PLATFORMS – Xbox One, Playstation 4, PC
RELEASE DATE – October 28th, 2016
DEVELOPER – Respawn Entertainment
PUBLISHER – Electronic Arts
GAME ENGINE – Valve Source Engine
GENRE – First Person Shooter
Full PC Specs
OFFICIAL WEBSITE – http://www.titanfall.com
Your Titan will be a permanent presence, wingman, and buddy, as well as your primary means of travelling the campaign’s world(s). But he’s only intermittently playable in combat, your time cut between on-foot battles and mech vs. mech play, as the two of you work together to explore and solve the problems around you, two differently sized and equipped partners sharing a common goal. Titanfall 2 does a great job of changing up pace and environment in order to justify your going it alone and joining back up, but its handling of BT impresses beyond the purely structural.
Narratively, the campaign’s careful rhythm of splitting and regrouping the team builds a surprising emotional closeness between the two of you, accelerated no end by the constant response choices that shape and personalise dialogue that in many other shooters would be arbitrary and throwaway. With player character Jack the witty quipper, and BT the deadpan straight-man, there’s a progressively affecting feeling that the two of you are halves of the same whole, a growing sense of closeness mirrored, re-confirmed, and amplified every time you come back together to bring out the big guns.
The new Titans lend a very different pace to multiplayer matches. While the first Titanfall was always turned up to 11, so to speak, with smaller maps and cookie-cutter Titans focused on dealing damage, Titanfall 2 understands the value of breathing room. It doesn’t burn you out with an onslaught of firefights–its maps are focused on exterior environments, and are often on the larger side, giving you time to plan out your attack with the intricate Titan loadouts. The plan may go awry, but it lends more weight to each enemy encounter. There’s a sense of build-up as you approach a capture point, knowing full well which Titans occupy the area, and thinking through each step in your head.
Each multiplayer mode is tailored to facilitate Titanfall 2’s interwoven combat systems, but also to twist the formula in creative ways. Bounty Hunt is my favorite–you gain currency by killing the enemy team and AI grunts that litter the map, and at the end of each wave, you’re given the option to deposit your loot in one of several banks. But here’s the wrinkle: you have to leave your Titan in order to do so. What’s more, clever players will camp near banks to pick off unsuspecting Pilots as they approach their goal. It’s a frantic game of cat and mouse that increases in tension as the banks open and each team knows exactly what the other is doing, or trying to do.
Titanfall 2 also includes some of the most intelligent level design offered in recent years. A large trek through a factory has entire structures rotate and rebuild themselves around you. A sequence with temporal fluxes blasts you between two versions of the same level. A wild aerial battle demands horrifying leaps of faith.
Occasionally, Titanfall 2 gets too smart and complicated with these designs. More than a few times, I traveled long distances only to find that I’d looped around to where I started. In other instances, the game failed to communicate distances and pathways. I fell into plenty of pits because the game sometimes does a piss poor job conveying what is navigable and what is not. You can occasionally refer to holograms that show you suggested pathways but the action still ends up stymied from time to time.
Titanfall 2 is very obviously hoping for competent meat and potatoes rather than a bold recipe that you haven’t seen before. This feels like the case in the campaign’s gameplay and level design. And, like the game’s narrative, Titanfall 2‘s success in its play is just as uneven.
I’ll immediately undercut myself a bit here by saying that Titanfall 2 has, without a doubt, the smoothest, best controlling player movement in a shooter that I’ve ever laid hands on. The abstraction layer between what I was doing on my controller and what I felt and saw on the screen felt paper thin. This is impressive — as it was in the original game — in part because of everything you can do.
Pilots can double jump, run along walls, slide, mount enemy titans, and use a host of sub abilities, a wealth of options that dwarfs moment-to-moment player capability in other games. But somehow, it’s almost never confusing. Movement in Titanfall 2 is organic and fast and, at times, even beautiful, especially when Respawn provides the appropriate playground to push your abilities the hardest. And, if you’ll pardon the gross over-reduction, shooting in Titanfall 2 feels as close to liquid motion as I’ve played in an action game.
“Feel” is a maddeningly vague adjective for a video game, but it’s the only thing I can really use to explain how Titanfall 2’s basic mechanics click together. The easiest comparison is Call of Duty, which would be lazy if not for the fact that the two series share an enormous amount of DNA — so much so that Titanfall 2 at times feel like a what-if for where the pre-eminent FPS might have gone if not for the machinations and fallout that chased Respawn’s founders out of the company they founded. It has the same mix of audio and visual indicators when you score a hit on an enemy, the ones that you can almost feel in your bones.