The original Titanfall was a bit of a strange one for many reasons. It was brought to life by a newly formed studio, Respawn, made up on the core brains behind the hugely successful Call of Duty series (ex-Infinity Ward if you are wondering why their games went to the dogs) and was also an Xbox One exclusive published by EA. Lastly and arguably most importantly, Titanfall was one of those big releases that decided to not really have a single-player element. Sure it was possible to play alone but all you actually did was play multiplayer maps in a given order with no clear narrative - this left a bit of a bad taste for a lot of people, citing value for money and so on from what was supposed to be the Xbox One’s killer app. Its release was in the middle of the whole “Xbox One can’t do 1080p all the time” phase of the console’s life which didn’t help its cause as most console wars topics are at best toxic. That said, here at The Digital Fix we thought Titanfall was pretty damn good and ploughed many hours into it.
Titanfall wasn’t a flop by any means but it was considered a tad shallow due its lack of single player and there is only so much multiplayer person can handle plus due to the console it was exclusively on, not as technically sharp as it could have been. Hindsight is a beautiful thing, for reviewers and game developers alike...that brings us on nicely to the newly released Titanfall 2.
Straight off the bat Titanfall 2 corrects the poor omission from the first title with a single player campaign and sweet-baby-jesus what a campaign it is. The campaign sees you stepping into the shoes of one Jack Cooper, a bog standard rifleman with dreams of becoming a pilot one day, set against a backdrop of the ongoing war which we first got a taste for through the original's multiplayer mode intros. In true video game fashion it’s not long before Jack gets his opportunity, oddly not long after he’s had some training, when a pilot falls afoul of the IMC passing across pilot ownership of his Titan in his last dying breath. This sets Jack off on a series of often exhilarating missions which expose the player to each and every aspect of the game's mechanics, along with a series of situations and play scenarios which should nicely set you up for the online multiplayer aspect of the package. The writing is fairly cliched and you can pretty much see the story beats well in advance of them coming to life on the screen and there can be, especially early on that feeling that you are doing this next bit to learn how to wall run more effectively. As you work through the five to six-hour campaign you are treated to pretty much everything Titanfall 2 has to offer; huge titan assaults, titan one-on-ones, some gravity defying wall running and platforming, along with some tight, tense boss fights, all of which is executed superbly. The relentless action and fairly faultless mechanics demonstrate this with ease and it’s fair to say that the last hour or two of the campaign is both predictable and utterly brilliant.
With Respawn made up of a few of the key players that made Call of Duty the multiplayer juggernaut it is today, it’s easy to see why the original Titanfall did well even without a single-player campaign to back it up. However with one in place this time around all the package needs is multiplayer with a few tweaks and improved performance and it’s already a much better game. Respawn haven’t settled for that though and terrible beta aside, have made some solid strides with the multiplayer side of things too. Players of the original will remember the more popular modes from their time with it, and these haven’t changed here. Attrition is arguably the standout mode, seeing two teams of pilots go up against each other with a wealth of AI-controlled soldiers from each team joining the fray, points are awarded for killing these grunts but you get five times as many for killing an opposition pilot. As before it’s a points game and the first to get to four hundred wins. It’s an amazingly fast, kinetic experience and this is before you even consider calling your titan in to join the fun. Wall running, double jumping, grenade throwing, titan rodeoing, more wall running, all the while unloading clip after clip in almost constant combat is exhilarating, often awesome and rarely frustrating, unless of course you come up against a team that hasn’t taken a break between the first and second games. Other modes are just as fun (of which there are around ten), offering variety and a level of pace and fairness which the likes of Call of Duty now completely lacks. Bounty Hunter being the standout here. Waves of AI enemies are thrown at you and they drop currency for you to collect; at the end of each wave you are required to drop your takings into a set location, fail to do so and half your money disappears. This mode brings out a tension not really seen in the other modes as everyone scrambles to bag their loot at the end of each round with everyone wondering...will that one lone pilot be a complete dick? This is of course a two-way street and unlike some other shooters it never feels like it’s being unfair to you. That’s the beauty of Titanfall and now Titanfall 2, they are quick, often dazzling shooters but never unfair and highly accessible.
Some other changes have made their way into the sequel also. The Titans themselves are vastly weaker than in the original, partly due to their shields not being as good as before - this change sees a Titan lasting less than a minute as opposed to the possibility of a whole round previously. The often forgotten, always overpowering burn cards have been ditched and swapped out for the much more balanced pilot perks which offer some nice gameplay upgrades without completely breaking the balance of a match. The rodeo system has also been reworked allowing a mounted pilot to remove the energy cells from an enemy Titan - this not only weakens the Titan but allows a friendly Titan to pick up the cells and get a timely boost in battle. It’s quite surprising following the negativity around the beta that the majority of feedback made it into the final release and it’s all for the better of the overall multiplayer experience.
The only real issue with Titanfall 2 is the timing of the release. Coming out between the hugely popular Battlefield 1 and the ailing yet still Call of Duty, Call of Duty, it feels like this one could get lost in the noise. It absolutely deserves not to though as it’s a phenomenal multiplayer experience coupled with a surprisingly varied and downright exciting campaign. Respawn have improved on the original’s excellent multiplayer aspects, moved across to multiple formats and nailed the single-player experience, as a result Titanfall 2 is an absolute must buy.