Titanfall 2 Review!

by on November 21, 2016

 

                Every
time a multiplayer FPS launches with a singleplayer campaign everyone makes
such a big fuss about it like there isn’t the possibility that they will spend
dozens if not hundreds of hours online. Titanfall’s sin was that it was so
shallow in content that it couldn’t justify its AAA price and the community
splitting DLCs didn’t help one bit killing the game before its turn. To make up
for this haunting mistake that’s probably going to keep a lot of people away
from Titanfall 2, Respawn Entertainment has slapped
on the game a singleplayer campaign. And slapped
would be the right term if this was one of those generic singleplayer campaigns
that have plagued shooters for years, but to my surprise it is not.
                The
story follows the generically named rifleman Jack Cooper, a volunteer in the
Frontier Militia who’s day dreaming of becoming a pilot. He is taken under the
protective wing of Captain Lastimosa, who trains him into the art of pilotship.
When the Marauder Corps are sent on a mission on the planet Typhon, the space
ship that was carrying the unit is met with heavy resistance by the IMC,
crashing on the planet’s surface. The emergency evacuated soldiers are
scattered around the crashing site fighting the overwhelming IMC troops and the
hired mercenaries of the Apex Predators organization. Jack Cooper is injured in
battle and saved by Captain Lastimosa, which together with his vanguard class
titan, BT-7274, make their last stand. Jack Cooper awakes to be rescued by BT’s
last efforts from some indigenous animals. As Cooper walks toward BT, the hatch
opens revealing a near death Captain Lastimosa which gives BT the order to link
with the rifleman. The two form a neurological and friendship bond on their
mission to rendezvous with Major Anderson and assist him in stopping the IMC from
activating a weapon of mass destruction.
Hello BT!
                I’m not
a big fan of action oriented stories as they usually find cheap ways to give
meaning to the storytelling, so naturally I was a skeptic about this game all
the way to the play button. What I did find after playing a few missions is
that Titanfall 2 goes that extra mile in narrative to give the players
something to care about and transpose them into its universe. The relationship
between BT-7274 and Jack Cooper is at the campaign’s core and its intensity is
up to the players. It’s not only about how much you like or dislike the two
characters, but how much you get involved into this growing bond between a man
and a machine. The game provides the players with a feature that it was long
coming into the action shooters of today, but nobody really bothered to
implement it: optional dialogues. Don’t worry, it’s nothing like in RPGs and it
won’t slow down the action, it’s just a feature design to better immerse you
into the game. Cooper and BT talk a lot with one another and the players can
expand on that by asking BT questions that usually trigger some hilarious
replies as the titan lacks a sense of humor or a proper understanding of
sarcasm.
                The
story is using a lot of clichés, which I think many players were expecting from
the singleplayer campaign of an FPS, but it makes up for them with two well
written characters put into the center of attention. It might not be ideal, but
it’s still the best I’ve seen since Wolfenstein: The New Order.
We are building a friendship!
                What
made me appreciate Titanfall 2’s campaign even more was how unusual it is by
today’s standards, standards that the people at Respawn Entertainment helped
create. These people might have worked on Call of Duty, but they didn’t want to
turn this campaign into just another Call of Duty. The usual scripted sequences
that plague the singleplayer of action shooters are scarce here giving them
more visual and emotional meaning. But what truly shines in Titanfall 2’s
campaign is how well the gameplay and mission design are executed.
Preparing for war!
                Titanfall
2 initial moments of action create a feeling of corridor shooter, but getting
past this point opens up massive levels of excellent design that take advantage
of this game’s spectacular gameplay. Open space areas stand as arenas for big
battles and each level has its own flanking roots and hidden pathways providing
players with the needed options for tactical engagement. Players have to fight
their way through enemies adapted from the multiplayer which do a fairly decent
job on the highest difficulties despite not having the brightest AI. Grunts,
stalkers, titans and even bosses with silly cut scene presentations stand in
Jack’s and BT’s way to uphold their mission. But here comes the surprise, Titanfall
2 is not all about killing enemies. The level design will put the skills of a
Frontier pilot to test. Sliding, wall jumping and walking will be useful at any
step as often the landscape proves to be a quality platforming puzzle. The
vertigo inducing navigation melts together with heavily non-scripted action
sequences in the most natural way giving the singleplayer a fluidity that I
thought these games can’t pull off anymore and that’s not even all of it.
