I find myself at an unexpected and awkward situation of analyzing a story for a game whose predecessor lacked a plot entirely. Well, I mean it had one, but it really didn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. The original Titanfall was actually quite an interesting game. Not only did it have an extremely overhauled mobility system and high-speed compared to most First-Person Shooters, but it also featured a surprisingly organic and asymmetric gameplay flow in the form of Pilots and Titans. Considering the abysmal launch of the Xbox One, a (sort-of) exclusive like this certainly helped to get it to sell. Unfortunately, it wasn’t without its quirks and complaints, as both the single-player gameplay and multi-player gameplay bled into each other. It also sported the blandest of plots you could get for a space-shooter. I personally loved the game, so most of the complaints I ignored and I just kept enjoying it. Now that the sequel, Titanfall 2, is dropping in a couple of weeks, we not only get a meatier multiplayer, but Respawn Entertainment also managed to put in a fully single-player campaign. The interesting part is that instead of the standard voiceless protagonist, Respawn’s taking a chance and having not only a fully-voiced main character, but his own personal Titan, who’s also fully-voiced, to act opposite of. In this, the game turns from generic shooter into a more interesting plot that can take many different shapes. As such, on only their second attempt, Respawn may have struck gold with this formula.
The story takes place 5 years after the events of the first game which have a rebellion, known as the Militia, fighting off the invasion of the IMC, a militant group seeking to take resources by force. In Titanfall 2, the Militia actually managed to take back about 25% of the “Frontier”, the area in space that has been successfully colonized. Enter protagonist Jack Cooper. Rather than a high-ranking officer, he’s a rifleman, one of the lowest-ranking grunts in the Militia. Though that doesn’t stop him from admiring the Pilots, the super soldiers who are given command of the Titans, and wishing to become one. In fact, his superior Captain Lastimosa decides to start showing him how a Titan works, off the books and more for fun. Unfortunately, after a sudden attack on Cooper’s platoon on the new planet Typhon, Lastimosa is K.I.A. along with everyone else, save Cooper. Left with no other choice, the Titan, codenamed BT-7274, violates multiple regulations and protocols, and re-issues his commanding protocols to “link” with Cooper, and allows him to take control of BT as an emergency-situation Pilot. Now BT and Cooper have to trek through the planet Typhon while fighting off IMC soldiers to make it back to base and explain the situation to Command.
This type of story is nowhere near original, nor is it really that new. But one thing I’m undoubtedly a sucker for is the Underdog story. I’ve always been a fan of stories that have starry-eyed characters who dream of greatness suddenly being given the chance to prove their worth. Cooper being a Grunt, suddenly being given the humongous and honorable task of being a Pilot in a state of emergency, fits into this formula rather well. It also helps to really understand what a Pilot is on the battlefield, since Pilots in the first game were just seen as other players and Grunts as point-fodder. Starting from the perspective of the non-issue Grunt really helps create that huge gap in between what a standard militiaman sees and what a Pilot sees. I assume this’ll be used in full force in the game, but I don’t want to get ahead of myself before the game comes out. It also helps that Cooper seems to have a sense of humor. Trust me, a lot of great stories easily fall apart if the characters lack adequate ways to make light of something. And in this case, it also goes into how Cooper interacts with BT, the Titan that Cooper links to, which leads to both unintended comedy and comradery.
This also bleeds into the portrayal of BT. I was worried when the first single-player trailer dropped, since it looked like he was going to be the standard robot character. But trailers that dropped a few days ago alleviated my worries, as BT seems to be the perfect type of robot character. His statements are very literal, and even moments of figurative speech given to him by Cooper is responded with typical machine dialogue. Thankfully the voice actor for BT (of whom I was unable to find a credit for) doesn’t go full robot, and is more of a mix between platonic speech and Peter Cullen as Optimus Prime. Interestingly enough, you even get to choose between dialogue prompts when speaking with BT. I assume this is only surface-deep and doesn’t necessarily change the game in any way, but it actually makes the game weirdly involved. Choosing how to respond to BT adds an extra layer of integration, and his responses back range from standard speech to unintended humor from a robot. His facial structure also helps in keeping him from emoting too much, but tricks like his eye-shutter blinking helps emote enough to get a base idea of his outlook. Even little moments like analyzing his fingers in order to properly execute a Thumbs-Up to mirror Cooper do miles of work when it comes to interaction. Chemistry between both main characters in a duality-focused plot is imperative, and it seems like Titanfall 2 gets it.
It’s still very odd to be analyzing a game series that had such a poor story to start off with. It was originally nothing more than two sides fighting, and they both have really big robot suits. Boom boom, bang bang, shooty shooty, and now wait for the next DLC. It seems that Respawn is taking a serious heavy-lifting in the Story department this time around. Not only do we have a better idea of how and what exactly the Militia is fighting for, but at the forefront of this radical story-shift is the relationship between BT and Cooper. While the Titanfall formula is still strong in the sequel from a gameplay standpoint, Respawn has not only decided to go with a single-player campaign, but also take their chances with a very unique type of FPS story. It’s too early to tell if this’ll pan out as well as I hope, but from the initial looks of it, Titanfall 2 may be the FPS to beat this year, and the story structure seems to be a part of it. Now to see if I can get a BT figurine, THAT would be pretty sweet.