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Titanfall 2 Review
It’s no secret that the FPS market is a crowded one. Take two steps in a game store and you’ll trip over a game about blasting the bad guys with machine guns, shotguns, and rocket launchers. With so much competition, it can be hard for games to stand out. Fortunately, that’s not a problem for Titanfall 2, which distinguishes itself from the crowd in the best possible way: by adding giant, heavily armed robots into the mix. The metal crunching fun of mechanised warfare, combined with a greater focus on mobility and creativity in the on-foot sections, make Titanfall 2 a strong competitor against Call of Duty, ad a worthy purchase for any shooter fan.
Obviously, you cant just throw some giant robots into your shooter without having some kind of story to explain it, so Titanfall 2 gets out the Big Book of Sci Fi cliches and cobbles together a plot about far future rebels battling the evil Interstellar Manufacturing Corporation. When an attack on an IMC held planet goes wrong, a young rebel soldier named Jack Cooper has to team up with BT, one of the rebel’s sentient “Titan” robots, to survive. Naturally, this planet just happens to be the site of a top secret IMC research facility that is developing a weapon that will doom the rebellion, so Jack and BT are the last hope for peace and freedom in the galaxy.
This is one of the most bare-bones plots I’ve seen in a while. The Bad Guys are building a Bad Thing, and you have to go from level to level shooting stuff in order to stop them. Characterisation is bland, world building is almost non-existent, and the whole thing feels like something out of a NES game. This definitely isn’t a game you’ll be playing for the story, but on the other hand, the lack of storytelling does mean that Titanfall 2 spares you from the overwrought political plots and ham-fisted efforts at drama sometimes seen in other shooters.
What you’re really buying Titanfall 2 for is the game-play, and this is split into two different types. As you progress through the campaign, you’ll alternate between on-foot sections and sections in which you strap into the cockpit of the mighty BT to take on the IMC’s army of robots. The game sets a good rhythm in switching between the two game-play types, with a robot battle coming along any time the more traditional human-scale battles start to get old and vice versa.
At first glance, the on-foot game-play looks almost identical to that found in Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare. You have an assortment of weapons, a wall run, and a double jump, with which you take on enemies in standard FPS combat. Take a closer look though, and you’ll see a radically different game. The primary difference lies in the level design, which favours complex, multi-levelled arenas over the usual FPS corridors. While Infinite Warfare’s mobility features often felt like tacked-on additions to a core game that was all about ducking behind cover points, Titanfall‘s are an integral part of the experience. Strategic use of wall runs and double jumps, combined with a short-duration cloaking device that renders you invisible, allows you to exploit the terrain, flank enemy positions, or get in close and personal for a melee attack. How you chose to play is up to you: you can play it like a conventional FPS, using your enhanced mobility only to secure a more advantageous firing position to pick off the enemy from, but you also have enough health and good enough from-the-hip accuracy to get stuck in at close range so long as you move fast and adopt appropriate tactics for the environment. It’s an unusual level of freedom for an FPS, and makes Titanfall 2 one of the most interesting shooters you’ll play this year.
In another unusual touch, the shooting segments are occasionally interrupted by brief platforming sections, in which you must use your jumping and wall-running skills to traverse dangerous environments. These aren’t particularly interesting, and suffer from the common flaws of first person platforming, but fortunately they usually aren’t very difficult. You probably wouldn’t want to play a whole game made from them, but used in moderation, these platforming challenges add some variety and make the game world feel more like a real place than like a series of locations for shoot-outs.
The other major component of the game, the robot combat, is less about mobility and more about sheer fire-power. BT has a lot of health and a variety of weapon options, allowing him to crush regular human troops with ease. The real threat’s to BT are the enemy Titans, of which there are a considerable variety, ranging from snipers to swordsmen. Combat here has a slower, more methodical feel, as BT lack the extreme mobility of Cooper. In a surprisingly old-fashioned touch, BT also lacks regenerating health, relying on health pick-ups taken from fallen foes or found in the environment.
Choice is once again a major component of the game, with BT unlocking a variety of weapon load-outs as the game progresses. Each offers a variety of offensive and defensive options which provide a totally different experience. For example, the starting “expedition” load-out includes a heavy machine gun for mowing down weaker enemies and a shield that reflect projectiles, while the “Ronin” load-out features a giant sword which can be used both to block attacks and to brutalise enemies at close range. Each load-out also features an outrageously destructive special attack, usable only after inflicting enough damage, that can destroy an opposing titan in seconds. With so many unique weapons and defences on offer, piloting a Titan feels genuinely different from ground combat, more like a first person version of Armoured Core than a standard FPS. That said, it does feel a little clumsier and less polished than fighting on foot, and can get a little stale once the novelty wears off. Fortunately though, mech battles are usually sort and sweet, over before the excitement has had a chance to wear off.
The only major flaw with the game-play is in the boss battles, which are always fought with BT. These one-on-one Titan battles could have been great, but sadly tend to amount to little more than slugging it out with a slightly tougher version of a regular enemy. There’s nothing unique, creative, or memorable about the bosses, their pilots, or the environments they are fought in, and the result is a feeling that the game may as well not have had any boss fights at all.
A big part of the appeal of fighting in a robot is the aesthetics, and Titanfall 2 really nails it on this front. The mechs look imposing and high-tech, but not so over-the-top they become unbelievable and distracting, and they have an impressive level of detail in both their weapons and their bodies. The human scale enemies also don’t disappoint, with a variety of designs ranging from standard futuristic soldiers to floating robots to wild animals. The real stars of the show though are the environments, which feel have a level of detail and complex structure that makes them feel like real places. You’ll visit battlefields, ruined research facilities, and immense factories, but the best parts have to be the outdoor sections and the wildlife that inhabit them, which provide some the games most memorable visual moments.
It’s a shame the soundtrack couldn’t be a little more memorable. It does it’s job in setting the mood, but in the day between playing the game and writing this review, I’ve already forgotten most of it, which should tell you something about how interesting and unique it is. The voice acting is also quite mediocre, though not exceptionally bad. The sound effects are rather good though, and stomping around in a giant metal death machine produces some appropriately weighty noises.
Overall, Titanfall is a great addition to the shooter genre. The Mech combat is obviously it’s most eye-catching feature, and it’s certainly a lot of fun, but the level of freedom and creativity offered by it’s on-foot combat makes these sections arguably even more fun, and certainly shouldn’t be overlooked. It’s a shame the story couldn’t be a bit better, but anyone looking for an FPS that sits outside the Call of Duty/Battlefield mould, or any fan of FPS in general, should definitely give Titanfall 2 a try.
Titanfall 2 was played on Xbox One