She’s just weird.
I hate heights!
                There
are many features worth praising in this 5-7 hour long campaign, but as the
years go by, players’ most fond memories about singleplayer shooters usually relate
to the greatest missions. I forgotten most about Medal of Honor: Allied
Assault, but I do remember the Saving Private Ryan inspired Omaha Beach landing
mission. I haven’t forgotten Call of Duty 2’s Hill 400 mission and I still
remember the chill inducing first mission of Half Life 2. But will I remember
any missions from Titanfall 2 in 10 years or more from now? Yes and it will be
more than one.
                The
campaign is in a continuously changing with each new mission throwing a new
gameplay mechanic while taking away the previous one. This way the players are
always doing something new and exciting that doesn’t resemble at all what they
did up to that point, constantly keeping the gameplay fresh.
                By now
all those interested in this game might have heard about the time traveling
mission called “Effects and Cause” which is a masterwork in tying gameplay
mechanics with level design and story in such a unique way that stands as a
reminder that games have no reason to repeat themselves. Then is “The Ark”
which is probably the best chase mission I’ve ever played which had me jumping
from ship to ship fighting side by side with Militia’s soldiers in a desperate
attempt to stop a cargo from reaching its destination and ending up with a boss
battle where BT’s protocol 3 is on the line.
A new standard for singleplayer missions.
Hell yeah!
                By the
end of the campaign Titanfall 2 really wanted to drain a tear out of me, but I
stood firmly strong and this doesn’t say that I’m easy to impress, but rather
that the ending is an emotional roller coaster that might actually get you. The
campaign was a spectacular ride and while it isn’t without flaws it has picked
the bar from the ground and together with DOOM (each in its own way) has raised
it up higher than anywhere it has been in the last few years.
War!
                When it
was announced that Titanfall 2 will get a campaign it didn’t make much of a
difference for me. Now that I’ve played the campaign I can honestly say that
I’m glad the game got one, but my interest has always been the multiplayer.
                Titanfall’s
multiplayer ace in the sleeve was a revolutionary gameplay that had everyone buying
tickets for the hype train but leaving it after visiting just a few stations. The
gameplay might have been solid, but the content was so shallow that it couldn’t
keep players enticed for long. It didn’t help that Respawn made everything in
their power to split the small community even further with a Season Pass. Titanfall
2 is here to make up for those mistakes (or at least it looks like that) and right
off the bat the main issue of Titanfall has been addressed in the sequel.
                The gamers
of today have been spoiled with a lavish amount of weapons and customizations
options and Titanfall 2 joins the trend. There is a wider variety of weapons of
each type unlocked through a progression system that isn’t too annoying or
imbalanced. The starting weapons are the usual jack of all trades so nobody is
underpowered while the rest are a little more specialized and require a particular
play style and skills to be effective with them. Each weapon has an identical
set of performance upgrades with rare deviations and a huge amount of
unlockable skins.
                Titanfall
2 has a ton of gameplay unrelated unlockables and while I do welcome this step
forward in providing more customization options, it feels like Respawn has put
an accent on quantity rather than quality in this matter.
It’s clear that the both of us aim in the wrong direction.
