Titanfall 2 Review – Titanic Mayhem (PS4)
The original Titanfall put the FPS genre on notice when it released in 2014 on the Xbox 360/Xbox One and Windows platforms. Now, over two and a half years later, Respawn Entertainment is back with Titanfall 2, this time also launching on the PlayStation 4, and including a proper single-player campaign. So, has this talented team cooked up a sequel that’s better than the original? Or was Titanfall best left as a one-off series?
From a technical standpoint, Titanfall 2 looks and plays wonderfully. The game doesn’t appear to skip a beat (or frames) no matter how hectic the onscreen action may get. Everything runs smoothly, and unless your network connection isn’t up to snuff, any deaths you may experience in multiplayer are usually due to your own failure to react in time to a hazard or enemy. As an example, playing on a server located in London while living in Southern California resulted in a ping time of around 150 ms at worst, and even then the game was able to somehow compensate and keep things moving just fine. Switching over to a server in Utah or Iowa resulted in ping times of 32 and 64 ms, respectively.
Maps are also on the large size, but not so large as to get lost in them and end up getting bored in a fight. Matches are also usually limited to 10 minutes, though many conclude sooner than that. Titanfall 2‘s new grappling hook is also incredibly useful, as we’ll see below, and maps were also created with it in mind — verticality was not ignored in the map designs, and thus many maps have multi-leveled lane designs, which is as fun as it sounds.
There are a lot of modes in Titanfall 2’s multiplayer, and there is little doubt that you’ll find something you like in here. The classics are all here, like Skirmish (Team Deathmatch), Capture the Flag, and Amped Hardpoint (teams vie for control of spots on the map). But throw in the game’s iconic Titans into the mix, and even these modes feel refreshed. There’s always a race to be the first to get a Titanfall (the calling down of your Titan once your meter fills up), earning you a badge, and netting your team a strategic advantage, if you are the first player to call in a Titan.
These Titans are badass, and well-thought-out in terms of gameplay mechanics. Each of the six Titans have unique weapons and abilities. Ronin was the originally-teased Titan, wielding swords and the ability to disappear from view with its Phase Dash. Ion is based around lasers, including a devastating laser core. Scorch has a fiery thermite gun and the ability to create a devastating wall of fire as its special. Northstar is great for long-range, timed assaults, while also having a special ability of launching up into the air to rain down hell. Tone features a powerful 40mm cannon which can lock onto enemies for a shoulder-mounted rocket launcher, and sports a special salvo of rockets that can kill a fully-healed Titan if fired accurately. Finally, Legion lugs around a minigun, which can be devastating in the right hands and can be enhanced with guaranteed hits during its special.
Risk & Reward
Keep in mind that you can freely enter and exit your own Titan for as long as it is around. Strewn throughout any battlefield where Titans can roam are battery packs, which can only be picked up by Pilots outside of their Titans. While that concept is a little silly, especially when some batteries are in the middle of the road, and Titans are capable of picking you up with their hands without issue, it does create a risk-and-reward mechanic that becomes critical in one of Titanfall 2’s more unique modes: Last Titan Standing. Here, two teams of up to five each battle it out in Titans from the start. The last team with Titans remaining wins, in a best-of-seven match. If you manage to destroy an enemy Titan, you’ll likely sustain some damage in the process. If you’re especially low on health, then you’ll have to risk leaving your Titan and sprinting to pick up a battery, then returning to your Titan in one piece. Few multiplayer moments feel as tense or leave you feeling so vulnerable as this.
Bounty Hunt throws in a bunch of AI-controlled foes into the mix. Serving mostly as cannon fodder, these enemies come in waves, and each enemy pays out a certain amount of money per kill. This is a team-based mode as well, with the added twist that anytime you kill an opposing player, you take fully half of their collected bounty, and vice versa if you are on the receiving end of a well-timed shot. Occasionally, an AI-controlled Titanfall will occur, with a bounty on its head worth hundreds of dollars. These are not the easiest of kills to achieve, either, since you have the opposing team to contend with in addition to the AI Titan. In between waves, banks open up at designated spots on the map, and you must rush to them to deposit your earned bounty before they close. Naturally, your enemies will also be rushing towards the nearest bank, with all the risk that entails.
