, and manage take take out an entire squad of enemies as you powerslide through their ranks with an automatic shotgun, you feel like the world’s deadliest rock star.
Jump into your Titan BT-7274 (we call him BT because we’re friends) and you swap speed for power. Most of BT’s weapons can kill squishy humans or human-sized robots with a single bullet from its oversized guns. If you punch a small target you turn them into scrap metal or a fine red mist.
While playing as Cooper is a power trip, inside BT you feel like a solid metal god. Every step you take gives you a slight rumble in the controller and all the weapons feel appropriately over powered. Even when you go up against tougher, larger robots or enemy Titans, the illusion of power never ends.
To complement this the environments change depending on what the game wants you to do. If your objective is in a cramped building you’ll need to disembark BT, while the more open terrain is ripe for a Titan rampage. The level designers did a fantastic job. One extended level – a giant industrial plant that looks and feels like the planet factory from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – will probably be talked about for years to come.
The writing too is a real treat with a very simple conversation system in place for witty banter between Cooper and BT. While the delivery of Cooper’s lines is serviceable, BT is the real star of the show. The dry tone combined with clever writing makes you question if his funny remarks are humour or simply AI responses, and it made us genuinely smile.
Respawn deserves a lot of credit for a fantastic campaign; players who expect this to be a tacked on experience for the sake of a bullet point on the back of the box are in for a wonderful time.
Titanfall 2 review: MechWarrior Online
Respawn has also done a great job of creating parity between the single and multiplayer.
All the skills and experience from playing on your own are carried over into this part of the game, albeit without the power fantasy. While you can still parkour like no one’s business and summon a powerful Titan, so can everyone else.
Multiplayer matches have you either killing enemies or taking objections to earn points. Earning enough will get you access to your Boost and your Titan, and will eventually win you the game.
Boosts and Titans are this game’s version of Call of Duty’s killstreaks. While dying on the way to getting them won’t reset you to zero, you will take a significant hit. Players who manage to stay alive while racking up points will be at an advantage.
Boosts range from giving your primary and secondary weapon more damage, to more interesting abilities such as access to a Smart Pistol – a gun that aims for you.
Titans are equally varied and fun and, while we don’t think any one is better than the other, some are definitely more difficult to learn. We stuck around in Tone for most of the game, a Titan with lock-on missiles and a gun with explosive rounds. It made dealing with Titans and pilots alike easy, even in the stress of battle.
Minions return to the multiplayer mode; like creeps in DOTA, no player controls these units but killing them contributes to winning the game. In a standard match these vary from human grunts, to slightly tougher robot enemies, to larger robots about half the size of a Titan. These largest Minions, called Reapers, are the only ones that represent a tangible threat to actual players.
Progression and unlocks are a real mixed bag. Each match players will earn a number of merits according to their performance. About 10 merits will garner you a new level, unlocking new guns, Boosts, Titans and equipment.
A secondary economy also exists in the Credits. These are awarded at the end of games and serve one purpose: to give you access to unlocks before you would naturally acquire them through levelling up. It’s a very nice system that allows you to get the stuff that looks interesting without having to grind.
We’re embarrassed to admit that we burned an entire free weekend in the the multiplayer. It’s fast, compelling and a lot of fun.
Titanfall 2 review: Conclusion
Really the worst thing we can say about Titanfall 2 has nothing to do with Titanfall 2, but rather when it was released.
Not only is 2016 a bumper year for worthy games demanding your time and money, but it’s especially popular for new FPS games.
And multiplayer is where it gets even worse, because the old names in the business, Battlefield and Call of Duty, have both shipped games dangerously close to this one.
With Titanfall’s 2’s sales not looking too good at the moment and, in our own experience, matchmaking taking an appreciable time to find players even on the big servers when you’re playing one of the less-popular game modes, there’s a big chance that this game will have a tiny if not dead online community shortly after launch.
Still, we can recommend Titanfall 2 on its own merits; it’s a game that deserves to find a large and loyal audience.
- Titanfall 2 was reviewed on an Xbox One. A review copy was provided by the publisher.