Colorful diversity
                As with
weapons, the titans have been revamped in the sequel. Instead of customizable
titan classes now there are six titans split into three categories with each
titan having a personalized loadout and a set of unique abilities, but sharing most
of the customization options. Players have mixed feelings about this change,
but I’m on board with it because it makes titans recognizable in battle
allowing you to change tactics accordingly. It should also make titans easier
to balance, not that they are balanced right now. Tone and Legion reign over
the battlefield, while the light titans sometimes can’t even leave the fall
position in one piece. One of the reasons for this is that titans are a lot
squishier due to one of the many questionable changes done by Respawn. The
regenerating shields have been removed and with them much of the titans’ tactical
value and power. Titans used to open the gameplay to a wide variety of tactical
maneuvers that gave an almost excessive depth to such a fast paced shooter. But
these once resilient war machines that possessed the combat capabilities to
change the course of battle now can die almost as fast as the pilots. A call
for a titanfall is viable only as a group move and having a lonely titan on the
battlefield is like painting a big target mark on your back. I’m enjoying the
combo abilities and the powerful salvo core that the new titan’s models have in
store, but I do miss the old ones beefiness.
The Battlefield 1 bonus didn’t come with a matching weapon…
Salvo core online!
                Titanfall’s
gameplay had all the right elements following the trend of fast paced shooters
but adding unique parkour mechanics and mixing everything in a sci-fi setting
with giant mechs replacing the nonsensical streaks. It was a frenetic action experience
that had you jumping from one wall to another and shooting enemies mid air while
landing between enemy titans using an ability to escape victorious. As
expected, the sequel builds on this gameplay making a few modifications for
better or for worse. The shooting retains the same level of skill requiring the
fast reactions of a trigger happy player but with an induced hecticness caused
by new toys like weapons and pilot’s abilities. The movement has been
streamlined with the introduction of a sliding action which has changed the
previous game’s bunnyhop with a much easier to control slidehop. The burn cards
and the annoying Smart Pistol have been integrated into boosts which are a
cooldown based mechanic that’s less entertaining but much more consistent and
balanced.
A useless boost…
                Sadly,
Titanfall 2 didn’t manage to build on its predecessor’s foundation without
damaging it in the process. It all starts with the reduction of pilot’s life which
implicitly lowers the time to kill leading to deaths where there is no time to
react. Piling on this problem is the unreliable netcode that might kill you
behind a cover even if you did manage to escape. There is also a noticeable
lowering of the skill cap done through a few changes that remove most of the
resource management by making primary weapons ammunition infinite and adding a
cooldown to grenades. But what bothers me the most is the wacky aiming while
wall running which takes away the benefits of this great gameplay mechanic.
                It’s
fairly obvious from the changes done to the pilot’s and titan’s gameplay that this
game is bleeding tactical value everywhere favoring the streamlined action that
we all know so well…
Weeee!
                The
supporting pillars for Titanfall’s gameplay were the maps and the previous game
had a masterful level design. I remember fondly my time spent on Angel City,
Outpost 207, Smuggler’s Cove and even Overlook. The maps were big enough areas
with buildings cramped tight allowing pilots to jump from one side to another
while titans roamed the streets. They had an almost perfect design and the
sequel has dropped the ball on this one.
                The
maps come in all sizes and while there are some good ones, most of them lack
the quintessential elements that drive the gameplay. The intricate layout is
mostly gone, so are the zip-lines, slowing the game’s speed and facilitating
camping. Most of the maps look like generic battlefields that we find in any
shooter. Luckily, Angel City makes a return in December as part of a free
content update, which will be the case with all content updates for Titanfall 2
(Respawn has learned a valuable lesson in 2014). And to be perfectly honest, I
wouldn’t mind any of the older maps to be introduced in the future because it
seems that the architects behind Titanfall’s map design are no longer working
on this project.
How am I supposed to wall jump here?!
                Last on
the list are the game modes which are thirteen in number, weirdly split in two
pages, dooming few of them from the get-go (somebody has skipped on UI design
101). As expect, Attrition and a modified version of Hardpoint are leading in
the playerbase, while modes like Capture the Flag and Free for All are already
dead because they don’t receive the attention as the game modes on the first
page. The new popular addition, Bounty Hunt, is a mode that feels like it was
misplaced in the wrong game as it doesn’t do a good job at making players use any
of the core gameplay mechanics forcing them into camping instead.
