|System: PS4, Xbox One, PC|
|Dev: Respawn Entertainment|
|Release: October 28, 2016|
|Players: 1 Player (2+ online)|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Blood and Gore, Language, Violence|
by Matthew Hayes
Titanfall 2 has surprised me in almost every way. Respawn Entertainment had a lot to prove to original Titanfall fans and newcomers alike with its second release, and I'm happy to say that it over-delivered. Negligible iterative improvements to multiplayer? No way, the multiplayer formula has been completely reworked for the better. Half-baked campaign shoehorned in? Not here, Titanfall 2's campaign is perhaps the most competent and unexpected joyride of the year for the genre, easily going toe-to-toe with DOOM.
The story in Titanfall 2, on paper at least, is its greatest weakness. Tell me if you've heard this one before: An enormous resource-hungry industrial conglomerate known as the IMC is taking over the inhabited solar system, stealing whatever it wants and destroying anyone who might stand in the way. Brave colonists have banded together to form a resisting militia, and that's where we meet our protagonist Jack Cooper, a low-ranking rifleman with dreams of one day becoming a pilot. When a mission on an IMC-occupied planet goes awry, Cooper unexpectedly acquires command of a Titan named BT. The two of them must work together to escape certain death and save the world.
This story-in-a-can plays out beautifully, though. The campaign will take you roughly five or six hours to complete, and Respawn has proven that it can tell the elementary hero story in a masterful way. It's electric and entertaining due in part to the exceptional pacing, but mainly due to the perfect movement system and explosive Titan battles.
Movement in Titanfall 2 is dreamy. Every engagement is a kinetic symphony of dashes, double-jumps, wall-runs, and slides. Firefights and story beats are routinely supplemented by some of the best platforming sequences I've ever played in a first-person video game. The level design is at times a little too ambitious, though, approaching levels of complexity that border on excess. There's one sequence in particular where you're forced to navigate the interior and exterior of a house that's been flipped on its side. The experience, no doubt meant to be disorientating and exciting, was simply disorientating. It did, however, culminate in a dazzling shootout that left my jaw on the floor.
Combat in Titanfall 2 is fast and furious. I didn't use a single firearm that I didn't love, and the sound effects for every weapon are arresting in their potency and punch - the word "cacophony" has never been more appropriate or meant more endearingly as when describing the battles in this game. When fighting you're as mobile as ever, and the firefights between Cooper and other ground units make for some of the fastest and most explosive gunplay of the generation so far. The only downside is that most of the human and robotic enemies are pretty "same-y." You'll pretty much be shooting at three enemy variants throughout the entire campaign.
Combat never has a chance to become monotonous though, as you'll routinely take command of your Titan, BT. That's when things go bananas. You and BT will discover six different Titan loadouts throughout the game, each with its own main weapon, special offensive and defensive capabilities, and "core" ability (ultimate attack). BT is slow-moving, but completely overpowered. No matter which loadout you have equipped, you get to enjoy unlimited ammunition and abilities with short cooldowns. All you have to do is stay alive and kick ass.
The brilliance of Titanfall 2 is the balancing act between these two styles of play: the frantic firefights and demanding platforming gauntlets that test the agility and reflexes of the player as a pilot, and the balls-to-the wall Titan warfare which rewards reckless aggression and subtle cooldown management. You'll find that the campaign feels much shorter than it really is because there's never a dull moment, and while the story is unimaginative, its B-list villains are so fun to pursue.
In fact, the boss battles in Titanfall 2 are arguably the best parts of the entire game. At times it felt like I was playing a Platinum or Gearbox game. The bad guys are introduced with such dramatic pomp and flair, and each commands a unique Titan which will test the bond between you and BT. No two boss encounters play out even remotely the same way, and I think you'll find that by the end of the game you'll have exhausted every one of BT's loadouts to overcome your would-be killers.