This review will concentrate solely on the single-player campaign of Titanfall 2.
Titanfall 2 is a touching story about the unbreakable bond between a man and his Titan. The trust the two have in one another. Their kinship. Their love.
The first time BT-7274 and Jack Cooper meet is on the battlefield. Circumstance forces the two to become one as Jack, a vulnerable Frontier Militia rifleman, climbs inside BT, a Vanguard-class Titan that lost his pilot in a tragic encounter with the enemy. Together, BT and Jack embark on an exciting adventure to finish the mission BT and his original pilot were tasked to complete.
In those moments when Jack first climbs into BT, Jack, in some way, is finally born. Jack becomes the pilot he was always destined to be in some sort of, um, reverse birth between man and machine.
While very touching, Titanfall 2’s storyline is not what drew me to the game’s single player campaign. What drew me in was that the game had sweet guns that I could aim down and shoot bad guys with.
Titanfall 2 was released for Windows in October, 2016. It was also simultaneously released for Xbox One and PlayStation 4.
The title’s developers are Respawn Entertainment. Respawn was founded by two of the original creators of the Call of Duty franchise.
Traces of the Call of Duty series’ DNA, especially the Modern Warfare branch of the franchise, is present in Titanfall 2.
Titanfall 2, like Call of Duty, is a military First Person Shooter. The Call of Duty franchise started with World War II, progressed into more modern conflicts, then went full sci-fi with more recent entries to the franchise.
Titanfall went the sci-fi route from its inception. It kept at its core, though, the military action the Modern Warfare series was established on.
Markedly, Titanfall 2, like its predecessor, sets itself apart from the Call of Duty games with the inclusion of Mech combat. At times the player will assume the role of Jack in his capacity as a rifle infantryman. Other times the player will assume the role of Jack, as Titan pilot, as he pilots BT and battles other Titans and enemy soldiers.
When I purchased Titanfall 2, I was less drawn to the Titan combat than I was to the standard infantry combat. I wasn’t a huge fan of Mech combat in games, even in the first Titanfall which, admittedly, I didn’t play very much. I figured I’d play the single player campaign of Titanfall 2, plough through the Mech portions, and play any multiplayer modes that didn’t require piloting Titans like Pilot vs. Pilot. I had the unfortunate habit of playing Frontier Defense in the first Titanfall without calling down my Titan when it was available to pilot. This ensured I was an easy target for enemy Titans and I was a liability to my team.
The visuals of Titanfall 2 are something close to breathtaking, especially in the expansive, outdoor environments. There is a grand sense of scale in them, whether the player is inside or outside of his Titan.
The environments Jack and BT will traverse are often incredibly detailed and strike a good balance between being designed for enjoyable gameplay while also serving as awe-inspiring sci-fi backdrops. It probably wasn’t an easy feat designing environments that look as good as they do in Titanfall 2 and making them feel like real building interiors or real production facilities while taking considerable leeway with futuristic aesthetics.
Leaf foliage and rock textures look fantastic, especially in the outdoor areas under the vast blue sky and sunlight. In some places foliage is starkly contrasted with the details of derelict and neglected buildings that seem to be in the process of being reclaimed by nature. Silver, white, blue, green and orange are used throughout the game’s environments as highlights. It’s a nice color scheme that helps Titanfall 2 avoid being another drab-looking military shooter plagued by sand-tone environments, browns, grays, and so on. Impressive smoke, cloud, fog effects and lighting help round off the realism in many environments.
Even when an area appears destroyed or neglected, it’s often not too difficult for the player to find his way through the madness. In these areas the player is funneled through a path like water through a pipe. Typically, this is not something I am a fan of because it requires linear level design. But in situations where the player is navigating a destroyed area that is visually chaotic, like in a section filled with ship wreckage, this is desirable.
Titanfall 2’s level design is generally linear, but there is plenty of space for fire fights. It doesn’t hurt for the player to scope out an area first and devise a quick game plan in his mind before engaging a group of IMC soldiers or robots. There is often many ways to approach a fight and variable strategies the player can consider before moving offensively on a squad of bad guys.
Titanfall 2 runs on a modified version of the Source engine. On my setup, the game ran very smoothly. My PC runs Windows 10 and is equipped with an Intel Core i5 4690K processor clocked at 3.5 Ghz, with 8 gigs of RAM and a Geforce GTX 1060 6 GB GPU. I was able to run the game at 1440p resolution at a steady framerate. I didn’t bother benchmarking it. I only ever run benchmarks if I suspect my frame rate is under performing. This was not the case with Titanfall 2. There were times when I entered an environment, ran around and tried to make my framerate drop. It rarely, if ever, did.
My graphics settings:
Once in awhile the player may need to utilize wall running. In situations where there is a gap between two points greater than the player’s jump (or double jump) distance, walls may be traveled across by jumping against them and running like the wind. In areas where it may not be obvious that wall-running is required to pass through them, the player may be prompted to activate a hologram Ghost Runner that will demonstrate how the path along the wall should be traveled.
Occasionally, players will encounter a puzzle to solve. One area in particular requires the player to run along walls while disabling wind turbines ahead of him with a special device called the Arc Tool. The wind turbines, if not deactivated, will blow the player off the wall and send him falling to his death. No one wants that. In another section, cranes must be used to position platforms so the player can wall run along them and reach other sections of the area.