Don’t judge me! I just want to try it out!
                I’m not
going to lie, while I do enjoy the multiplayer a lot, I find some of the design
choices going way past the weird marker. Respawn has managed to piss off the
hardcore fans of the game in what I think it was a feeble attempt to draw more
players into the game. Developers went on changing things that didn’t need
changing and ignored the community’s complaints during the tech test run on
consoles a few months before release. Some of the problems will probably be
addressed, but realistically speaking, most of them will stick until the end.
                Don’t
get me wrong though. The multiplayer is good and even with all its problems still
stands out in the crowd. But one has to wonder how things would have been if
all the right choices were made…
                Running
on a modified Source Engine, Titanfall 2 has managed to
pull off some above the average graphics which in combination with the
outstanding artistic direction we already know add up to some pretty looking
visuals. But there is only so much the Source Engine can do and Respawn might
have drained every bit of visual power left in it and that shows in a good and
a bad way.
A corridor forest
                Titanfall
2 is a visual improvement over the previous game, the overall texture work has
been drastically improved, the lighting is a bit more immersive, the shadows
are clearer and the models are sharp on details. But past this we have a game
that can’t compete with his one week older half brother, Battlefield 1. There
is so much more room for visual improvement from a technical standpoint that it
gets me mad at EA’s policy of allowing only in-house studios to use the
Frosbite Engine. Even so, there are very few things that bother me in Titanfall
2’s visuals, starting with the excessive film grain of a 50s pellicle and continuing
with the explosion and cloaking effects which don’t take advantage of basic
pixel shader features. Weirdly enough, Titanfall 2 doesn’t always run as
smoothly as it should, for the most part the game stays strong at 60fps, but there
have been quite a few moments of severe frames dropping in the singleplayer which
really annoyed me as they usually came at the worst possible time.
                Depending
on how much you value graphics as a PC gamer, you may or may not enjoy
Titanfall 2’s visuals. The game looks good, not 2016 good, but the graphics are
artistic and clean enough for an immersive singleplayer experience while creating
the perfect landscape for the multiplayer.
If it wasn’t for those damned dogs, I could stop for a swim here.
                The
sound in this game doesn’t try to impress, but rather to stick with the
standards of an AAA game. Being music or voice acting the sound does its job
and nothing more than that which feels a bit underwhelming. But when it comes
to sound effects I’m pleased with what’s on the table. Knowing where the
enemies come from and even recognizing their loadout by the gun shots is
something that some shooters of late have been missing. It’s also an
improvement in audio design over the previous game with multiple layers of
sound effects that differentiate yet come together into the chaos of the
battlefield.
                The
music is not the work of art you expect from composers like Hans Zimmer or
Michael McCann and the sound design is not the vibrating madness that
accompanies the Frostbite Engine games, but it’s good nonetheless.
Don’t believe what you see!
Stand by for titanfall!
Rebooting…

 

                Titanfall
2 is a game I bought to fill the void of a fast paced multiplayer shooter in my
playlist, but I ended up loving it for its singleplayer campaign more than
anything else. The multiplayer is still good, but not the improvement I was
expecting, yet I did sink a generous number of hours into it and I’m continuing
to do so while dealing with the thorn in my heart when I see the dropping in
playerbase daily.
                It’s
saddening to see that the game received little love from its publisher with a weak marketing campaign and being thrown in the ring between two established
giants in a battle that even a great game could easily lose. Heavy discounts
are already in place and content updates are on the way, but justice will never
be done to this game…
Pros:
+ Impressive singleplayer campaign
+ BT-7274
+ Artistic direction
+ Audio design, voice acting and music
+ The multiplayer has a wider variety of titans, weapons and
abilities
+ A ton of visual customizations
+ All the content updates will be free
Cons:
– Extremely strange in the core gameplay
– Map design is inferior to the previous game
– The netcode isn’t always reliable
– The weapon’s customizations lack uniqueness
– Dropping playerbase
– No ranked system
Nodrim