Titanfall 2 is an awesome game, and it would be very sad if it got overlooked within the crowded slate of fall titles. In a moment of folly, Electronic Arts released Titanfall 2 on October 28, a week after EA’s Battlefield 1 debut and a week before Activision released Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare. It was a mistake for EA to do that, but you shouldn’t make the mistake of not playing the mech-laden first-person shooter.
Predictably, Titanfall 2 got sandwiched. According to analyst Ben Schachter of Macquarie Capital, Titanfall 2 units were down dramatically in the first couple of days of its launch compared to the original Titanfall released in March 2014. The original Titanfall generated more than $500 million in sales, even though it was released as an exclusive on Microsoft’s platforms, and it was a multiplayer-only game. It was one of the highest-rated shooters for more than a year.
We’ll see what full-month sales look like in November, but indications are that Titanfall 2 sales are weak, even though the game debuted across the PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. This time, Respawn’s game designers took pains to craft a single-player campaign with a real story. I’ve played the single-player campaign on the Xbox One and enjoyed the multiplayer combat as well. I think it’s a spectacular title, just as my colleague Jeff Grubb said in GamesBeat’s official review. He gave it a 95 out of 100, and I wouldn’t quibble with that review score. That means you should play it, as it’s a unique shooter that gives you two games in one, one focused on the pilot and the other focused on the giant mech — or titan. This game didn’t get nearly as much pre-launch hype as other big releases, but it is one of the rare cases of living up to the hype.
The rare thing about Titanfall 2 is that it has real gameplay innovations that I haven’t seen in other shooters. And it is a hyper-kinetic experience, where you can effortlessly run on walls and jump into the giant titans. The game was designed in a way that makes movement fluid. And when you are in motion, you have an advantage over other enemies.
“For us, the first Titanfall was kind of a proof of concept, trying to innovate in the genre and come up with something new,” said Dusty Welch, chief operating officer at Respawn, in an interview with GamesBeat. “’Something new’ ended up predominantly in multiplayer, which was that fluidity of movement, the motion model that was built. You had the small thing — a pilot — and the large thing — a titan — and how they interacted together, with the ability to get out at any time and interact with the environment. To be so mobile was unique. Most shooters are corridors and hallways, playing whack-a-mole.”
You start out the campaign as a grunt soldier named Jack Cooper. His ambition is to be a pilot, the operator of a titan. But he has to do his time in the infantry. Then, in a battlefield promotion, he gets a chance to be a pilot in a titan named B.T., and he has to help the Frontier Militia defend itself against the bad guys at the Interstellar Manufacturing Co. (IMC).
Respawn forces you to master the mechanics of playing this first-person shooter. In the tutorial, you have to learn how to jump and run on walls. Once you do that, you start out as an infantry soldier in the first mission. Then, you learn how to use your titan. And with each mission, you get to try out the six different titan models in the game. On some missions, you have to go on foot to fetch a battery to power the titan or climb a huge structure. As the story progresses, you learn to master the controls and mechanics.
Over time, you become attached to your Titan, B.T., almost like a child to his or her dog. The story gets better throughout the campaign, as you realize that Cooper and B.T. earn each other’s respect, and B.T.’s loyalty grows deeper over time, like when you watch the film Terminator 2, with Arnold Schwarzenegger’s terminator character bonding with the young John Connor. That becomes a touching part of the story. While Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare has a better story in my view, Titanfall 2’s story is also surprisingly good.
But I got the sense that the story was always in service of showing you better and better game mechanics throughout the well-paced campaign. The experience features some epic one-on-one duels. Here’s a great battle with multiple titans in the video below.
You start running on walls and bouncing between them. That’s wonderfully fun. And while it makes no sense in the story, you’ll realize it belongs in the game if you accept that Respawn is trying to give you a kind of Super Mario experience. Fighting as a pilot, you can also take out huge groups of infantry by activating your stealth cloak that makes you temporarily invisible. With the grappling hook, you don’t have to sit back and take out infantry with a sniper rifle. In battles on a capital ship, you can charge right in and just take out a big swath of enemies. You can charge a titan using the grappling hook, take out its battery, and then move on before you’re shot. You’re almost better off if you’re moving, rather than hiding or hanging back.
“One of our big goals was to give people more things to master. The first game, like you said, you ended up defaulting to one little corner of the arsenal. One thing we didn’t do well, we didn’t expose every part of the game, so people could feel like they could learn and get really good at all of it. That’s been a huge focus,” said Drew McCoy, producer of Titanfall 2, in an interview with GamesBeat.
Late in the single-player campaign, you are introduced to an enemy titan named Viper while fighting on a moving capital ship. Viper engages in silly banter while fighting you, even though you’ve only met for the first time. But Viper is fun to fight as it flies in the air and fires rockets at you. Again, this only makes sense if gameplay is more important than story. But Respawn makes no apology for that.
“We failed a whole bunch at the beginning, so we went back to the drawing board and what we know to be the most true north star of Respawn, which is gameplay first,” said McCoy. “We set out our designers, a week at a time, to figure out what makes single-player Titanfall fun.”
He added, “The designers had this well of mechanics to pull from and string together into levels. Then, we figured out a story to marry with those levels. The story focuses down, not up. This isn’t a story about a big galactic war and all the players on the board. It’s a story about one guy and his titan.”
While this story fits this game, I would argue that Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare has a better narrative and one that fits that particular game. That’s why I wouldn’t really say that you should play either game. You should play both, and you should also play Battlefield 1, which has an excellent series of vignettes about World War I.
Here’s the video of the fight with Viper. The battle shows that the visuals of Titanfall 2 are just as pretty as many of the other shooters out today.
You come upon an awesome game mechanic late in the single-player campaign, and it involves fighting against both the human enemies and the indigenous life forms on the planet (which is the only planet you encounter in the game). I won’t give it away, but it really makes the single-player campaign fun. It’s a twist that I’ve never seen in a first-person shooter before, and it’s a really good reason to play it.
Multiplayer is also very balanced in Titanfall 2. I can actually fight and take down other pilots, particularly if I get into my titan and start wreaking havoc on the battlefield. By contrast, it is extremely hard to stay alive for a long period early on in Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare. Because of this difference, you may have a fighting chance in Titanfall 2 multiplayer, and it may be more enjoyable to level up in Titanfall 2 than Call of Duty.
All in all, I have to say it again. Don’t skip Titanfall 2. You may not have time to play it right now, but make sure you come back to it. You won’t be disappointed.
Here’s a video of a boss fight with Richter, one of the villains of Titanfall 2.