I’m not that into multiplayer games. I don’t have a particular fascination with big fighting robots. Since the original Titanfall game was a multiplayer-only FPS game with giant mech combat, I wasn’t instantly enamored with the idea of playing either it or the sequel. But Titanfall 2 features a campaign, and I started hearing that it was an amazing one. It’s cool to hear about a game that takes a chance on something new — and Titanfall 2 totally nails it.
I played through the campaign over the weekend and totally fell in love with the story, the smooth combat, and the relationship between the main character Jack Cooper and his titan, BT-7274. It helps that I already enjoy shooters, but I’d say this game is really something special in the FPS genre.
Here’s what the game has going for it, and why I enjoyed it so much!
If the heart of Titanfall 2‘s campaign is the relationship between Cooper and BT, then dialogue is what makes that heart beat. Short-and-sweet conversations between the two of them pop up via dialogue options, in the midst of platforming gameplay and even combat sequences.
Personally, I don’t think the dialogue options are necessary. I even missed a couple while focusing on platforming — which was a shame, because then I missed out on the conversations. While being able to click between two dialogue options might make the player feel more involved, the choices aren’t very interesting; one might be more straightforward, while the other sarcastic, for instance. And they don’t seem to affect the storyline in any way. The bond between Cooper and BT would have been just as memorable if I had just been able to listen to the conversations without needing to press a button to choose a dialogue option, in my opinion. I suppose for a shooter to utilize dialogue options at all is an interesting step, though.
In any case, the dialogue is well-written — and there’s just enough of it to forge that bond without being too distracting. I loved Cooper’s sense of humor propped up against BT’s dry statistical analyses. Some of the most heartfelt moments came when BT had to fling Cooper into the air toward a far-off objective — literally. This creates a pretty memorable friendship unlike any I’ve seen before.
Running on Walls
Platforming is not my thing. I don’t think it ever will be. But Titanfall 2 features some of the most fun platforming that I’ve experienced in a game to date. It’s mainly built around the game’s innovative wall-running feature. All you do is approach a wall and hit “A” (on Xbox One) to run along the wall for a brief distance. You then have to jump or double-jump off the wall to a safe landing spot — or risk falling, if you miss your exit. There are also instances where you jump from a wall on the right to a wall on the left and back again, to move along the walls for longer distances. When obstacles like fire are beneath you, this wall-running can be an adrenaline rush.
Overall the platforming is smooth and straightforward. I never struggled with controls; the movements here feel natural. With few exceptions, my button presses resulted in exactly what I intended to do. Another cool feature is the ghost runner; your HUD analyzes the environment, then shows you a ghost that jumps along the route you need to take, so you know where to go in tricky sections. I didn’t have the same frustration with failing at platforming that I do in many other games, which is a testament to the great controls and hints here. And considering there’s nothing too complicated going on here, I’d say sometimes simple is better.
Fighting in Titanfall 2 jumps back and forth between Cooper’s first-person shooter and BT’s titan controls.
The FPS sections feel smooth as butter, much like a game like Destiny. Every weapon has a distinct feel, as if pulling the trigger is a physical action even though you’re actually using a controller. I loved picking out the weapons that worked best for my combat style. A funny feature in the game is the frequency of enemy soldier helmets flying off when you shoot them — pretty satisfying to see. There’s also the ability to go invisible for a few seconds, which can be useful to get the jump on enemies or get away when they’ve already spotted you. Nothing is particularly innovative here, but it’s tons of fun and a very polished experience.
But the titan combat was, for me, the most exciting gameplay. I found myself itching to get back into my titan, fighting with BT’s numerous unique loadouts. You start with just one, but as the game progresses, you pick up additional loadouts until you have a hefty collection going. Each loadout has about three unique powers, which recharge after usage, along with a basic firing mode that’s always available. With Scorch, the powers involve hurling fire at enemies; Ion features energy weapons; Northstar lets you hover in the air; Tone has homing missiles that I found particularly handy. It was fun to hear what loadouts my boyfriend preferred (like Scorch), because they were different than the ones I used the most (like Ion). It’s natural to gravitate towards one or two favorites, based on your own style of fighting.
The only thing I was disappointed about was that I didn’t see a New Game Plus option. Since it takes the entire game to unlock every single titan loadout, at the end of the game I found myself wanting to replay with all of the loadouts unlocked. But going back to early missions seems to lock you out of the later loadouts, which is a waste to me — it means that you can only use those late-game loadouts in the very last missions, for a very limited time. This seems like a big oversight, but hey, if developer Respawn ever releases a New Game Plus mode, I’ll totally play this game again!
The best part of Titanfall 2‘s story is Cooper and BT’s bond. The silliest part is the real story, which is full of science fiction tropes and retrieve-this-weapon-and-bring-it-back-to-the-beacon type missions. Even so, there is one mission in the game that is just incredible, because it involves time travel that affects the gameplay in amazing ways.
Without giving away the story, I’ll just say that the mission takes place in a facility during two different time periods. Your character Cooper can switch between those two time periods with the flip of a switch — or, for you, the push of a controller button. In one timeline, the facility is in order but you are a trespasser, setting off alarms and making enemies of the guards. In the other timeline, zombie-like robots and scary animals attack you in the facility ruins. You have to switch between the two time periods frequently. For instance, I didn’t want to kill anybody in the former time period, so when the guards were after me, I switched to the other time period and fought the animals and crazed robots instead; I only switched back when I needed to open a door or just regenerate my health for a second, for example. It was a puzzle, trying to figure out which timeline I needed to be in to proceed through the next area.
I know this mission gets talked about a lot by people who played the game, because it’s so innovative. It’s exactly the fresh breeze Titanfall 2‘s somewhat stale story needs.
Despite some weaknesses with the story, Titanfall 2 does a great job of keeping up the pace. There’s a sense of urgency to the missions as they escalate. Music pounds, enemies descend, and you always feel like you’re pressing forward with something important. There are about three to four boss battles sprinkled through the game, at just the right intervals, to keep things exciting and challenging. All of this leads to a truly emotional finale.
In short, I finished Titanfall 2 in two days, three sittings, or about seven hours total. And I wish the experience had been longer, which is my biggest compliment to the game. I’ve never had so much fun with giant mech combat. But the best thing is that it isn’t about just that — it’s about this giant mech being your friend.