Fan-favorite Attrition is back in Titanfall 2, and represents some of the best action that Titanfall 2 has to offer. This game mode is similar to Bounty Hunt in that there are AI-controlled peons, however some are on your team, while others are on your enemy’s team. It’s a points-based mode as opposed to Bounty Hunt’s slightly more complicated banking mechanic, and there is the added strategy of protecting your team’s peons to minimize the gains made by the other team. The addition of these AI-controlled bots makes the battles feel larger than they actually are, and keeps things busy even if there’s no enemy players in your immediate area.
If somehow you’re tired of playing with Titans, the Pilots vs. Pilots mode disables them entirely in a Team Deathmatch mode. On the other hand, if you’re not sure what you want to play, the Variety and Variety 8-vs-8 modes are for you. Here, you don’t pick the mode, but simply hop in to a random selection. Finally, Coliseum is a unique mode that may strike a chord with those of you that enjoy a gamble every now and then: you put up some of your hard-earned in-game currency, and if you win, you can receive an unlock. I touched on this mode in my multiplayer preview, but it’s a 1-vs-1 best-of-three arena match, where you’re given an energy grenade launcher and railgun, along with grenades and the Phase Shift ability. The rounds are quick and fun, and harken back to games like Quake III Arena in the energy and quick reflexes required.
There are 20 primary weapons in Titanfall 2, with more to come post-launch. There are pretty standard categories, such as assault rifles, SMGs, sniper rifles, shotguns, and more. Given the game’s setting, there are also some energy-based weapons, like the L-STAR, which is a light machine gun with infinite ammo. Fire off too many rounds, and it’ll overheat, and you’ll be vulnerable as it cools down. Each gun can level up, earning mods and attachments such as extra ammo capacity, or more advanced sights. Once you max out the gun’s level, you can “regen” it, whereby the level resets, but you unlock a new attachment which shows you your lifetime kill count with that weapon. Definitely something cool for the stats nerds there.
Unlock a New Look
There are also two categories of secondary weapons – pistols and anti-Titan, with applicable unlocks as well. The anti-Titan weapons can make you a formidable force against Titans, if you have proper cover. The charge rifle, for instance, can be “cooked” by repeatedly pressing the trigger, and then firing off the full round when the enemy Titan is in your sights, shortening the amount of time you are exposed (though slowing your movement).
Titanfall 2‘s weapons may not have as many unlocks as some other games, but the ones that they do have are useful. Beyond the number of unlocks, the guns in Titanfall 2 are just fun to use. I don’t think there is a single weapon in the game that I don’t plan to max out; each is genuinely enjoyable to use, and all will get the job done. Each gun has a distinct design from the next, and you can quickly tell which gun you were killed by in the kill replay. There are also a ton of skins to unlock for each weapon by completing different challenges.
Speaking of unlocks, Titanfall 2 features three categories of unlockable skins for your Pilot, Titan, and primary and secondary weapons. You unlock them by leveling up your character, Titan, and weapons, and also by performing certain feats such as earning killstreaks or getting a certain number of headshots with it. You can also unlock player banners, which show up when you kill someone or obtain something important during a match, and patches, which are small icons to accent the banner in the lower-left. With so many external unlocks to grab, completionists will be busy for months to come. Including unlockable nose paint for your Titans is a nice touch, as well.
Just to put things in perspective in case it hasn’t dawned on you, there are camos (skins) to unlock for: Pilots, primary weapons, secondary weapons, Titan skins, Titan nose art and Titan weapons. Add in banners and patches, and yeah, you’ll be grinding away to get that carrot dangling from that stick again and again. If that wasn’t enough, Pilots can also “Regenerate,” which is Respawn’s term for Call of Duty’s “Prestige.”
