Titanfall 2 (PS4) — Review

I missed out on the first Titanfall back in 2014 as it came out before I had my Xbox One.  I had a passing interest in Titanfall 2 but wasn’t really considering getting it until Target had a buy two get one free deal on all games.  I’m really happy that I pulled the trigger because the combination of campaign and multiplayer in Titanfall 2 makes it one of the best FPS games I’ve played in a long, long time.  It’s fast, chaotic, and pure fun.

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One man, one robot, and a crazy amount of fun.

  • TL;DR: Wall running and giant robots combine to form a great game
  • Platforms: PC, PS4 (reviewed), Xbox One
  • Time Played: 14:00
  • What I Played: Campaign on normal in about six hours, the rest on multiplayer with a heavy lean on Bounty Hunt

Titanfall 2 has a sufficiently sci-fi story.  A group of resistance fighters are trying to hold back a military group called the IMC.  After crash landing on a planet in a Halo ODST-style insertion pod, Jack Cooper and company are tasked with stopping the IMC from their war on the frontier planets.  You quickly learn that the IMC has a world-destroying weapon and plans to use it, so it is naturally up to you to stop them from doing so.

Cooper starts the game as a rifleman, but he is quickly promoted to the rank of pilot.  Pilots are essentially super soldiers stocked with the traditional two gun/grenade/melee arsenal.  While playing as a pilot, you’ll also have access to a special ability like a grappling hook, super speed, or cloaking.  Pilot play is all about speed thanks to your most essential item – the jump kit.  This allows you to double jump and wall run, giving you the ability to chain together movements for absurd speed.  To keep things moving, you can reload while sprinting, sliding, and wall running.  Titanfall 2 puts the pedal down and never lets up.

A short training course acts as a tutorial into Titanfall 2’s wide world of speed.  The course can be run over and over, even netting you an achievement/trophy for breaking the top three on the in-game leaderboard.  It seems like such a simple throwaway of an introduction, but it’s tempting to play it over and over to break your record time.  This video shows the first place run of 20.6 seconds.  See what I said about putting the pedal down?

Sometimes it pays to stop and look around, too.

Sometimes it pays to stop and look around, too.

While you’re not playing as a super soldier, you’ll be controlling a giant robot known as a titan.  Cooper’s titan is named BT and has a suitably deep, Optimus Prime-esque voice.  Titans are fully functional mechs with their own unique voices and loadouts.  For example, BT’s initial Vanguard loadout includes a shield to gather incoming bullets and throw them back at enemies and an auto lock missile launcher.  Titans also have different cores which are similar to ultimate moves in Overwatch.  The Vanguard core, for instance, is a rapid fire machine gun that mows down anything in its path.

Playing as a pilot against swarms of enemies is plenty fun between your arsenal of weaponry and incredible movement, but titan battles are really something.  It reminds me of this old PC game I used to play, Earthsiege II, with enormous robots shooting lasers and rockets at each other causing huge explosions.  It’s hard to not have a smile on your face when you’re battling another titan.  As if the sheer size and force of fighting wasn’t enough, titans have their own executions.  When a titan is doomed to explode, a melee attack initiates a devastating finish like judo throwing the enemy over your shoulder before unleashing a barrage of rockets into their face or ripping a pilot out of their cockpit and blowing them out of midair.  I let out a very audible “WHOA!” the first time I did that.

Speaking of taking the pilot out of a titan, it’s clear that playing as a titan is actually your pilot in a titan rather than you playing as the titan itself.  The HUD does a great job of showing that with tons of lights and wires on the edge of your view.  You also see it as you enter your titan.  My favorite animation is when you run and jump towards the titan as it grabs you out of midair and places you in its chest.

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The humble beginnings of an excellent campaign.

Campaigns may be throwaway in most Battlefield or Call of Duty releases, but that is not the case with Titanfall 2.  The sheer speed and spelled-out-in-text story reminds me of Doom, another great FPS campaign from earlier this year.  After about 15 minutes, I had already chained together five or six wall runs into a drop kick that sent an enemy flying off a cliff.  It was clear I was going to like this game.

The level design in Titanfall 2 really sets it apart from the typical shooter.  Gone are the traditional corridors leading to square-ish shootout arenas with cover that is conveniently as tall as a soldier.  Rooms are large and open, encouraging you to use your hyper mobility rather than popping over cover for a few shots before retreating.  Kotaku has a great write up on the game’s best mission, one that I’ve consistently thought about since finishing the campaign a few days ago.

