Review: Titanfall 2
NOTE: I played Titanfall 2 for roughly 10 hours before writing this review. During my time with the game, I completed the campaign on regular difficulty, and played a handful of hours of multiplayer. The following review reflects my time spent with the final version of the game on Xbox One.
PREPARE FOR TITANFALL. AGAIN.
I was a huge advocate of the original Titanfall. It was the game that made me finally pick up a "next gen" console. I never paid much attention to the hype around it, or the disappointment regarding its lack of a proper campaign. Instead, I got the game when it was released, and played religiously. Needless to say when Titanfall 2 was announced, I was already on board. Titanfall 2 hasn't seemed to really have a lot of buzz surrounding it. Perhaps people have learned to tamper their expectations regarding marketing hype (as if). I've been the other way around this time. I've been marking the days on my calendar.
Titanfall 2 is exactly what the first-person shooter genre has needed for years. Its campaign is beyond refreshing, as it is truly a masterclass in shooting. The team at Respawn has taken what they've learned from creating the behemoth Call of Duty franchise, and evolved the formula into what truly is a new generation for the genre. Aside from a stellar campaign, the game also returns with a multiplayer aspect that complements the game well. Together, Titanfall 2 is quite possibly the best first-person shooter of this generation.
A BOY AND HIS ROBOT
Titanfall 2 starts off simple, a quick training course that provides new players the basics needed to control this highly robust traversal system. You play as Cooper, a Militia soldier training to one day become a Pilot. Your run-of-the-mill day gets interrupted, when the IMC forces begin infiltrating a planet, and from there the game begins. You are soon paired up with a Titan named BT-7274, who becomes your friend as you go on to complete your mission together. The story seems quite typical, but but the gameplay more than makes up for that.
After playing the first ten minutes of the first level it became apparent that Titanfall 2's campaign is way deeper than I initially expected. Rather than being a straight-up FPS, Titanfall 2 perfectly fuses elements of platforming and light puzzle solving to keep the gameplay consistently fresh. Just when playing as a Pilot starts getting old, a section where you jump in BT and take on enemies as a Titan comes in. The level design is superb; well above anything I had expected.
FAST, FLUID, FUN
Enemies are pletiful and there is a decent variety of things to shoot at. Each weapon has its own unique identity, and I hadn't managed to find a single weapon I didn't enjoy playing with, which is saying a lot, as I tend to stick to one sub machine gun and a shotgun in any shooter. The sound of each weapon's gunfire is distinct and satisfying, while the haptic feedback from the multitude of guns allows each weapon to stand out tall from the others. Level design calls for all scenarios of battle. One moment will be close quarters combat, while the next, and open battlefield. There's nothing quite like running from wall to wall, while mowing down enemies off in the distance. The variety of guns, combat scenarios, enemies, and traversal methods put Titanfall 2 in a league of its own.
Titanfall 2 also offers boss battles, kinda. Throughout the game you fight a handful of mini bosses, each being in a different Titan. Aside from one of the battles towards the end of the game, I never found them to be particularly challenging, though I did play on regular difficulty. Each boss has their own intro and arena for fighting. It's fun, and I'm glad they put it in there. These battles gave me a chance to test each of my Titan classes against other Titans.
The story however, is a little weak. While the writing and performances are good, I wouldn't say the story is groundbreaking. You are trying to stop the IMC from using a big weapon to destroy a Militia planet (sounds vaguely familiar). By the end of the game, everything you think is going to happen, happens. The story is very tropey, it didn't prevent the journey from being as fantastic as it was, and boy was it a fantastic journey.
Visually Titanfall 2 holds up well. Character models and weapons look stunning, while environments sometimes look slightly muddled down. This is to be expected, however, because the game runs at a buttery-smooth 60 frames-per-second. It's true that compared to recent game's like DICE's Battlefield 1, it may not be the best looking FPS this holiday season, but it's still a darn good looking one.
A NEW BREED
Titanfall 2 is perhaps the most unique AAA first-person game released since Portal 2. Rather than having you constantly run and gun, players are sent through a course of unique and refreshing missions. Between all the wall running and double jumping, the game at times is literally a platformer, and a fun one at that. One level even has you jumping from building to building, while each wall is turned at an off angle. Visually it seems like gravity is playing tricks, but you have to act quick, before the structures turn over too far and cause you to fall off. This Super Mario Galaxy-lite mechanic helps break up the flow of combat nicely.
Puzzle solving, while light and easy, is fun. One mission has you using a device to switch between past and future dimensions. This level offers by far one of the most inventive mechanics I have ever experienced in a shooter. The level is so wonderfully designed, that I never felt like the things weren't being explained to me. The environments and object placement is done in such a way that you always have an idea of what you can do.
