Well, we’re in the thick of the fall release of games. The big AAA titles are finally ready to drop and see what they’re made of. Unfortunately, it seems most of the season consists of the smog enveloped by the Battlefield vs. COD debacle, following the positive release of Battlefield 1 and the yet undetermined but more than likely controversial launch of COD: Infinite Warfare later this week. Little else seems to come into the field of view when it comes to these two games clashing. But sandwiched between the two launch windows is yet another shooter, and sequel to the highly-acclaimed but quick to suffer First-Person Shooter Titanfall. While the original certainly garnered attention for its unique gameplay and usage of giant mechs known as Titans, the game was subject to criticism for lacking single-player and enough enjoyable variety in multiplayer. Titanfall 2, sporting a new single-player campaign and rebuffed systems for multiplayer, seeks to find some ground in between the monstrous releases this fall. The result is something that has made me completely forget about Battlefield’s and Call of Duty’s existence. Forget best shooter of the year, I’m calling Titanfall 2 one of the best shooters period.
Before we get into the nit-grit of the game, we actually have a single-player campaign to digest this time. Main character Jack Cooper is a Rifleman in the Militia, fighting off the terrorist and well-organized militant group known as the IMC. Cooper is a far cry from being a Pilot, him being even one of the lowest ranks in the field. That doesn’t stop his superior, Captain Tai Lastimosa, from unofficially training him to be a Pilot, a one-man army with his own Titan machine to burst into the battlefield. Unfortunately, a recon mission on the new planet Typhon turns bad, as the crew is sent off-course into an IMC-infested war-ground. The recon team is completely wiped out and Lastimosa is fatally wounded. With his last breaths, Lastimosa gives his Titan and Pilot authorization to Cooper, giving him full control of BT-7274, the Titan that Lastimosa piloted. Now Cooper and BT have to scour Typhon in order to fulfill the original mission and hope to make it back to the Militia fleet.
What we have is a fairly standard fish-out-of-water survival story, and although the concept of a lowly Rifleman excelling to the rank of a Pilot is very interesting, it unfortunately isn’t expanded upon more than a couple lines. The narrative is also the standard bad guy is making giant laser thing that you need to stop fare, and usually runs about that deep. While the commander of the Militia is slightly perturbed at the fact that Cooper has been given a highly advanced Titan with no certification, it doesn’t take long for her to just go with it. Even a whole crew of Pilots is introduced after Cooper is officially assigned to a Pilot squadron, but they only get a few lines despite me desperately wanting to know them better. But one part of the story direction they absolutely nailed is the interactions between Cooper and his new Titan BT.
The two main leads of Jack Cooper and BT-7274 is some of the best chemistry you’re gonna get in a First-Person Shooter campaign. Interestingly enough, a lot of it has to do with the fact that the player as a choice between two prompts on what Cooper says. Although this is purely cosmetic and doesn’t change the overall structure of the game, it achieves a strange level of inclusion between the player and almost actually talking to BT. It helps that the dialogue choices are either blunt or comedic, so as to not be gruff and militaristic 24/7. It’s very clear that humor plays a good part in the narrative, which allows the player to just relax and have a good time.
But the real shine of the single-player campaign is some of the most surprising and original level structure in the First-Person Shooter genre. While most campaigns consist of corridor-like shooting galleries followed by cool set-pieces, Titanfall 2’s campaign has a shocking level of diversity and style. It heavily compliments the heightened maneuverability of a Pilot, so most levels consist of climbing upward and unique platforming that are in between the firefights. But even when the game starts throwing enemies your way, it doesn’t let up. Don’t expect the Grunt AI from the first game to be what you’re up against, as running into a field will just make you quickly greet a bullet to the head, especially on the hardest difficulty. The game knows that you’ll be jumping and flying around like a superhero, so the entire game is shaped to not let you go wild too much.
But as said before, platforming takes a big part in it, and the joy gained from blazing through the skies to knee a Grunt in the face is unlike anything else. Hopping from cliffside to cliffside, scaling buildings, and running at Mach 3 feels great and completely natural. Not to mention that the campaign also has probably one of the most unique missions in level design in the form of the time-travel level. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but damn is it fun. Wrapping all of this up is a healthy balance of game-play types to keep you from getting bored. The single-player campaign has you hopping across buildings, getting in BT, hopping out, shooting up enemies, popping back in your Titan and laying waste. It even sports eccentric boss battles too. It’s not only adrenaline pumping, but varied and a genuine good time. One of the only drawbacks of the single-player campaign is its short playtime, which can be complete leisurely in about 5-6 hours. But collectibles like Pilot Helmets and taking on the game at Master difficulty keeps you busy for a decent amount of time.