Cooper and BT’s relationship grows throughout the roughly six hour campaign thanks to surprisingly good writing.  As the game progresses, it’s clear that Cooper and BT move from a pilot-titan relationship to an actual friendship.  Their dialogue is refreshing and funny, like when BT says that he cannot follow you since his chassis won’t fit through the door in front of him.  For a giant robot, BT is emotive and genuinely funmy.  It’s almost like you are playing a co-op game with your big robot buddy.

Big ups to you, BT.

Big ups to you, BT.

Where the campaign in Doom highlighted blood and gore, Titanfall 2 puts the spotlight on speed and feeling like a superhero.  It’s far from a hastily thrown together adventure.  I was really engrossed in the story, saying “oh no!” and “WHAT THE HELL?!” more than once.  Respawn Entertainment say that they are committed to the Titanfall franchise and I hope that they follow through.  I’m down for another adventure in the world that Titanfall 2 has started to build.

That world is rooted in multiplayer, though, as the original game was a multiplayer-only experience.  I was afraid that I would play online for an hour or two before getting bored, since I typically enjoy multiplayer games most with friends, but I was wrong.  I’ve racked up about eight hours in multiplayer over the last few days and don’t plan on stopping anytime soon.  Most multiplayer FPS games have loads of customization and progression systems and Titanfall 2 is no different.  Pilot loadouts include an active ability, two guns with modifications and skins, a grenade, a passive ability, and an execution animation.  Similarly, each of the six titans can be customized with a generic passive like an extra dash or automatic cloaking upon ejection and a titan-specific passive to alter one of their abilities.  Literally everything can level up, too: your pilot, each gun, and each titan.  It’s a lot to track.

Who said giant robots have to use guns?

Looks like someone brought a sword to a giant robot gunfight.

Titanfall 2 sports about a half dozen different game modes.  A few of them are old standards like deathmatch, capture the flag, and domination/control/hardpoint.  My two favorite modes are bounty hunt and last titan standing.  Bounty hunt pits both teams against waves of AI in a race to $5,000.  Money is earned by killing enemy AI and can be stolen from other players by killing them, netting you half of their current money.  You can bank your money for bonus points after each AI wave at two designated locations.  Bounty hunt is a great mix of player vs AI and standard player vs player and is by far my favorite mode.  Last titan standing is a single life mode where all players spawn in their titans.  The team with a titan standing at the end wins the round, first to four rounds wins.  LTS is a shower of rockets and fire with titans facing off right from the jump.  It’s pretty strategic too since the team that loses a round will typically swap out their titans to counter the winning side.

Many game modes have an epilogue, which is a weird thing to think about for an FPS.  An evac ship is flown in for the losing team who has to survive for ~30 seconds before getting on and waiting another ~10 seconds for takeoff while the winning side tries to prevent their escape.  If you do manage to escape, you get an extra merit tacked onto your nearly infinite pile of endgame rewards.  Think of it as Titanfall 2’s version to the ten seconds of postgame play that you see in a Destiny or Halo match.

You have to keep your head on a swivel while playing Titanfall 2’s online modes.  Mobility is king, after all.  The minimap doesn’t have a distinction for enemy pilots and titans, so walking outside looking for another player only to be crushed by a 20 foot robot is a real possibility.  You can hop onto a friendly titan to hitch a ride or onto an enemy titan to rip it’s battery out and make it vulnerable.  Calling in a titan is as easy as filling up a meter and can be used offensively.  Just last night I called in my titan which promptly hammered through an enemy’s, blowing it up and making me jump out of my chair.  While on the subject of jumping, keep a close eye on your titan’s health.  Once the life bar goes critical, you can eject before exploding into a shower of metal.  Titanfall 2 has no shortage of ways to keep you moving and feeling powerful.  It shares another quality with Overwatch in that it lends itself to flashy videos, like this one of yours truly.

Titanfall 2 is, hands down, one of the top games of 2016.  The campaign is fun and shows a level of depth and execution usually reserved for larger RPGs.  Running, sliding, and wall running as a pilot never gets old.  Neither does jumping into a giant robot to live out your wildest Power Rangers megazord dreams.  I know an FPS is doing something right on the multiplayer side when it can keep drawing me back even when I’m playing solo.  What other game lets you transition from a sharpshooting parkour adept to a mech pilot with such style?  I have a smile on my face nearly at all times while playing Titanfall 2 and I think you will too.

4 thoughts on “Titanfall 2 (PS4) — Review

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