Titanfall 2 Review: Exquisite From Ro-Top To Robot-Tom

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Titanfall was an excellent game. It was hurt by a lack of content both without a single player campaign and in-depth multiplayer progression, but the moment to moment might be some of my favorite online shooting this generation. It was cinematic, massive, fast and chaotic multiplayer, all held together with a really firm rule base in the way of how the game worked.

That's why I was initially worried by what I played of Titanfall 2. It felt hermogonised, smaller and like it was chasing an identity that didn't play to what made the first game excellent. It's why I was a little apprehensive when I first jumped into the full release of the game.

It's also why I'm ecstatic to report back, Titanfall 2 is a special game. Respawn have crafted an excellent experience, that shines in an over-crowded, over-achieving genre right now.

Let's start with the new though. The complaint most readily hurled at the original game was that it lacked a single player campaign. Respawn Entertainment have righted that wrong, and boy howdy, in quite some style too. The story puts you in the shoes of Jack Cooper, who is in training to be a pilot of the game's titular Titans. Pretty early on though, he is thrust into the role through a series of unfortunate events, and finds himself in the care of robot BT. The two find themselves on an unknown planet, full of IMC mercenaries, with only a vague notion of how to get off world. The story then evolves from that point, sending the pair down a path to contact home. While Jack Cooper doesn't do much to imprint himself on a player, BT is a real delight throughout the campaign, bringing levity and heart to proceedings. Your robo-buddy is almost guaranteed to carry your entire emotional investment in the story, but he is more than likeable enough to get you over the finish line of a high-action video game story. As a narrative, it's a bit 'video-game-y nonsense', but it doesn't outstay its welcome and it goes some really unexpected places.

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However, what really makes Titanfall 2's campaign genuinely stellar is the level design on display. In some ways, the game is disjointed and a little janky, but it never stops being compelling play. The design concepts feel from a bygone age, but in an entirely attractive way. Games having missions that feel genuinely distinct from one another with brand new concepts each time, feel rarer nowadays, with games generally more cohesive wholes. Titanfall 2 feels like a collection of separate missions and gameplay concepts stitched together, and while in some games that is a definite down, the sheer breadth of new and exciting ideas on display in the game is intoxicating.

Effect and Cause is one such mission. I won't go into spoiling the gameplay concept of the mission as it is a marvel to watch unfold. However, the way it teaches a player a mechanic and gradually ramps up the difficulty into a crashing crescendo with it is masterful. The Ark is a similarly beautifully crafted level, but for entirely different reasons. I can say with that level, which comes towards the end of the game, it takes place in the middle of a high speed airborne fleet, charging you with hopping from ship to ship in ever escalating ways. It's just purely exhilarating. While Titanfall 2 could have just been a shooting gallery from one room to the next as a lot of FPSs fall back on, Respawn imbue each moment with new, powerful ideas. That, and it is never afraid to go quiet for long stretches and let the player do some puzzle platforming with the game's exquisite movement. It's rare I remember specific missions by name anymore, but it is just impossible not to with Titanfall 2, as each is so memorable. There is some jank to the game for sure, with facial animation not being excellent, and the game at times generally looking quite ugly, but it never becomes an issue, and the game's reliance on old video game tropes such as boss battles at the end of every level actually gives the title a real rustic charm. I genuinely believe people will be, or at least should be, talking about this campaign for some time to come. That all comes directly to how strong the concepts and levels are. It feels like a unique achievement.

The campaign will only run you about six hours though, so here is where we get to your value, the multiplayer. My grievances with the technical test were fairly extensive, and I worried that Respawn Entertainment had lost everything that made the first game excellent. I'm happy to report that I think this might be due to weird prioritising choices, rather than massive issues with how the mode works. In my opinion, Hardpoint, and especially Attrition are the quintessential Titanfall 2 online experience. Attrition in particular brings that scale of battle that made the first game so good. With AI littering the battlefield, it is friendly for new comers and gets back to what made the brand feel massive and unique. Hardpoint on the other hand feels fast, and bite-sized, really letting you hop in and hop out of objective based gamplay. However, the game seems to priorities Bounty Hunt, which while a neat idea feels like a strange game mode to make the default focus. This mode has you killing enemies to get money, and you have to hold on to as much as you can before you are able to bank it. It's ok, but it just obfuscates the best thing about Titanfall's multiplayer.

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On the whole though, I've had a great time with the game online now I've had a while online. The gunplay is vast and varied, while the game's excellent movement options really sing as you hop about populated battlefields. The dynamic of being a fast pilot, calling in a hulking Titan to cause some real damage and then ejecting 50 feet in the air to do it all over again is still one of the coolest loops in multiplayer shooting. Really helping the experience this time around is the customization options for the game, which feel deep enough to give people a reason to get invested in coming back again and again. From your guns, to your character, to your Titan, all which can 'prestige' separately, there is so much you can unlock and do to really make the loadout you want.

It's worth noting, that while Respawn have fixed a lot things from the technical test, I'm still not convinced all the maps are excellent. They don't feel quite as tight-knit as the first game's, with a lot more open spaces meaning it is very hard to really string the movement as effectively as I wanted. You will be touching the ground at some point in these maps, and while that is obviously a minor issue, it would be neat for those who really master movement to be able to hop around in the air and on walls.

At the end of the day though, Titanfall 2 is exceptional. It takes the strong moment to moment of the first game and has packaged it into a more complete package. That statement doesn't quite do it justice though. The single player is one of the best FPS campaigns I've played in quite some time, perhaps even this generation, that is full of diverse and exquisite design choices. It's masterful, making it impossible not to be charmed by. It's fast, exhilarating and shows that Respawn Entertainment are a developer of real passion for good ideas. Add on top of that, a very competent multiplayer mode that expands on the progression system massively over the first, and you have a hell of a title. It's got some jank, can be a little ugly, and has some map problems, but they are only niggles. Don't sleep on this one. You owe it to yourself to jump in.

Buy it if: You want to play an FPS full to the brim with good ideas, and a single player campaign that is really special.

Avoid it if: You need single player to last more than 6 hours, and have no interest in multiplayer.

Score: 9.4/10

 

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About Patrick Dane

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