They Thought of Everything
The attention to detail by Respawn Entertainment is impressive in Titanfall 2. For instance, as a Pilot, you can hop on top of an enemy Titan, by either leaping onto them (not recommended), or using an equipped grappling hook to reel yourself in, ideally from the side or behind. Once you’re on, your Pilot begins a sequence of removing one of the Titan’s batteries, or dropping in a grenade if the Titan is already low on health. In one multiplayer session that I had during my review, I was in the middle of dismantling an enemy Titan in this way. Another enemy Titan saw what I was doing, and rather than attempt to shoot me off, he simply punched me to death. As his cold steel fist met my skull, I was amazed that the developers considered all the ways in which attacks can be countered in Titanfall 2.
Another topic of conversation some might have is player movement. In the first Titanfall, jumping and running (wallrunning) your way to boost speed was an important element of the multiplayer gameplay. In Titanfall 2, Respawn is once again prioritizing speed and movement. You’ll be taught how to wallrun, slide and more to build your momentum, and some of the levels are specifically built with this in mind. Of course, if you’re not someone who likes that (or lack the finger dexterity to pull it off), you can play it with a more “boots-to-the-ground” approach; there’s nothing wrong with that, either.
There’s one thing that Respawn really, really nailed, and that’s the studio’s message in terms of post-launch support. I cannot stress enough how much I appreciate Respawn Entertainment’s DLC plans for Titanfall 2. All maps, modes, and weapons are planned to be free when they release post-launch. This is practically unheard of in an era of Season Passes and “premium” content, even more so with an FPS. Let’s hope there’s regular content drops to keep the player base constantly engaged.
For the most part, people buy a game like Titanfall 2 specifically for the multiplayer. As we’ve seen, the game more than delivers on that front. However, some games just beg to be expanded upon. With the setting of the original Titanfall, fans wanted to experience a story between soldiers and Titans. The campaign of Titanfall 2 tells the story of Jack Cooper, a grunt who hopes to one day become a Pilot, the title given to those who link up with a Titan and do battle with them. In the heat of battle, you are field-promoted to Pilot, and have to quickly fill some big shoes in the absence of the original Pilot of the Titan known as BT-7274.
BT-7274 is an AI, through and through. As you play through the campaign, you occasionally have the option to reply to people who are talking to you. Pressing Up or Down on the directional pad makes your choice of dialog, either sarcastic or more serious in response. As you ask him questions or attempt to tell jokes, BT answers either in a matter-of-fact manner, or with such a dry humor that you can’t help but laugh. In talking to other reviewers, it seems that the branching dialog has several different paths that can be taken, so it will be worth it to replay the campaign, not only to find all the hidden Pilot helmets tucked away as collectibles, but also to see the different kind of bonds that Jack Cooper and BT can have.
The campaign in Titanfall 2 doesn’t overstay its welcome – it runs approximately 6-8 hours on the normal difficulty level. Now, sure, there is a lot of shooting. But because you’ve got a jump pack and can wallrun/boost, there is a surprising amount of platforming and puzzle-solving. Later through the game, there is even a mechanic that turns the game almost puzzle-like. Very few moments in Titanfall 2’s campaign consist of “go to point A, clear a wave of enemies, repeat at point B.” I was also pleasantly surprised at one of the game’s later moments (no spoilers) that made you all-powerful for a few minutes. It evoked the same feelings I had while playing through the Our Benefactors chapter of the classic game Half-Life 2, when Gordon Freeman’s Zero Point Energy weapon is supercharged.
If you’re a hardcore first-person shooter fan, then play the campaign on Hard difficulty right away. While the story of the campaign might not blow you away, the gameplay variety and execution might. This isn’t your typical first-person single-player that shepherds you from one setpiece to the next. Not to say there aren’t any, but for the most part, the “wow” moments come in the form of gameplay design much more than pre-canned animations and quick-time events (QTE).
Titanfall 2 is the new king of the FPS hill. Controls are tight, action is fierce, maps are intricately designed, and Titans are badass. The cherry on top is a campaign that is genuinely enjoyable, and one that fans of the first game are likely to be satisfied with, which expands upon the universe of the series. Group all of this together with an ambitious free DLC plan, and the choice of which shooter to buy this holiday season becomes obvious. Titanfall 2 is second to none.
Titanfall 2 review code provided by publisher. Game was played at review event. Additional testing was carried out on real world servers. For more information on scoring please see our Review Policy here.