Jack is also capable of grabbing onto the edge of environments and pulling himself onto them. This capability, along with wall running, double jump and power dash give Jack a kind of agility that sets Titanfall 2 apart from many of its peers in the military first person shooter category.
Jack also has the ability to cloak himself for a short period of time or until he fires his weapon. This is not an ability I utilized often.
The single-player campaign’s story is told through cutscenes. The story isn’t overly bogged down by superfluous character development, which, in my opinion is a good thing in a first person shooter. The story puts special emphasis on the relationship between Jack and BT, and that’s about it. If the game had shaved down a few cut scenes in length I wouldn’t have complained. I felt the dialog sections where the player had to choose which question for Jack to ask BT were unnecessary. I often hit the key corresponding to the question on screen that was closest to my right hand. That sort of interaction, for me, adds little to the gameplay experience. It may add something, though, for players more deeply invested in the story (which I was not.)
There were areas in the game where I felt I was doing too much running and not enough shooting. In these areas it would have been nice to have a derelict enemy or two just to give myself a reason to fire my weapon. Some areas do have worker bots that malevolent players can punch in the head, drop kick or shoot for no reason. Those acts of unprovoked robot abuse can break up the monotony of traveling through some of these areas but it would be nice if the worker bots posed a danger to the player. Punching defenseless worker bots in the head caused me to eventually self reflect and consider that there might be something wrong with me. I tried to limit my robo-cidal tendencies after a while.
The impact of punches against enemies in Titanfall 2 is really satisfying.
As pretty much standard in military first person shooters, lost player health is regenerated slowly over time. There are no medi-kits for Jack to find and patch himself up with.
There’s a whole myriad of weapons available to the player to utilize when assuming the role of Jack as infantryman. These weapons include assault rifles, a shotgun, a sniper rifle, SMGs, pistols, grenades.
Guns are a dream to handle. They are beautifully crafted, and their sights are a delight to aim down and peer through. One pistol, the Smart Pistol MK5, fires bullets that will maneuver toward their target. I am not a fan of this gun. I don’t see the point of having a gun that doesn’t require a steady aim. Its use in the single player campaign is limited, thankfully.
It’s not hard to find a working gun laying around somewhere. Guns are plentiful. Often, the hardest decision to make is which guns to pick up and use, and which to discard.
Jack can perform a powerslide along the ground for a limited time. Performing a power slide toward a group of enemy soldiers while giving them a bullet shower, then finishing off one with a punch to the face is the stuff great situational stories are made of. The kind of stories I might tell someone’s grand kids one day in my twilight years if a nurse, responsible for my care, forgets I’m in the room while she texts her virtual boyfriend on her hologram phone and I happen to become confused and travel to a nearby park on my hover scooter.
Once I became acquainted with it, assuming control of a Titan in Titanfall 2 wasn’t so bad.
Titan movement is slow and limited when compared to that of Jack’s on-foot player movement. Those are the breaks, I guess, if you’re going to pilot a tank with legs.
Titans cannot jump, but they can dash from side to side, or forward and back for a short distance. When assuming control of BT players will want to be near cover to protect themselves from enemy Titan fire when they come under heavy attack. Green batteries placed throughout the environment can be used to recharge any lost health BT may incur from damage. BT is also capable of punching other Titans with his fist. This, like Jack’s punch, is very satisfying to land on an enemy.
Ordinance is a special secondary attack BT is capable of unleashing against targets. Ordinance is in infinite supply but it must be charged over time before being used. Rocket Salvo is one example of BT’s ordinance. It unleashes a salvo of rockets that swarm at the player’s target. Jack has his own ordnance he can utilize while on foot. Like BT’s ordinance, Jack’s ordinance is automatically charged on a timer before it can be used. An example of Jack’s ordinance is the Frag Grenade.
BT has two special abilities that can save his ass in a pinch. The Vortex Shield can intercept and stop enemy projectiles in their tracks. These projectiles can then be released back in the direction they came and used against the enemy that fired them.
Burst Core is a special core ability that unleashes a devastating blast of charged bullets at BT’s target. Burst Core must be charged between uses. When charged, the player is prompted with a notice indicating Burst Core’s ready state. Burst core is a blessing to have available when the player and BT are in a desperate situation and need to inflict maximum damage on one or more targets in a short amount of time. Its stream of charged bullets is usually enough to down one or more Titans giving the player and BT a hard time.
Respawn Entertainment did the right thing by adding a single-player campaign to Titanfall 2. Multiplayer was enjoyable, but Titanfall’s lack of a single player campaign felt like a waste of potential. I kept hoping at least bots would eventually be added to the multiplayer component of the first game but that never happened. Around the time I purchased the original Titanfall my internet connection was very unreliable and slow so I never felt compelled to play the game regularly as there was the potential for my sessions to be plagued by connection problems.
Fucking wireless internet. Avoid it if you can.
Titanfall 2’s single player campaign is just one half of a complete package. The other half is its multiplayer component. I won’t be reviewing that here, though. Titanfall 2’s multiplayer component is huge on its own. I haven’t put as much time into that part of the game as I have put into the single player campaign. Recently, a couple months short of the game’s one year anniversary, another significant multiplayer mode, Frontier Defense, was added to the game as a free update. Respawn seems to be dedicated to keeping Titanfall 2 standing strong on both legs for the foreseeable future which fans of the game, including myself, surely appreciate.