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Titanfall 2 is a fast paced sci-fi military themed FPS out now on PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Alan Stock brings you this review for ComiConverse.
Game Review: Titanfall 2
Following in the thudding footsteps of Titanfall, this sequel from developers Respawn Entertainment makes a good impression from the very start. From about half-way through the install of the game, you can jump into the single player campaign. After a brief tutorial in a pretty virtual reality world full of floating islands, you are tasked with running the “Gauntlet”. It’s a short stretch of rooms and corridors filled with enemy holograms and acts as a speed-run challenge. To progress, you must beat a target time, but it’s so fun that you’ll return to it again and again trying to beat the ghost images of other runners. It’s a great way to teach and reinforce the mobility and speed that Titanfall 2 is based around. By the time I hit my skill cap, the game had installed ages ago, and I reluctantly ended the run to begin the campaign proper.
The single player is full of nice touches and ideas like this, and stands up as one of the better FPS campaigns in recent memory. Far from a sideline to what many consider the main attraction of multiplayer, Titanfall’s 2 campaign has many brilliant moments and at times even reaches the heights of epics such as the Halo series. The fairly thin plot doesn’t damage the game too much, the Halo echoes continue here as your Militia fleet crash-lands on an lush, enemy occupied planet. With your faction’s military scattered over the wilds, you must conduct guerrilla operations against the evil IMC, another human faction using similar military technology to your own, hooking up with your allies from time to time. As FPS stories go, its not going to win any awards, but it allows for some interesting scenarios.
You play as a Pilot – an agile character who moves quickly, can wall-run, slide and double-jump. Just moving around the battlefield is fun, and your maneuverability also allows you to use the environment to your advantage in combat, giving Titanfall 2 a distinctly different gameplay flavour to normal military FPS’s. You don’t have much health (which regenerates quite fast), so using cover and the tactical tools at your disposal is vital to stay alive. These include your mobility and speed, different types of grenades and weapons, and a cloaking device on a short timer. The basic weaponry mostly fits the standard FPS fare: SMGs, assault rifles, snipers and shotguns, with a sci-fi flair. But they all feel suitably punchy and are immensely satisfying to use. Combat is meaty and although you’re always heavily outnumbered, enemies go down quickly.
Again reinforcing the Halo vibe, you’ll face a variety of different enemy types (sometimes with allies supporting you) which require different approaches to defeat. Different enemy combinations require quick thinking and tactical adaptation. Opposition includes standard military grunts, flying drones, resilient robots, energy shield bearers, native wild beasts and robotic “ticks” – which scuttle over any surface to reach you and explode. But most formidable of all are the enemy Titans.
Titans are giant humanoid war machines, or mechs, which only Pilots can control. Dropped in from orbit (hence the title “Titanfall”), they act automatically under AI control until a Pilot takes the helm. Titanfall 2 introduces new Titan types following the first game – there’s six in total now, and they each have their own weaponry and abilities, ranging from the agile sword wielding Ronin, to the hulking flame attack-based Scorch which is great for map control and decimating infantry. During the course of the single player campaign you’ll face many of each Titan type and they offer a real challenge, with unique boss Titans manned by enemy mercenary heroes also appearing at key points in the story. Fortunately, to combat these, you have your very own Titan: BT-4274.
BT, as he’s affectionately named, acts as your main source of character interaction during the campaign, accompanying you throughout the story. Not quite up to the appeal of “Dog” from Half-Life 2, he’s still given a decent amount of personality and chats to you frequently through the game, and occasionally you can choose what to say back to him. Although it’s a simple and hardly original war buddy tale, BT is like-able enough for you to build up a sense of comradery with him. The fact that when you take his controls, you turn into heavily armoured, 10 meter death-wielding walking tank is also a bonus. The campaign maintains a good balance between Titan and Pilot gameplay to keep the action varied.
As you progress through the story, BT gains access to different Titan loadouts (out of the six mentioned earlier), and can switch between them at any time. Each loadout plays differently and is better in certain situations. For example, if you’re struggling with a boss which does a lot of close range damage, switching to a mobile, long ranged loadout like Ion or Tone might give you the edge you need. This makes for some interesting choices, although the number of abilities available can be hard to take in. New loadouts are introduced so frequently that its hard to really become familiar with each Titan loadout unless you stick to one or two. Once you’re controlling BT though, the sense of empowerment is brilliant. Enemy grunts and robots become like annoying ants as you stomp over them or barrage them with rockets, and epic slug-outs with enemy Titans are memorable. Although Titans are quite mobile, they feel appropriately gigantic and weighty, and their weaponry as formidable as you’d expect.
The environments in Titanfall 2 look great, and vary from lush rocky jungle caves to atmospheric abandoned outposts. Some beautiful vistas will stop your breath and the sense of scale is great, especially if a major battle is in progress. Although there’s plenty of imagination on offer with the locales, the environments are quite linear and unfortunately feel artificially constructed to facilitate the gameplay. This is most apparent in sections that force you to chain wall-running and jumping, where the environment is obviously constructed just to suit your moveset. It’s not done very subtly at times. Although these areas spoil the illusion of freedom and immersion a bit, it doesn’t detract from the experience too badly. It’s a shame that they didn’t take a little more out of the Halo playbook and have more hub areas and a bit more freedom to tackle objectives in your own order, with all those movement abilities its only multiplayer that gets treated as a playground.
