Developer: Respawn Entertainment
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Available On: PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One
Reviewed On: PlayStation 4
I was utterly fascinated by the first Titanfall when it launched in 2014, but not having an Xbox or a PC strong enough to run the game meant I could only admire it from a distance. When its sequel released on PlayStation 4 in 2016, I was ecstatic. I was finally going to be able to run on walls, pilot a giant robot, and learn more about its futuristic setting. Well, life finds a way to complicate things and I got sidetracked with a bunch of other shiny new video games. However, now in 2019, I’ve finally gotten around to playing Titanfall 2.
Titanfall 2 is not only a tremendous video game, it’s one of the best shooters of this generation. Whereas the first game was a multiplayer only affair, the sequel comes with a singleplayer campaign that helps flesh out the Titanfall universe by delivering a fast paced non-stop thrill ride of a story. Although the frenetic multiplayer fans fell in love with from the first game is still present and expanded upon, it’s the campaign that’s the true star of the package.
The campaign places you in the boots of Militia rifleman Jack Cooper, a young man with aspirations of becoming one of the prestigious Titan Pilots. Pilots are the few talented individuals who work in tandem with the giant robotic Titans to wage war against the evil Interstellar Manufacturing Company, or “IMC” for short. While Cooper’s dream of piloting a Titan does come true, it’s under dire circumstances. An IMC ambush results in a platoon of Militia soldiers being wiped out, including a high-ranking Titan Pilot. With his dying breath, the Pilot passes the torch to Cooper, allowing him to pilot the Titan BT-7274 and resume the fight against the IMC.
The heart of Titanfall 2 lies in the companionship between Cooper and BT. There’s a bit of a barrier between the two at first, but they slowly start to understand each other as they traverse an array of dangerous and memorable locations. Cooper is a headstrong soldier with a sense of humor, whereas BT is a methodical thinker, highly calculated strategist, and can’t grasp Cooper’s sense of humor in the slightest. It’s an admittedly cliche partnership, but it’s done well and provides a healthy mix of heart and humor.
For the most part, the dialogue plays out by itself. BT declares the odds of survival, Cooper throws out a few jokes, and so on and so forth. However, there’s occasionally moments when a dialogue box will pop up and allow you to choose between one of two dialogue options. This doesn’t result in anything wild like branching narrative paths or gameplay changes, but it allows you to shape the bond between Cooper and BT. You typically have two options: a joke and a more serious dialogue line. The jokes usually end in BT’s confusion, which plays up the comedy angle, with the more serious lines being a great way to learn more about the location you’re in or the roles of Pilot and Titan.
Unfortunately, the same thought hasn’t been given to the other characters in the game. There’s a handful of fellow Militia members you team up with, as well as a ragtag group of villains, but they all feel like overdone tropes in the military genre. In fact, the villains are actually the weakest part of the campaign. They don’t instill any fear or have interesting personalities, which made their scenes feel uninspired and boring. The fights themselves are great (more on that in a minute) but as characters I was disappointed and would have preferred to seen them fleshed out a bit.
The combat in Titanfall 2 is where things really begin to shine. There’s two forms of combat: Pilot and Titan. The majority of your fights will be spent on foot as Cooper. This form of combat plays like a typical first-person shooter, but utilizes an incredibly fluid and intuitive movement system that allows you to run on walls, leap great distances, and power slide under low hanging objects. These Pilot fights are not only fun, but they make you feel like an absolute badass. Running along a wall while unloading your rifle, landing into a group of enemies to drop a grenade and then power sliding out of the blast radius is immensely satisfying.
There’s also a sizable arsenal of weapons and gadgets to use while on foot. From pistols, rifles, shotguns, and more, there’s a gun for every range and situation. Each weapon feels different and handy, so I never felt like I was gravitating towards just any one weapon. Likewise, there’s a selection of unique grenades as well. Frags cause large radius explosions, arc grenades shoot out electricity that chains across enemies, and thermite grenades cause deadly pockets of fire to erupt and incinerate those in their path. Lastly, your suit is equipped with a camouflage function that allows you to become invisible for a few short seconds. This comes in handy for disappearing when low on health or for surprising your foes.
The second type of combat comes in the form of BT. Pilots can climb inside of their Titans to wreak havoc across the battlefield, and let me tell you, it’s a freaking excellent time. There are multiple types of Titans that all come equipped with their own weapons and abilities. However, you can unlock these loadouts throughout the campaign and equip them to BT, giving him access to new combat capabilities. Different encounters call for different loadouts, so you really have to learn the intricacies of each one and how to apply them in combat. Each loadout also comes with a Titan Core ability that slowly charges as you damage enemy Titans. Once fully charged, you can unleash a devastating attack to put the fight in your favor. Weapons and abilities include a Gatling gun, rocket launcher, shotgun, laser blast, vortex shield, tether grenades and more.
What really cements Titanfall 2 as an outstanding game is its level design. This game contains some of the most insane (in a good way!) missions I’ve seen in a shooter in a long time. A large part of this is due to the way the levels are designed as playgrounds for your movement systems. The game wants you to run on walls, jump over deadly pits, and slide around the battlefield with speed and grace. Chaining these moves together increases your momentum, allowing you to zip around the battlefield and outwit your opponents.
Each level also feels different than the last, thanks to unique settings and gameplay mechanics introduced throughout. For example, one level might take place in a giant sewer full of poisonous sludge to avoid, while another introduces “anomalies” that completely change your perception of the world around you. Titanfall 2’s campaign is only about 5 hours long, so it never feels like anything is drawn out or just being used as padding. The pace of the campaign is damn near perfect, always giving you new things to see, do, or shoot at without ever feeling stale.
Lastly, there’s the multiplayer to discuss. Admittedly, this is where I spent the least amount of time. I played Titanfall 2 on PS4 and was constantly met with connection issues that made it hard to actually enjoy the game. From the few matches I did play, I found the multiplayer to be incredibly fun and unlike other games on the market. The maps are large and perfectly tailored to both Pilot and Titan combat. Seeing a bunch of people running on walls and jumping all over the place is awesome, and scurrying for cover when an enemy Titan comes around the corner is intense. The amount of teamwork and effort it takes to win feels like a step above something like Call of Duty and I could easily see myself enjoying this game even more if it weren’t for the connection issues. I’ve honestly been considering picking it up on PC (now that I have a fairly good one) so that I can spend more time with it.
Titanfall 2 is an overlooked game that deserves more attention and love. There’s a few issues when it comes to the characters of the campaign, but the sheer amount of creativity and fun that surrounds its traversal mechanics, combat systems and level design is truly remarkable. Although connection issues have gotten in the way of me putting any serious amount of time into the multiplayer, what I have played of it was incredibly fun and satisfying and left me wanting more. It looks like I’ll have to pick up the PC version sometime down the road to fully experience it.
– Zack Burrows