This Titanfall 2 review contains spoilers.
Release Date: October 28, 2016Platform: PlayStation 4 (reviewed), Xbox One, PC Developer: Remedy EntertainmentPublisher: Electronic Arts Genre: First-Person Shooter
When Titanfall was released in 2014, it was widely praised for delivering on its promise of being Call of Duty with mechs, with one exception: the lack of single-player campaign. For their sophomore effort, Respawn Entertainment, which was founded by two senior employees from Call of Duty developer Infinity Ward, took that criticism to heart, touting in a campaign in Titanfall 2 that ends up being quite solid, if a little uneven.
Frankly, I found the opening hours of Titanfall 2’s campaign to be a more than a little disappointing. I think everyone who had spent significant time with the original Titanfall expected a single-player campaign full of wide-open levels and multi-mech battles. Those levels do eventually show up, but before that, there are several hours of fairly standard on-foot first-person shooting and ridiculous excuses to keep you separated from your Titan. In fact, aside from the additional focus on platforming and wall-running, you would be hard-pressed to tell the difference between Titanfall 2’s early campaign and any other recent Call of Duty or Battlefield campaign.
Thankfully, the action picks up in the fourth mission, “Effect and Cause,” which introduces a fun time travel mechanic that you have to use to traverse the level. Moving between the past and present to find the best path and defeat enemies was great fun, and reminded me of some of the better moments of the Portal series. Sadly though, this time travel mechanic is restricted to only a single level.
The game finally allows you to spend some quality time with your Titan from then on, and your patience is rewarded with some truly epic mech-on-mech battles. Curiously, many of these better fights, and boss battles in particular, are scattered throughout the game, with the campaign’s last level culminating in a tough fight with several Titans, but no final boss.
Titanfall’s world wasn’t terribly well explored in the first game, and while the new campaign mode does dive deeper into the background of the Titanfall universe, the campaign itself isn’t very memorable. This is the standard tale of an everyman soldier named Jack Cooper teaming with his Titan, BT, to stop generic villains and an evil superweapon. Like a lot of Titanfall 2’s campaign, it’s nothing you haven’t seen before.
To bring home the bond between Cooper and BT, there are certain points throughout the game where you can decide what to say in conversations with your Titan. Ultimately, whatever you choose to say has no real impact on the game, and by the end of the campaign, I found these conversations to be kind of a chore, particularly when they occurred in the middle of platforming sections.
While there are some cool moments in the campaign, there’s nothing particularly memorable that will have gamers coming back to it after the first playthrough. In fact, one of the bigger set pieces, BT hurling Cooper across the level like a Colossus and Wolverine fastball special, is used multiple times throughout the campaign. By the third time this happened, it felt more like the developers were running out of either ideas or money.
I don’t want to sound too harsh about the roughly eight-hour campaign, because the majority of it is enjoyable, but with the dozens of first-person shooters on the market, Titanfall 2’s single-player just doesn’t do much to distinguish itself, which is particularly disappointing given everything that Respawn had to work with from the first game, and the developer’s pedigree.
But like the Call of Duty series that Titanfall clearly draws inspiration from, the multiplayer modes in Titanfall 2 are much more enjoyable and will likely keep most gamers coming back for months to come.
The first Titanfall was criticized for its lack of customization in multiplayer. This was somewhat remedied in updates, and has been completely fixed in the sequel. For Titans, there are now six basic chassis to choose from. Weapons are a little limited between the Titans still, but there’s now a ridiculous number of ways to modify each machine’s appearance. And with double the number of Titans, there should be a mech that fits just about every play style.
While the multiplayer gameplay and modes are largely the same as the first Titanfall, there have been a couple minor tweaks. In the first game, you were issued a Titan on a timer. Every few minutes, you would get a new Titan regardless of how you performed in a match. In Titanfall 2, Titans are only issued based on performance. This change received a fair amount of criticism during the beta, but in practice it doesn’t seem to change the game much. I’m a pretty average FPS player, and I was still getting a new Titan every few minutes. It might just take one or two minutes longer than in the first game.
Titans do feel much more powerful in Titanfall 2, though. In the first game, it wasn’t too difficult to maneuver around the battlefield and take out a titan as a pilot if you knew what you were doing, but in Titanfall 2, trying to take on a Titan as a pilot is almost always a suicide mission.
One other change from the original is that now only a handful of very easy achievements and trophies are tied to the multiplayer mode. Almost everything else is earned in single-player. How much that matters to you is a matter of personal preference, though I would have preferred more trophies that could only be earned in multiplayer.
Ultimately, Titanfall 2 is everything a sequel is supposed to be. Respawn listened to its fans and added a serviceable, if flawed, single-player campaign, and even more options for multiplayer. Titanfall 2 is a better game than its predecessor, but it still has a ways to go before it’s at the top of the heap in the FPS genre.
Chris Freiberg is a freelance contributor.