With so many interesting core mechanics and enemy types to play with, it would have been easy for the game designers to leave these as the main gameplay elements. However, they’ve gone beyond the call of duty (excuse the pun) by introducing plenty of fresh ideas into the campaign. I don’t want to spoil any of them, but there’s some great stuff which is not only imaginative but also affects the gameplay. Add to this some great set pieces and it’s a very solid and entertaining campaign, that isn’t too short either, clocking in at around 5-8 hours long.
The first Titanfall was applauded for its multiplayer. Although I never played it, apparently there have been a lot of improvements in Titanfall 2’s multiplayer after listening to player feedback. I dived in after finishing the campaign on the highest difficulty level, expecting to have a decent chance of survival. I was wrong. Titanfall’s multiplayer owes a great deal to Call of Duty – the pacing, weaponry, unlock structure and swift deaths are straight out of those games. When you’re a Pilot, you die in a few shots, and maps are large and complex, meaning death can come almost instantly and from any angle. Of course, your greatest counter to this is your mobility and the maps are well designed to let you wall-run, jump and clamber everywhere making for a fun playground where just navigating the environment is a joy. However, it’s not so fun when you keep getting killed.
This is a punishing multiplayer for newcomers. Matchmaking doesn’t seem to group similar skill levels together very well, or balance teams fairly, and the unlock structure for kit and weaponry gives more experienced players an added edge. Add to that the complex maps and many mechanics to learn and multiplayer is a bit “trial by fire”. The different game modes available are well designed and interesting, but there are no tutorials and in some modes you’ll probably spend at least your first few games running around getting shot, with no real idea about the objectives or how to best to achieve them. Throughout the experience, there’s an overwhelming amount of information thrown at you but with little explanation behind it. Some tips or tutorials would have really helped.
The multiplayer adds customisable loadouts for both Pilots and Titans, allowing you to equip different weaponry, items and unique multiplayer kit like grappling hooks, personal shields and Titan self-destruct nukes. Nearly everything can be levelled up to either improve it, or unlock new camo skins and player icons.
Titans in most multiplayer modes can be called in by players once a percentage meter is filled. You can speed this up through kills and completing objectives. As you can imagine, they’re a force to be reckoned with. Pilots caught in the open are very vulnerable if an enemy Titan’s around, but may have anti-Titan weaponry, and can also leap onto enemy Titans to rip out their battery and cause damage. Titans can counter this with devices like electric smoke or friendlies can shoot off intruders. The Pilots vs Titans dynamic makes for some great gameplay moments, as you wall-run and dive into cover to avoid an enemy Titan, and then grapple up on it as it passes to plant a bomb in its head. Or when you’re in your Titan, mowing down enemy Pilots with impunity or saving the day for your team.
When Titans in multiplayer go head to head, the battles are epic. The six Titan loadouts all have different strengths and weaknesses, flanking and teamwork is key. There’s nothing more satisfying than beating enemy Titans when you’re outnumbered by them, perhaps by using your ultimate attack at just the right moment or luring them into a trap. A Titan used well can change the tide of the battle, and a team on the ropes facing off against a number of enemy Titans can sometimes claw back into the fight if they manage to call in their own. There’s also Pilot-only and Titan-only game modes available for those who want to keep things vanilla, but the gameplay dynamics of Titans and Pilots together make for a great mix.
Although multiplayer is harsh, confusing and overwhelming for new players, its still quite fun and engaging. But once you’ve played a few hours and start to get the hang of things, it really improves. You’ll still fall to just a few bullets, but you’ll get better at avoiding being shot, using your equipment more effectively, and using the environment to your advantage. You’ll know the maps better. You’ll start figuring out the modes and which tactics to use in them. You’ll be able to survive for more than 20 seconds in your Titan. Your kit will be stronger now that it’s levelled up a bit. This is when the multiplayer really starts to shine. It beats Call of Duty – it feels similar but there’s more imagination, more tactics, more mobility and more interesting game modes, and it’s definitely as addictive. There’s also a ton of social options, including networks allowing friends and like-minded people to group more easily. It can still be frustrating and punishing, especially against high level players with lightning fast reactions, but the many memorable moments make up for it. And you have giant robots duking it out, what more could you want? This is a comprehensive multiplayer package that is excellent once you get past those initial hurdles. My only criticism apart from the learning curve is that the server population for some game modes is low, meaning finding games in them can take a long time. Time will tell whether the multiplayer’s popularity continues.
Overall, Titanfall 2 really impressed me. Although it’s essentially another military sci-fi shooter there are enough new ideas and gameplay mechanics to feel fresh compared to the Call of Dutys and Halos of the world. The campaign is a nice surprise and worth getting the game for alone, although it doesn’t quite reach the FPS single player legends its still really good. The multiplayer is addictive, fun and compelling once you get past the initial frustrations. Above all, few first person games have captured the freedom and fluidity you feel navigating the environment as a Pilot, or the empowerment and the epic action ensuing when you jump into your Titan. Now, I’m off to stomp some ants.
Alan Stock is a Contributor to ComiConverse. Follow us on Twitter: @ComiConverse
A fun and solid FPS single player campaign with good ideas and satisfying combat. Multiplayer is tough for newcomers but becomes great.