Titanfall was my game of the year in 2014 even though it didn’t have a real single-player campaign. Hell — for me, that was almost a positive. Get that garbage outta here; I’m only here for the multiplayer. But after finishing the sequel’s adventure, I’m so happy that Respawn Entertainment made the effort to bring solo Titan pilots something to do, and I’m amazed that it reminds me most of a Nintendo game.
Titanfall 2 is out October 28 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. The $60 first-person shooter brings back the original’s mixture of on-foot and in-mech combat. As a pilot, you will run on walls, double jump, and pick up a wide range of weapons. Inside the walking robot, you will rocket around, hover, and charge up ultimate attacks. The campaign and the multiplayer feature both types of gameplay, which makes the overall experience feel like it has a lot of variety.
I’ve not played through the single-player and given the multiplayer a thorough going over post-launch, and here are my thoughts on one of the standout all-around shooters in a year of amazing shooters.
What you’ll like
Respawn designed the crap outta this game.
Every stage in each level of Titanfall 2 is exciting and challenging in a new and interesting way. It’s not like the studio had a handful of ideas and tried to repeat them throughout the campaign. Instead, each mission feels like a distinct track on a compilation disc where a variety of musicians all work in the theme of wall-running and mechanized bipedal tanks.
In one stage, you might have to climb an enormous structure while fighting off the occasional wave of enemies. In another, you will have to split up from your Titan to infiltrate the tunnels of a manufacturing facility. You’ll get into huge battles featuring multiple ground troops and enemy mechs, and you’ll also have 1-on-1 boss fights with powerful mercenaries. In one of those battles, you’ll have to dodge and weave with your Titan behind pillars for cover to take out an especially well-shielded tank. In a later merc fight, you’ll have to maintain your footing on an airship as try to close the distance between yourself and a highly maneuverable opponent.
In one memorable area, you get the capability to instantly jump between two different versions of the same level. That changes how you play, adding a layer of complexity that I wasn’t expecting when I first started the campaign.
Titanfall 2 isn’t just a shooter with one set piece after another. It is a shooter and a platformer, and it mixes and matches those elements by giving your character and his Titan several new weapons and abilities. And because of the game never stops slamming you with these new ideas, it reminds me of the Nintendo Wii platformer Super Mario Galaxy 2. That game was one amazing gameplay trick after another for hours — even more so than the original. Somehow, Respawn has tapped into that same energy for its Titanfall series, and it makes the campaign an absolute joy.
Another key aspect to the success of Respawn in terms of Titanfall 2’s single-player adventure is the pacing. Every moment blends so well into the next that I didn’t want to put the controller down.
The gameplay variety helps with this. You can’t wait to see what’s going to happen next, and it never makes you wait long before it gives you something new. But that variety and regular delivery of fresh ideas works; everything you’re doing is polished so well that you never get bummed out that you’re no longer doing one fun thing, because its follow-up is as equally entertaining.
Movement and weapons feel great
Of course, the key to Titanfall is how wonderful it is to control an acrobatic combat pilot and a lumbering battle mech.
For the sequel, Respawn dialed in the locomotion. Sending your pilot gliding along the wall, double-jumping to another surface to continue that sprint, and then bouncing along the ground to slam into a grunt with a melee attack is exquisite. Such action was great in Titanfall, and now it feels even better. I think the gameplay designers have given more weight to the physics, and this makes every single prolonged act of jumping and running feel that more miraculous when you get your character to precisely jump from one moving vertical surface to another every time.
This excellent play, of course, carries over to the multiplayer, where the feedback from the weapons is also top-notch. Firing an assault rifle into an A.I. infantryman gives you a cacophony of satisfying noises, impact animations, and force feedback in the controller. Every weapon feels lethal in a different-but-powerful way, and that gives the act of taking out a human opponent a dopamine rush similar to popping packing bubbles.
Smart changes to multiplayer
Titanfall 2 is live now, and in my testing it plays great most of the time. I have encountered some occasionally odd lag that would hold my character in place like she stepped in giant spiderweb. This happens even when it looks like my connection is strong. I’ll continue to cover this, so read GamesBeat to see if this is an ongoing concern or launch jitters.
But it’s not just the movement and weapons that make multiplayer fun. Respawn has introduced a new default mode (or the mode that you’ll end up in if you spam the A button until a match starts) called Bounty Hunt that is far better than the original’s Attrition.
In Attrition, two teams fought to score points by taking out computer-controlled troops and each other. That mode is back, but I’m not planning on playing it all that much. That’s because Bounty Hunt has a lot more going on.
In Bounty Hunt, two teams of players can still score points by killing each other and computer-controlled troops. This time, the A.I. is its own squad that all spawn in dropzones around the map in waves. This creates a situation where both teams are fighting over these valuable points in skirmishes around the map. Once the teams have cleared out a wave, each squad gets a chance to deposit the bonus points they collected from taking out creeps into one of two banks. Again, this creates a situation where the two teams are rushing toward these important points, and conflict is unavoidable.
The best part about Bounty Hunt is that if you kill a pilot before they deposit their bonus, you can steal half of it. So if you pull a total boner and fail to earn a lot of money during the waves, you can make up for it by taking out enemy pilots and depositing their bonuses instead.
It’s such a smart and intense mode, and it is significantly different from Battlefield 1, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, and Overwatch, and that’s important considering all of these games are out at the same time.
Useful social modes
Gamers have had a lot of features built into services like Origin and Xbox Live that enables you to easily match up with friends. But what about if you don’t know a lot of people who play games like Titanfall. Well, Respawn has your back with its new Networks feature. This enables players to join a group that may center around a common interest, website, or brand. Some popular examples include the Mountain Dew or Harambe networks.
Joining these groups give you a couple of advantages. During certain one-hour periods of the day (which the Network leader chooses), you get bonus XP. This gets many people from that conclave playing at the same time. And at any time, you can start a match and make it an open invite to anyone in your network. This means you could get grouped up with other people in the Detroit Lions network so you have a common frame of reference to get you started communicating. It’s not going to work for everyone, but I think this is something I’m planning to actually use. And that’s rare when it comes to these kinds of clan features in games.
What you won’t like
Visuals aren’t as stunning as some other blockbusters
Titanfall 2 doesn’t look as great as some other shooters on the market. Now, it doesn’t look bad. I think it’s often quite beautiful, but its technology just doesn’t quite stack up. The quality of character faces is nowhere near what Battlefield 1 has. That doesn’t bother me much, because you’re not really staring at faces a ton in these kinds of games. What does bum me out is how Titanfall 2’s animations are far behind something like 2016’s Doom.
When interacting with the world and with enemies, everything looks a little mushy. If you go to melee-attack an enemy, maybe the camera will pull out to show you pulling out some sweet martial art, but it always looks stiffed and canned. And the animations are never contextual to your place in the environment, which can lead to situations where you expect to throw someone against the wall, but you just kinda punch near them ineffectually. That blows up the illusion even if it doesn’t happen a ton throughout the game.
Titanfall 2 is a major surprise. I was expecting to love the multiplayer and to tolerate the campaign, but I love everything about it. Respawn isn’t just making Call of Duty with mechs. It has found its own way, and that has paid off with a special game.
Publisher Electronic Arts provided GamesBeat with a digital copy of this game for the purposes of this review. Titanfall 2 is out October 28.