About a week ago I sat here at my desk and penned my review of Battlefield 1 (found here) and in the opening moments I made a slightly snarky comment about the state of modern FPS games.
The vast majority of them seem to be focused on near to not-so-near future wars, many of them focusing on man vs alien, man vs demon or man vs man on far off planets (or Mars) and many of them containing exo-suits of some kind and crazy inhuman mobility.
I’ve largely railed against this trend, largely enjoying more grounded modern or historical military shooters when playing FPS games (with the notable exception of the ever improving Overwatch).
That said I initially turned my nose up at the news of a sequel to 2014’s Xbox One exclusive Titanfall.
I started to hear a lot of praise for Titanfall 2 on a number of podcasts and somewhere along the way I decided to give the game a cautious look.
And I could not be more pleased with that decision.
One of the biggest marks against the original Titanfall was that it did not have a proper single player campaign. There was a more or less universally panned narrative multiplayer mode that essentially slapped a radio-play over some competitive multiplayer matches.
Respawn learned from this mistake and built a full single player campaign that is not only more than an extended tutorial (looking at you Battlefield 1) it is, get this, actually quite good.
The story focuses on incredibly dully named Jack Cooper, a rifleman in the Frontier Milita, who mid-battle is given the reigns of the Titan known as BT-7274. From there he resumes the previous pilot’s mission, battling through ground troops and enemy Titans alike in an effort to stop the Interstellar Manufacturing Corporation from using a weapon known at the “Ark”. While the IMC troops end up being the cannon fodder you shoot, explode and stomp on throughout the bulk of the game while a mercenary group known as the Apex Predators serve as the end level bosses you’ll fight at the end of several missions.
While the plot sounds like a fairly standard Sci-Fi story and at times the game leans a little too hard on the traversal system as it puts you through a few platforming sequences between battles, the campaign is one of the most interesting single player experiences I’ve ever played in a shooter.
While there are a few standard shooter levels, namely the first couple post-opening sequence levels, the game does a great job of throwing the unexpected at you. From a sequence that has you fighting through artificial towns that are being assembled around you before having you climb through them as they are suspended sideways to an incredible chase level that has you battling across the tops of a fleet of aircraft in pursuit of the enemy (and a sequence I want to talk about but is better left unspoiled for it to be experienced at its full effect), the game never lets up. By the time you reach a point where two armies of Titans are locked in heated battle you will have seen some incredible and really enjoyable levels, arguably the best in any shooter since Doom earlier this year.
While I did find the protagonist to be bland in the same sort of one note way that the “Doomguy” or Master Chief are and the supporting cast is largely military archetypes (played comically straight by the space fascist villains), I think the highlight is the relationship between Jack and BT. Yes there are the sort of expected jokes where BT takes things that Jack says literally but by the end of the game I felt bonded to the Titan. I really enjoyed how the two of them grew closer, becoming as much “friends” as a man and an AI can be.
Between the awesome set-piece moments and the man/robot friendship of the protagonist and his Titan I was admittedly blown away by the unexpected quality of the campaign.
Having not played more than a match or two of the “tech test” a month or so back I really didn’t know what to expect with the multiplayer beyond the fact that it was made by the guys who made one of the last two Call of Duty games I really loved (in case you haven’t read or heard my opinion on those games, Modern Warfare 2 and the original Black Ops were the last two I have ever really loved, MW2 being made by the Respawn guys before they were Respawn).
Titanfall 2 plays a lot like I remember MW2 playing, with the obvious addition of the whole Titanfall package (giant robots, wall running, etc.). It has fast paced, frantic action. The shooting feels great. Even the traversal stuff feels amazing, which is something I never thought I’d say, as I love the sense of momentum and speed as you move about the maps. The maps are all pretty good and Respawn has said new maps will be free in the future. My only gripe with the maps is that I often find myself playing the same maps two times in a row a little too often.
One of the things I love most about it is that not only are the matches fun, they are quick. I enjoy Battlefield but there are times when I may not feel like a 30 to 60 minute battle. Most of my Titanfall matches have been less than the full ten minutes allotted, making the battles feel even faster than they already are. It is refreshing to find myself able to fire up a match or two when I have a spare twenty minutes to play.
The combat is absolutely fantastic, especially the Pilot vs Titan stuff. I find it hilarious to shoot a pilot out of the air or punch them as they try to grapple onto you. Inversely successfully destroying a Titan while on foot is an incredibly satisfying feeling. You’re given a fair bit of customization from guns to skills to equipment as well as the standard “skins” for everything from your Titan to your guns.
Possibly the only big problem I have with the entire multiplayer experience is the number of times I’ve been kicked from matches because of the fact that the game runs on a Peer to Peer system instead of the far more stable (not to mention superior) dedicated server style of connection. This is one thing that Battlefield has always done right and Call of Duty has always done wrong and I hate that Titanfall is on the wrong side of this issue. If I have anything at all drawing on my internet (say my kids are over and watching Netflix) I am lucky to finish one match out of four and that is far too frequent an issue.
For those more interested in a breakdown of how the multiplayer works and a look at a few matches you can find my PolyNerdic Play Test episode below.
Final Verdict: 9 out of 10. Since the multiplayer doesn’t work on slightly too frequent a basis I can’t justify a perfect score but based on the many strengths of the mode and the unexpected amazing quality of the single player campaign I can’t give it any lower than a very, very, very high 9.
Titanfall 2 is amazing and deserves your dollars. It is a real shame that EA dropped it right in the middle of the Battlefield 1 and Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare releases as I fear many people might overlook it but please don’t. This game deserves to be played by thousands upon thousands of gamers and played often at that.