Speaking of interesting new mechanics, Titianfall 2 doesn't stop offering new ways to play. Throughout the game's nine missions, I was continuously rewarded with new gadgets and abilities. It wasn't until the last level, that I was able to experience all the goodies that the game has to offer. This Metroidvania element helped make me feel powerful as I progressed and left me always wondering how the game would surprise me next.
TAKING THE FIGHT ONLINE
In the weeks leading up to Titanfall 2's release, I had my concerns about the multiplayer. I poured so many hours into the original Titanfall that after playing the Titanfall 2 Tech Test, I was a little worried about some of the changes made. In a sense, I had become a bit of a Titanfall purest and essentially found myself hoping for more of the same. After hearing an uproar of backlash from the community at the conclusion of the Tech Test, Respawn went back in and tweaked a couple of things. Now that the final version is out in the wild I can say this; Titanfall 2 is different, but not in a bad way.
At its core, Titanfall 2's multiplayer is the same great multiplayer from the first game. Of course this time, there's a whole lot of additions. First of all, there are now six distinct Titan classes, as opposed to the three from the first game. Each class has its own strengths and weaknesses, and I never felt like one was particularly overpowered compared to another. The Ronin class has the Sword Core ability that we have been seeing in trailers. I thought that would easily be my preferred class, but I found myself playing as the monstrous Legion Class more than anything. Regardless of your play style, there is certainly a Titan class for everyone.
Pilot loudouts have changed a noticeable amount too. Gone are the days of carrying a Primary, Sidearm, and Anti-Titan weapon. Now you only get a Primary, and your choice of either a Sidearm or Anti-Titan weapon. Each weapon has a variety of skins and colors that can be unlocked, and the standard attachments and ad-ons make a return. Something new is the ability to level each weapon individually. Now in addition to your player level, your Titan class and weapons all have their own leveling system. This helps release even more feel-good endorphins when you see that "Level Up" logo splash across the screen.
The first game's Burn Card system is no more. Now players can select a buff in their individual loadouts. For example, when I get a kill streak going, I can use a buff that increases my weapon's damage output. It's a more standard method than the burn cards, and I feel like it fits in just fine as a replacement for the old system.
A new currency system allows for players to get the items they really want quicker. Items, weapons, and classes are unlocked as you level up, but if you want something sooner, you can buy it with an in-game currency. Play matches to earn currency, but be warned, the game is not very generous with money. Still, this is a nice way to incentivize players to try new items and keep playing. I like the in-game currency, best of all, there is no way to use real money to buy in-game money.
Luckily Respawn Entertainment back peddled on the original plan for bringing your Titan into battle. In the Tech Test, your Titan would not automatically cool down and get ready to launch. After hearing a lot of complaints from the community, they decided to add an automatic cool down. What this means is that no matter how good (or bad) you're doing in a match, your cool down time until your Titan is ready will continue to count down. The better you play, the sooner your Titan will be ready, but even the most mediocre players can still experience the joy of stomping around as a giant war machine. I'm glad they addressed this problem before the game launched, because if they stuck with their original plan, I don't think the multiplayer would have been as fun and frantic as it is.
MAPS AND MODES
Titanfall 2 features nine all new maps, including a remake of one from the original game. I like the new maps, but I don't love them. I felt that some of the new maps had too much open space with not enough verticality for parkour. Luckily there are a handful of maps that do feature all of the clutter a Titanfall map needs to be the fun chaotic mess that it is. I only wish that all the maps were fully designed with parkour in mind.
Titanfall 2 includes all the best modes from the first game, along with a couple of new ones too. The featured mode for the game is called Bounty Hunt. In this mode, players earn money for getting kills and taking down Titans. After each wave ends, banks open up, allowing for players to deposit their earnings and contribute points to their team's overall score. The catch is, if you die, your earnings get slashed in half, so it is important to bank your money as often as possible. When I first played this mode, I was impartial to it. However, the more I played it, the more I began to like it. It is both stressful and exhilarating at the same time. When you have a massive sum of money on you, there is no greater fear than death. If you can manage to get that cash deposited in time, you'll feel like a hero. It is quite unique, and I believe it is now my preferred mode.
The other big new mode is Amped Hardpoint. This is a typical domination mode, with a clever twist. Capture Hardpoints to gain control of the map and earn points. Capture amped Hardpoints and earn double the points. This can make matches go fast if one team is significantly weaker than the other, so this mode brings a big competitive edge to the battle. It can be tough to get the hang of, but again, I liked this new mode.
Titanfall 2 is easily one of the most significant releases of the year. To any fan of first-person shooters, I simply cannot recommend this game enough. From the refreshing campaign, to the tried and true multiplayer, there is so much fun to be had here. Beyond the varied gameplay, intense battles, next generation story mode, and incredible items is a game that demolishes the competition.