Titanfall 2 is not going to go down as one of the blockbuster AAA titles in the current console generation. In fact, given what some have been saying, it may not even be more than a blip on the charts. Blame the launch date if you want, or the glut of shooters in the market. It doesn’t really matter in the long run, because if you’re passing up Titanfall 2 to play something else, you’re missing out on something special.
Protocol 1: Link to Pilot
Unlike its predecessor, Titanfall 2 has a genuine single-player component. You play as Generic Militia Rifleman 8675309…kidding, his name is Jack Cooper, which is actually even more generic. Cooper is training to be a pilot with his commanding officer, Captain Lastimosa (and THAT’S certainly less generic) when a mission to the planet Typhon goes wrong. Captain Lastimosa (seriously, say it three times fast) is killed and Cooper then has to link to his Titan, BT-7274. This is where the game truly gains a lot of the charm and entertainment you will experience throughout the campaign. BT, as Cooper calls him, and his new pilot have some very interesting interactions as they traipse around Typhon through a simplified dialogue tree that allows you to select Cooper’s tone of his comments to BT. Generally, you can play it straight or inject some wit and sarcasm into the banter between the two and BT will react accordingly by usually playing Cooper’s straight-man. It’s actually a bit of fun, if limited, and brings some of levity to the campaign that is both unexpected and welcome.
Protocol 2: Uphold the Mission
The mission structure in the campaign is as varied as it is linear, and if that sounds like a contradiction, then play it some more and you will understand. Most missions are a variation of go-from-point-A-to-point-B, but it’s less about WHAT you have to do than HOW you accomplish it. Want to go dashing about, wall-running all over and raining death upon your enemies from multiple vantage points at breakneck speed? You can do that. Prefer to play a bit slower, methodically doling out headshots to your foes as you work your way to your objective? You can do that, too. Cooper quickly gains all of the kit a pilot needs to take the fight to the enemy in a myriad of ways with an arsenal of weapons that will make even the most ardent shooter fan giggle with delight. From heavy machine guns to double-shot sniper rifles, from full-auto shotguns to full-auto directed-energy weapons, all of them allow the player to perform the Dance of Death with grace and aplomb. The only sad part is the Smart Pistol makes one appearance near the end of the game and it’s so outrageously overpowered you truly do feel like a Harbinger of Death.
The basic plot has Cooper trying to complete Captain Lastimosa’s mission on Typhon, which is to gather intelligence on an IMC science facility and the superweapon (sigh) being developed there. It’s a thin story, but it has moments so I won’t spoil it. Oh, and there’s time-travel (double-sigh).
Protocol 3: Protect the Pilot
As fun as it is to run around slaughtering foes as Cooper, the game really shines when you jump in the cockpit and take control of BT-7274. BT stomps about as you expect a Titan to, and easily lays waste to the merc’s foot soldiers (seriously, doesn’t ANYONE give those guys anti-Titan weapons anymore?) while spending a bit more time on the generic Titan enemies that show up fairly often. It’s also a bit of fun to hear Generic Titan 003 (I made that up, by the way) start trash-talking you and suddenly explode as you hit them with the kill-shot. “That was a good shot, pilot, but you won’t get anothe…AAAAGGGHHH!” Realistically, the grunt Titans don’t provide much of a challenge in battle, but they can distract you in some of the boss fights, which is where your piloting skills need to be sharp. Most of the boss battles provide at least a nominal challenge, especially when a couple of flanking enemy Titans are dropped in along with the boss. A few of them (I’m looking at YOU, Viper) can get flat-out frustrating as you find yourself taking serious damage and you’re trying to find a green Titan battery pick-up to get some health back. There were a few cheap deaths while trying to figure out the proper strategy, but overall it wasn’t always a scream-inducing nightmare some other games can be. BT gains new load-outs as you progress, and the best part is you can change your load-out to suit your gameplay style, so there’s no following the trope of handing the player a new weapon because it’s EXACTLY what’s needed to defeat the next boss or complete the level.
Multiplayer: We Didn’t Change the Formula (ok, we kinda did…)
With the original Titanfall being a multiplayer-only game, it should come as no surprise the sequel would attempt to build on that. In some ways, Titanfall 2 succeeds, but in others it just doesn’t quite get there. There’s a pretty low player population right now, which doesn’t help matters, but overall the core experience remains. Pick a gametype, select your loadout and your Titan, and drop. Already there’s a bit of a problem. Titanfall 2 doesn’t have the same ability to customize your Titan loadout as the first game did. You’re limited by the type of Titan you are using, be it Ion, Scorch, Ronin, Northstar, Tone, or Legion. They have type-specific loadouts that do not change (which is vastly different from the campaign), presumably to allow players to go into a match and see exactly what they’re facing. Pilot loadouts are still pretty much fully customizable, and thankfully they took out the weird android with the blade legs. Still, if you played the first game, the second won’t throw you any surprises. The maps really help the multiplayer shine, with designs that capitalize on close-quarters battles along with wide-open arenas for all-out Titan warfare.
Overall, Titanfall 2 is largely what it was expected to be (which is NOT a bad thing at all) but throws in a few surprises and some unique moments that make it better than the first by a wide margin. While a game like this will always have some issues (the number of times I screwed up a wall-run and fell to my death…) they are largely linked to player skill and ability, not wonky controls.
Oh, and one final note: The environments are GORGEOUS. The character models are much less so.