Developer: Respawn Entertainment
Publisher: EA Games (Electronic Arts)
Genre: First-Person Shooter
Titanfall 2 is the follow up to Titanfall, Respawn’s first ever game as a new studio. While the developer’s first project was polarizing among gamers for its lack of a single player campaign and its Xbox One exclusivity, the game still managed to surpass 10 million dollars in global sales. Well, Respawn has answered critics with a newly created single player campaign in Titanfall 2 along with many enhancements to the first game’s addicting multiplayer modes.
Titanfall 2, like its predecessor, contains violence, blood, some gore, explosions, language, and other questionable content. Play at your discretion. There was no mention of religion of any kind, or even spirituality during the game. However, a key character does make a Christ-like sacrifice near the end of the game.
To start, I would like to address the elephant in the room, Titanfall 2’s campaign. Simply put, Titanfall 2 has one of the best single player campaigns I have ever experienced. That is no exaggeration. The writing on display here is top notch when it comes to the chemistry between the game’s two leads, rifleman Jack Cooper and the Vanguard Class-Titan BT 7274 (referred to as just BT throughout the campaign). Certain story segments reminded me of the bond between Hiro and Baymax in Big Hero 6 as the two heroes navigate an unfamiliar planet behind enemy lines. As players experience the story through the eyes of these two heroes, they will come to love both Jack and BT as the story progresses.
Another strength of the campaign is that it has perhaps the most creative level design that I have seen in some time. No two levels look or play exactly the same, and one level in particular introduces an entirely new element of gameplay that is not seen anywhere else in the game. To complement the level design, the Titanfall 2’s pacing is also very well done as players are never away from BT for very long and when they do get separated, the combat adjusts to compensate for the lack of a Titan on the battlefield. The most fun I had with the campaign was when I got to pilot BT as these moments really make you feel like an unstoppable killing machine. Enemies are crushed beneath your feet as bullets ding against your Titan’s armor like peas out of a peashooter. Despite this, the game also manages to never feel like a corridor shooter as wall running, double jumping, and the similar parkour-like navigation of the first game is encouraged to survive most combat encounters outside of piloting your Titan.
To balance these seemingly overpowering sections of gameplay, each boss battle practically requires that you pilot BT as you will often engage not only with the boss, but several of their Titan lackeys simultaneously. This really forces players to think on their feet in combat and use every ability and weapon at their disposal to bring down their foe. Another strong point of the game, which is something that was also a highlight of this year’s DOOM reboot, is the creative use of the environment and the fantastic level design to encourage players to go out of their way to search for the game’s collectibles.
Here, the collectibles take the form of floating pilot helmets that glow with a blue hue so they are easy to spot from a distance. However, getting to them is the fun part. One of the best things about the first Titanfall game was the speed of movement afforded characters and the near limitless traversal options at a player’s disposal. Need to reach a collectible on a distant cliff but your double jump wont allow you to cross a gap that large? No problem. Simply run along the nearest wall and double jump from the wall to the cliff’s edge and claim your prize. BT also has collectibles to find in the form of new weapons which comprise of a variety of Titan loadouts (classes) which contain new abilities and weapons for players to experiment with during boss fights.
Another chief complaint from the first game was that there were almost no unlockables for multiplayer and not much weapon variety. That is not the case this time around. While the options available still pale in comparison to the likes of Call of Duty or Battlefield, there are tons of unlockable skins for weapons, titans, and pilots that can be earned through success in multiplayer matches. On the plus side, all future maps and DLC for Titanfall 2 will be free and no season pass will be sold. This is great news for gamers who hate micro-transactions and excessive DLC offerings.
Cosmetic changes are not the only tweaks that Respawn made to the sequel. However, this unfortunately is one of the game’s bigger flaws. The overall movement and feel of combat seems sluggish, like Killzone sluggish, compared to the speed of the original Titanfall. While I am sure this change was made to allow the game to seem more accessible to more players, I feel it alienates fans of the first game’s hectic, but addictingly fast and fun multiplayer. Also, the way in which players take down an opponent’s Titan in online matches has changed for the worst. Now, instead of being able to reasonably mount and destroy a Titan as a pilot, you are lucky to even be able to get near a Titan on foot in the first place. Also, mounting a Titan launches an excruciatingly long animation of your pilot removing the Titan’s battery. While this does a significant amount of damage to the enemy Titan, it also leaves the pilot exposed and vulnerable for far too long to be of any use. However, if you successfully manage to remove a Titan’s battery, you can either use it to power the shields and health of your own Titan or give it to a fellow Titan on your own team to ensure they stay in the fight.
One change to the multiplayer that I do like is that Respawn has removed the useless and repetitive Burn Cards which acted as a sort of power-up during the first game. Now, instead of Burn Cards, players can equip boosts which are no longer one-use power-ups. A couple of boosts worth mentioning are those that power up the damage of a specific weapon type and even one that provides players with the Smart Pistol from the first game. The Smart Pistol locks on instantly to the NPCs on the battlefield in multiplayer matches allowing players to easily rack up points and kills towards their Titan score by taking down grunts in MP matches. However, this gun will also insta-kill other players if allowed enough time to lock on to an enemy pilot.
Despite the few negative changes to the multiplayer in Titanfall 2, the game is still vastly superior to the original in almost every way. With a gripping, well paced and emotional campaign mode, lovable protagonists (especially the often accidentally hilarious BT) and tight combat, Titanfall 2 easily ranks among the top shooters of 2016. Although I would wager to say it also ranks among the top shooters of all time, fans of the original will find themselves drawn back to the frantic and addicting multiplayer matches of Titanfall, while having a renewed reason to return in the form of the fun, interesting level design of the campaign which encourages multiple playthroughs to collect all of the 48 available pilot helmets.
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The Bottom Line
Titanfall 2 improves upon the original Titanfall in nearly every way imaginable. Despite a few questionable changes to the multiplayer gameplay, Titanfall 2 easily falls into the rankings as one of the best first-person shooters of 2016. Fans of the original would be remiss to not pick up Titanfall 2 even if only for its stellar single player campaign.