Frivolous Waste of Time

Sci-fi, fantasy and video games

Titanfall 2 for PS4, Xbox One and PC

I didn’t play the first Titanfall for two reasons; first of all, it was multiplayer only and I really do need some kind of campaign to enjoy this kind of game. Second, and perhaps more significantly, it was Xbox and PC exclusive and I do not have either of those things. Still, it definitely appealed to me a lot more than other similar games and I was happy to give Titanfall 2 a go, available on PS4 and with a campaign.

I very rarely spend much time in multiplayer games, but I’ve played a fair bit of Titanfall 2 and plan to play a fair bit more. The Titanfall series has two main gameplay attractions which are both brilliant. The first, and most immediately obvious, are the eponymous Titans, massive mechs which can be summoned from the sky and controlled, delivering destruction as you go. The feeling of power when you’re in one of these things is palpable and unlocking access to your Titan during a match never stops being exciting. The other core mechanic is even better; the movement. I think I’ll struggle to go back to other online FPS games after Titanfall. Movement is everything in this game, from wall runs to double jumps to grappling hooks. Zipping around the map at remarkable speed is hugely thrilling and I felt even more fun than the Titan battling. I’ve tried a lot of tactical shooters, your Rainbow Six or your Ghost Recon or your Counter Strike and I’ve dabbled in class based shooters like Overwatch and Team Fortress 2. In the end though, there’s only one kind of online shooter I really enjoy; good ol’ fashioned twitchy run and gun. I like sprinting through levels, reacting in an instant to get a kill. Running and traversal is at the core of Titanfall’s design philosophy and it’s lovely to see my personal favourite gameplay style be encouraged.

There are lots of different modes, like standard deathmatches and variations of King of the Hill and all that stuff. One concern is the low player base; it’s not hard to get games in the main modes, but even something like Capture the Flag is fairly depopulated. The actual matches themselves are frantic, fun and quick. There’s a pretty big range of customisation, both for your Pilot and your Titan. All round, I’m not a fan of loadouts in FPSs and never have been. I like FPS games where everyone starts out with the same equipment and picks up new weapons throughout the levels, which creates interesting choke points in the maps. Loadouts obviously completely obliterate this element. This isn’t really a problem with Titanfall 2; this is just what online FPS games do now, but I still don’t like it. I’ve yet to be persuaded that they exist for any reason other than providing an artificial sense of progression or a vehicle for microtransactions. Despite this quibble, I’ve been having the most fun with an online PvP FPS since…Halo 3 maybe? Damn. As much as I am enjoying the multiplayer, I’m not very good at talking about it as it simply isn’t my area of expertise, so I’ll move over to a highlight which I think no one saw coming; the campaign.

Titanfall 2’s story is so unbelievably bland I can’t even remember what happened and I finished the campaign about two days ago. There’s something about space mercenaries working for some evil business creating a superweapon and you need to stop it, or something? The main character has the most hilariously generic white guy name I’ve ever heard…wait for it; Jack Cooper. Jack. Cooper. This is a name so generic that it is almost ascends to art and the character fulfils those expectations exactly. Despite the actual plot being paper thin and, frankly, rubbish, I was still invested for one big reason. Early in the game Jack becomes linked with a Titan named BT and the two work together throughout the story, which follows a rough structure of having the two be separated and then join together again repeatedly. The relationship between Jack and BT is something we’ve all seen done before loads of times, but it is genuinely heartfelt and I can’t deny that it plucked at my very easily plucked heartstrings. I don’t know why human/giant robot is a relationship I find so compelling, but there it is. Blame Iron Giant.

The campaign isn’t particularly long, perhaps about five hours, but they are five of the most intensely fun and creative five hours I’ve ever played. Titanfall 2 shows a Nintendo style design philosophy; new ideas, which other studios would use for entire games, are introduced and abandoned in almost every chapter. Yes, Titanfall 2 is a rock solid shooter with hugely satisfying mechanics, but then again most shooters are these days; the standard for general gunplay is as high as it’s ever been. To stand out you must do something different and the real strength of this campaign is in the wonderful level design. The incredible traversal mechanics aren’t quite used to their full potential in the multiplayer, as wallrunning and launching off every platform in sight isn’t actual particularly effective. The campaign is the area where the sheer joy of movement can be harnessed; Titanfall 2 is the best first person platformer I’ve ever played, even better than games that weren’t also very solid shooters. The campaign is quite regularly breathtakingly exciting, with set pieces which don’t just feel like a beautiful skybox for you to blast enemies in. There’s something tactile about this world which is so lacking in many other linear shooter campaigns. There’s one section which reminded me of Portal. I remember back when Half Life 2: Episode 3 was still looking like a thing that would exist and people were wondering if the Portal gun could be incorporated into gunplay as a crossover. I said it wouldn’t work, puzzle based mechanics and shooter based mechanics will never be able to mesh. Well, Respawn have proven me very wrong. I won’t go into detail about specific mechanics as I don’t want to spoil the surprise. Lots of games have been abandoning campaigns lately, but Titanfall 2 shows just how good they can be when approached with love and attention. It may be short, but Titanfall 2’s campaign is pure concentrated joy. I’ll put it this way, I enjoyed my 5 hours with Titanfall 2’s campaign far more than my 25 or so with Rise of the Tomb Raider.

It helps that the game looks lovely, with a vibrant and colourful world. The muted colours of other FPSs are absent here, with Titanfall 2’s alien planet being a beautiful, vibrant place. I could maybe have done with it being a bit weirder, in the vein of Halo. The Titans are easily the best visual marvel of the game, particularly when you’re outside of one in a multiplayer match. Zipping around on foot whilst massive robots rain each other with ordinance in stunning. More than once I’d duck into the open, find myself in the path of a Titan’s chaingun and then take part in a thrilling chase back into cover. They’re awe inspiring and never stop being cool. The music is nothing special and neither is the voice acting, but the general sound design elsewhere is good, particularly the satisfying clanking of the Titans.

Titanfall 2 is better than I think anyone expected it to be but has unfortunately been a bit lost, launching as it did between Battlefield and Call of Duty. I hope this game gets a new lease on life because it really is excellent and I want to keep playing online for a long time, without it drying up into a playerless wasteland. I particularly hope a third game happens, hopefully with a better story because I want to see what those genius level designers over at Respawn can come up with.

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