Back in March 2014, Titanfall delivered a multiplayer shooter with a twist – the chance to fight alongside (and inside) your own powerful robotic mech companion, or ‘Titan’. (And yes, they did – and do – fall.) Though it was well-received and proved to be innovative in both the inclusion of Titans in combat and the abilities of the player-controlled pilot while outside the Titan, the game was missing one key thing that kept me (and many others) from giving it the attention it deserved. Titanfall didn’t have a campaign. Thankfully, developers Respawn Entertainment were very keen to rectify this problem, and Titanfall 2 delivers a campaign that more than makes up for its absence in the first game and does a great job of showing off what sets this series apart from others of its genre.

At first, the plot seems rather unremarkable. You are Jack Cooper, a low-ranked infantry soldier who has big piloting dreams. Given pilots are some of the most highly-skilled members of the Militia, and the bond between pilot and titan is a complex and delicate link that’s held in high regard, pilots have to go through rigorous training before they become qualified. Of course, because war is hell, Jack Cooper just happens to be in the middle of a battle gone awry when he is forced to skip the latter part of his training and link up with Titan BT-7274, whose previous owner, Jack’s mentor, reassigned him during his final moments. After a little repair work, BT and Cooper set out to meet up with the rest of their unit, encountering more foes and natural wildlife along the way. The game is set during an ongoing war between the Interstellar Manufacturing Corporation (IMC) and the Frontier Militia, but the nature of and reasons behind this war are largely treated as assumed knowledge from the first game. Maybe this played some part in the fact that I didn’t engage with that part of the story at all and just accepted that there was some kind of war going on that I needed to fight, or maybe it just wasn’t well explained, but either way, it didn’t seem to be the most important part of the narrative experience.

Pilots can latch onto enemy Titans and remove their batteries to help their teammates, but it's a bold and risky move.

Pilots can latch onto enemy Titans and remove their batteries to help their teammates, but it’s a bold and risky move.

 

Instead, the relationship between BT and Cooper is at the forefront of this story, and the emotional impact of the game relies heavily on your engagement with and attachment to this relationship. It’s almost like a buddy cop film in the vein of the Odd Couple, with Cooper as the occasionally smart-mouthed hero and BT as his very literal, straight-talking sidekick – or at least, that’s how I chose to play it. You’re given minimal dialogue options to choose from during your conversations with BT on the field, and though the options don’t seem to have much of an impact, it does help with immersion and allows you to feel like you have a hand in building their relationship. I didn’t think I’d get so attached to a titan, but here I am – and this really helps with immersion in the multiplayer, too. Every time I jumped into my Titan on the battlefield I’d think back to that BT/Cooper connection, and it would make me just that little bit fonder of my custom Titan. It became like my partner in crime, and I’m not sure I would have felt that way without the campaign to show me how that pilot/Titan relationship could be.

The campaign also excels in showing off what makes Titanfall more than just a shooter with what is essentially a tank element included. During the large sections in which BT and Cooper are separated, the game becomes more of a platformer than a first person shooter. Environmental puzzles and challenging wall-running sections show off just how fluid and responsive the pilot’s controls are compared to the heavy, solid movements of the Titans, and successfully break up the large-scale firefights with some welcome variation. These were absolutely some of the best parts of the game, even though (or possibly because) they were the parts I wasn’t expecting. There’s also some very innovative use of gadgets, which despite only being available in certain sections of the game, provided just the lift I needed when the campaign started to feel like a bit of a slog. At times, Cooper is able to manipulate time, space, and the machines around him, and this made both environmental puzzles and battles even more interesting. I’m being vague on purpose here, because some of those surprises were real highlights, so it seems a shame to take away from anyone’s potential experience.

We all know that cool guys don't look at explosions.

We all know that cool guys don’t look at explosions.

 

Of course, at its heart, Titanfall 2 is a multiplayer game, even though the campaign is what truly makes it great. If you played the first game, the multiplayer is much the same, with a few improvements and new modes. Most of these modes force you to spend some time as a pilot, building up points while you wait for the eventual fall of your Titan that makes your battle much easier. Sometimes, though playing a pilot provides a lot of unique opportunities to use the environment in your favour, it can quickly get frustrating. Wall-running is great and a free-running pilot is a fast-moving target, but one hit from a Titan can kill you, so getting into the middle of a showdown between two Titans can be a risky move. When your Titan does eventually drop, there’s an element of skill involved in deciding on the timing and location in which that drop will occur, because if you drop your Titan into the middle of one of those fights, you’ll spawn away from it and leave yourself open to attacks. It’s a fiddly business. Things are kept interesting by the range of Titans available to you, each with their own skills, many of which are new in the sequel. You’ll be exposed to the unique skills of each Titan type during the course of the campaign, which it becomes increasingly clear is a tutorial for the multiplayer where you’ll spend the bulk of your time. Both pilot and Titan are customizable, so there are a lot of opportunities to construct your rig in a way that’s most beneficial to you, even if sometimes it takes a little trial and error to discover what that might involve.

It’s been just over a month since Titanfall 2 released and the first lot of free DLC has just dropped, which offers even more customisation options for Titans, as well as the Angel City map from the first game. Because of a wonderful decision by Respawn, all DLC has been made free of charge for people who purchased the game, which means nothing feels like it’s pay-to-win. There are in-game transactions but they’re cosmetic, so everyone remains on a level playing field, which makes a huge difference to my personal desire to stick with the multiplayer. Unfortunately, only a month after release, I’ve had some trouble finding matches in several of the multiplayer modes. While there is a still a strong community surrounding the Bounty Hunt mode, which has players taking on AI Titans for points as well as enemy players, and Attrition, a straight versus mode with teams pitted against each other, modes like Amped Hardpoint have been almost abandoned. This is a real shame for a game that has so much to give and that got so much right, so I hope this DLC gives it the spike it deserves.

There he is, Generic White Guy, stubble and all. He's still pretty likeable, though.

There he is, Generic White Guy, stubble and all. He’s still pretty likeable, though.

 

I could nitpick some problems with Titanfall 2, but in the end, that’s all it would be – nitpicking. The protagonist is a pretty boring white guy, but some good voicework by Matthew Mercer stops it from being too much of an issue, even though it would have been a good opportunity for a little diversity. At times it was hard to see where the game wanted me to go to complete my objective, but often this just led to me finding collectables along the way. I was irked by the fact that the subtitles on the screen were tiny, which is sort of alright for someone with decent vision, but if you had difficulties, could pose a real problem. Sitting more than a metre away from the TV made it almost impossible to understand dialogue with the volume turned right down, which is something that could be looked into. These are, however, quite minor issues, and did little to detract from what is otherwise a really solid offering, and a rare sequel that surpassed the original game. Respawn really did a lot right with this, and it’s a shame that their sales aren’t reflecting that.

8.5
Excellent / Amazing

Select Start Media was provided with a review copy of Titanfall 2 for PS4.

About The Author

Jess is a psychology researcher by day and is determined to find a way to merge her gaming and professional lives. She loves point-and-click adventures, games with strong narratives, and her love of puzzles in all forms has actually caused her to use the phrase “that reminds me of a puzzle” whilst in a furniture store. She can generally be found on Twitter @zammitjess talking about games, feelings, and her life as an anxious mess.