This bleeds into the multiplayer aspects as well. Multiplayer has been heavily revised in terms of just about everything save how the player moves. New weapons are incredibly useful and varied, with both standard weaponry and Anti-Titan firearms getting a heavy lifting. Every type of weapon and upgrade has its situation, and upgrades this time around consist of actually useful upgrades, such as a position-revealing Sonar Knife and my personal favorite the grappling hook that can slingshot you across the map. Projectiles range from standard grenades to throwing stars that either emit fire or a gravitational pull. There are also many more Titan classes to choose from, with their own special weapons and power cores to lay waste to your opponents. Each Titan has its own advantage, and picking the best one to use for your play-style is integral to dominating the other team. Added to this is even a skin customization that range in literally hundreds of different types of camos for you, your weapons, and even your Titan. More multiplayer modes have also been added, and although some are fairly basic like Last Titan Standing and Pilot vs. Pilot, there are some returning favorites like Attrition, and new ones like Bounty Hunt and Coliseum do a good enough job of not making me want to play Attrition ALL the time.
Taking all this in leads to a more robust and refined version of the original game’s multiplayer. There is rarely a dull moment, as it’s not unusual for you to be on ground level, while other Pilots are flying through the air right next to two Titans dueling it out. There is also a stronger focus on co-operation, as players can now rob opposing Titans of their batteries and transport them to ally Titans to give them a boost of health. That is, of course, if you can make it before the other Titan brutalizes you. The varying tactics for many play styles exhibit a real battleground, as going gung-ho will give you an upper hand, but easy to pick off for people who wait. But waiting also has its negatives, as almost everyone is moving all the time, and someone is bound to find you sooner or later. It also helps that the game faintly highlights enemy players to better differentiate them from background objects. This is less of a run for your money type of multiplayer and more of a breathing battlefield with many different situations going on. In the same fashion as the last game, it’s more often than not a conscious decision on the use of your Titan. Staying in your Titan for all of its health is rare, as it’s quite common to be hopping out and back in on a constant basis. The organic flow of being an on-ground Pilot and running around as a Titan is brought back from the first game in full-force. Analyzing what’s happening in the flow of battle will change where you focus your attention, as even a moment’s slip-up can drastically change the end result. You have to be quick and agile, but also pay attention to not run straight into enemy fire.
On the front of Presentation, I can say that at a design standpoint the game is very visually interesting. In lieu of graphical output, I didn’t find myself in awe of the fidelity, nor was that impressed with the overall effects. What did catch me in awe was the overall design for both the single-player campaign and multiplayer maps. The planet of Typhon has a lot of fantastic set-pieces, and the overall design of the levels is absolutely fantastic. From the time-travel level to the air fleet assault, this game is brimming with fantastically designed stages that look passable as far as current gen goes. However, the models for human faces could’ve used some work, as they all look pretty rubbery. But considering you’re not looking at them for that long, it hardly matters. The music is also your typical orchestral fanfare without much variety. But the sound effects are top notch, with crunching bones, clanking metal, and barrages of bullets peppering the battlefield to bring you right back to the war-ground. Again, while the graphical output and music are fairly standard, what brings it to a good level is the robotic designs, gun designs, and impressive scale for incredible set-pieces. All in all, it’s a standard-looking but really friggin’ cool and styled game.
Titanfall 2 is probably one of the greatest follow-ups in recent memory. Hell it’s so good that sandwiching it between Battlefield 1 and COD: Infinite Warfare seems like a disservice. Despite having a questionable Stress Test, it’s hard to find people who disliked the game since its launch. When Titanfall 2 was first revealed, I expected a relatively updated multiplayer with a bare-bones single-player. What I got was surprisingly incredible, albeit short, campaign with the extremely likable duo of Cooper and BT, a much meatier multiplayer, and all-around an unforgettable experience. I often find times where I have to bullet-point game aspects to justify me having spent my 60 bucks on it. But Titanfall 2 is a game that I keep coming back to, and with even more DLC free of charge on the way, it’s a hard bargain to turn down. As far as I’m concerned, Titanfall 2 not only exceeds the original’s quality in every way, but easily stands on its own against its FPS contemporaries. Despite going up against other FPS titles this fall, Titanfall 2 is not only completely worth the price-tag, but a game that is undoubtedly fun on every front. Standby for Titanfall, because it surely is a Titan of its own.