If the original Titanfall is a concept piece, Titanfall 2 is the blockbuster that delivers on its creators vision.The thrill of gigantic titans coupled with the momentum and movement of a pilot makes or an experience yet to feel old or worn. Respawn have outdone themselves in creating a sequel to one of the most interesting shooters in recent memory, adding just enough to keep the formula fresh and engaging.
Titanfall 2 is quite a different direction for the franchise from the get go. It introduces a tonne more of the world, lore and characters barely touched on in the first, then throws these into the multiplayer experience to make it feel like you’re fighting in different parts of the same explosive combat. It’s an effort I was not expecting, even as someone who loved the original, seeing returning factions and new perspectives makes the base package attractive from the get go.The major centrepiece of Titanfall 2, and where it stands out from the first, is with the inclusion of a single player campaign – and stand out it does. In a step above the usual big budget shooter narrative. You, Jack Cooper, are unexpectedly thrown into the role of a pilot after the tragic opening mission. From there you and BT – a fantastical vehicle for some great comedic writing and one liners – embark on a journey where each segment differs from the last. While not all the narrative aspects are wholly new or stick around long enough, it’s the structure and missions themselves that make Titanfall 2 truly as stellar as it is.
From the moment you jump into the story you’re drip fed new tools, load outs, abilities and puzzles that take you further in the story. It’s almost like an excellent shooter got mashed up with Valve’s portal, tasking you with as many intricate and cleverly designed scenarios as it does all out shoot em up moments. At its worst some of the chapters are set piece battles, but at its best you’ll be leaping through huge construction foundries and even time itself.
It’s the excellent foundation of traversal and movement skills that make all this possible. When you start make sure to run the traversal test run a few times over to ensure you can get the most out of moving, shooting and speed. It’s this aspect that’ll save you in combat and create some truly memorable moments of flying off a wall to melee an enemy, or that mid jump grenade that clears your landing spot. While many games have tried to knock off Respawn’s movement mechanics in the years since the original, even games like Call of Duty and Mirror’s Edge can’t quite live up to the lofty prowess of the studio – proven once again in Titanfall 2.This time round there’s a lot more than the five or six core guns to get you from A to B too, with some truly unique options delivering a lot of fun. There’s an LMG that fires blasts of red energy or a double barrelled SMG, that’s without mentioning ninja stars that cause an area to be covered in metal and fire. It’s an absolute joy to punch, shoot and explode your way through, in a gameplay loop that feels as tight and fast moving as DOOM’s.
Add to theses a plethora of skills like cloaking and it becomes clear why the elite pilots are the Titanfall universe’s most feared force. Call it an excuse to keep health low and ensure you move, but being able to fade out in the heat of a gunfight only to appear behind a tanky foe is always thrilling.
But a pilot is only half of what this game is about, the titular part refers to your buddy BT. Jumping aboard your newfound ally offers you a wealth of different gameplay options, thanks to being able to hotswap loadouts makes all the difference. As you progress you find new guns that bring with them titan stats and abilities – blocking incoming fire, lock on missiles and the like. These make finding your own tactics very easy once you use the new one to progress, often livening up the already strong titan boss fights by letting you change up your style on the fly.Distilling the magic of the original Titanfall and crafting that into a solo experience is quite the task, but Respawn has more than delivered here. It’s this magic formula that the developers have managed to weave twice in the sequel, crafting a multiplayer experience that’s refreshingly stronger than the first, but equally as exhilarating.
Multiplayer is punctuated by grappling hooks, hulking mechs and hordes of new modes to play. The style, customisation and levelling all says ‘AAA 2016 shooter’ but it still has those fantastic Respawn touches to keep it standing on its own two feet.
Aside from a host of extra abilities and upgrades you’ll tweak through your loadout, the core gameplay experience of Titanfall 2 remains quite similar to the campaign. It’s equally fast paced and once you find the weapon types that work for you, you’ll soon be felling countless other pilots.As for modes, there’s half a dozen on offer, including a variation of the classic hardpoint which sees you capturing and holding points on the map. The other standout on large scale is Bounty Hunt, which tasks you with earing and banking points for killing AI, and hunting players for their bonus score. It’s great to have the mix of AI minions and human pilots return, offering an alternative for those less keen on straight pilot v pilot deathmatches. Outside of the cores there’s a handful of really varied modes to mix things up like last titan standing and the option for custom matches. It’s a really complete and well rounded package for all sorts of players.
As you level you’ll be able to upgrade and tweak your weapons, classes and abilities. This also factors into your special abilities earned on the battlefield, like amping your weapons or boosting your regeneration. There’s a lot of customisation to dive into to really change the way your pilot classes play, extending into the titan loadout and frames too. This unlock system is much more engaging than the original from Titanfall one, and should help the community stay with the shooter for a long time to come.
It doesn’t stop there, with vanity items finally making it into the game. Camos for your guns and pilot look great, but the decals you can spray all over your titan truly take the cake. Old school spitfire shark mouths and flames help you feel like you’re playing your own titan and pilot, driving more personality into the game than before.
All in all, Titanfall 2 is a gorgeously produced package, blending a memorable and worthwhile single player experience with a revamped and retuned version of the multiplayer that made Titanfall such a big thing in 2014. It’s excellent to see we’re in a year where EA manages to launch two stellar shooters in two weeks, with Titanfall 2 more than deserving a spot in any shooter or sci-fi fan’s game shelf.
Developer: Respawn Entertainment
Platforms: PC (reviewed), Xbox One, Playstation 4
Review copy provided by the publisher