Titanfall 2 Review: A kinetic experience

The most disappointing aspect of Respawn Entertainment’s Titanfall 2 is its launch window, but let’s first talk about one of Titanfall 2’s highlights: its campaign.

The most disappointing aspect of Respawn Entertainment’s Titanfall 2 is its launch window.

Wedged between the universally loved Battlefield 1 and intergalactically hated Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, Titanfall 2 was doomed from the moment its launch date was announced — commercially, at least.

Since its release just over a week ago, Titanfall 2 has been very well received critically. Players who were on the fence seem to be picking the game up (I can only verify this anecdotally, but it is indeed a phenomenon). At the time of writing, however, online lobbies aren’t overflowing with players like Battlefield 1’s and (unsurprisingly) Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare’s are.

In fact, in my region (connected to a datacenter in Singapore), there were seldom more than 2,000 players on PS4 (which one would assume is the majority’s platform of choice) at any given time across game modes, and as few as 150 players late at night. We’ll get back to the multiplayer and its player base in a bit, but let’s first talk about one of Titanfall 2’s highlights: its campaign.

Developers Respawn Entertainment deliberately created the original Titanfall as a multiplayer-only experience. Through a series of training missions (played against bots) and not-particularly-apparent lore in its pre-match briefings and tooltips, Titanfall attempted to tell a story to its players in an unconventional manner.

This wasn’t a particularly successful approach—just as with Bungie’s Destiny, which resulted in a much-needed course correction on that developer’s part. Titanfall 2 on the other hand, features a full (albeit brief) campaign, and it is spectacular.

Titanfall 2 Review: A kinetic experience

Playing as Rifleman (and Pilot-in-training) Jack Cooper, you’re put into the classic scenario of having some big boots to fill when something bad happens to your mentor. With an assault rifle in hand and a big giant robot to repair, the first hour-or-so of Titanfall 2’s campaign sees you learn the game’s combat and movement systems.

It’s immediately apparent that Titanfall 2 gives you unparalleled control over your character — sliding, double-jumping and wall-running have never felt so good. It’s up to you to combine these movement options to create your own routine of raining death on your enemies from all directions as a space ninja (the game also has throwing stars, by the way).

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It certainly helps when level design complements a game’s mechanics, and the campaign features a variety of maps and set-pieces which call upon the player to fully utilize movement, gunplay and their own smarts to overcome situations. For instance, the mission “Blood and Rust” requires you to make tactical use of the cloaking system, “Effect and Cause” has some cool time travel elements which feature combat and platforming, while “The Beacon” is an unexpectedly open level for a linear shooter with lots of vertical space, requiring the player to traverse long distances by double-jumping and using zip-lines.

All through this crazy adventure, Cooper is kept company by his adorable smart-talking Titan companion, BT-7274 (voiced to perfection by Glenn Steinbaum). Each pilot is connected to their Titan via neural link, and Cooper is forced to establish one with pilot-less BT early in the game.

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There’s more bonding happening on screen than behind the veil of said neural link, however. Through a series of (albeit pointless) dialogue options, Cooper can evoke an often-smug response from BT in any situation — this doesn’t add up to anything at the end, but is enjoyable nonetheless.

Half-way through the game, you will end up getting pretty attached to this giant bucket of bolts like how Johnny Sokko did, and that feeling is likely to remain with you long after you’ve beaten the game.

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The supporting cast does a good enough, if not spectacular job. The campaign sports enough Titan-on-Titan encounters, of which the boss battles are a clear highlight. Each of the bosses have their own personality and Titan loadout which adds spice and variety to the mix.

By the time I was done with the campaign, I had got the fix I had been craving since Monolith Productions’ 1998 title, Shogo: Mobile Armor Division (if you’ve played or heard of it, you’ll be happy to know that Titanfall 2 is basically Shogo perfected).

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In terms of multiplayer, Titanfall 2 delivers on its promise of fluid, kinetic combat both on foot, in the air as well as while piloting your favourite Titan. Weapons feel great all-round, while the mix of gadgets and abilities allow for dynamic gameplay and varied strategies. Titans feel super strong (like they should), while adding yet another tactical layer to the combat.

The various game modes “Attrition” (Team Deathmatch which also features AI enemies), “Bounty Hunt” (earn currency by eliminating AI and other players and “bank” your cash), “Amped Hardpoint” (a take on the Domination/Conquest game mode) all offer different experiences to break the monotony, while “Pilot vs Pilot” is a great place to start if you want to get used to Pilot movement in a PvP environment. It’s also good to note that Respawn appears to be actively adjusting the game’s balance with one patch already being deployed within a week of release.

I think it’s fair to say that for a game’s online experience to have longevity, it will need a sustained, invested player base who keep coming back for more. Games achieve this through various means — in-game gear, limited time events, cosmetic upgrades, ranked modes and leaderboards, as well as a steady stream of downloadable content.

The bad news is that Titanfall 2 doesn’t have a massive player base to begin with, but the good news is that gamers appear to be taking notice of the positive press the game appears to be receiving. Moreover, Respawn and (shockingly) EA’s strategy is to support the game with free downloadable content over its life cycle — an effective method for both building goodwill, and retaining players (in theory at least).

Verdict

Titanfall 2 is one of the year’s best shooters with a surprisingly engaging campaign, superb mobility mechanics and a multiplayer component which is fun, but more importantly, most of the DLC is going to be free (it’s possible that cosmetic items could still cost money, but the maps and modes will not). You can’t go wrong with this one.

RATING: 9/10

Pros

  • Outstanding single player campaign
  • Freedom and control over movement
  • Fast-paced multiplayer
  • Giant robots

Cons

  • Relatively small player base because of release window
  • Multiplayer will require additional content to sustain player interest

 

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