Heavy metal action with Titanfall 2
Don't get me wrong, I like 2014's Titanfall, the first game from Respawn- the development studio that arose from a spat between Infinity Ward and their masters at Activision. The choice, though, to release a game 100% dependant on competitive multiplayer play was not a good idea. Dress it up how you like, even with a narrative campaign linking the multiplayer bouts together, there was still no way to properly world-build this new IP.
Well, Respawn have risen to the challenge and for Titanfall 2 presented us with a decent sized 6-odd hour single-player campaign. The campaign serves to both flesh out the relationship between the robotic Titans and its pilot, as well as act as a training camp for the multiplayer game.
It's not just the single-player campaign that liberates the game, the Xbox One/PC exclusivity deal is over- Titanfall 2 is available on PlayStation 4 as well.
And it's on PS4 that your reviewer played through the game.
Wedged uncomfortably between the release of EA's own wonderful Battlefield 1 and the highly anticipated Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, EA Games' and Respawn Entertainment's Titanfall 2 could easily be overlooked. And this would be a shame, as not only is Titanfall 2 an excellent Mech game; it's also a fantastic first-person-shooter.
Respawn have taken on board criticism of the last game regarding the lack of a single-player campaign. This time we get a cinematic single-player mode that explores the relationship between the human pilots and their huge Titan mechs. The narrative fully fleshes out the Titanfall universe, in a much more rounded way that those little pre-multiplayer-match prologues and mini-cutscenes did in the first game.
The single-player campaign is a welcome, and essential, addition, but it is the multiplayer mode that provides the game's longevity.
The basic idea of Titanfall 2 is that players take the role of a pilot with the ability to control huge robotic Titans on the battlefield. The pilots, themselves, are also combat-ready, more than capable of holding their own on the battlefield whilst waiting for their Titan to drop from orbit- the titular Titanfall.
Pilots are equipped with jet packs allowing them to jump huge distances, they can also wall run and have a grapple for reaching high places. Perks and upgrades can be used to improve these abilities - this means high jumps and being able to stick to walls.
Playing as a pilot offers an experience as good as any dedicated first-person-shooter. Better, even, as the pilot game is slick with ultra-responsive controls and offers a level of vertical gameplay that is pretty-much unmatched.
When in control of one of the huge lumbering Titans, the game switches from a brisk ballet of superhuman jumps and slides to become a visceral beefed-up robot grudge- match. These two-legged tanks offer up a unique combat experience when facing off against one another. With many different load-outs, the robotic combat fast becomes a chaotic mix of rockets and bullets. Up-close, the melee combat has both players punching with their Titan.
Last time I seemed to spend the whole time waiting for the opportunity to spawn my Titan, the pilot game being merely a distraction between the robotic combat. This time, not only are the pilots really fun to play, I found them better matched to take out enemy Titans. Sure, you are not going to last five seconds in an enemy Titan's cross-hairs, but the pilot's polished-up agility, this time around, allows you to keep out of the way of enemy fire and deliver precise hits with your anti-Titan weaponry.
The inclusion of a single-player campaign means that Titanfall 2's multiplayer mode is a more traditional collection of standalone matches rather than being part campaign in their own right, unlike last time. It's not a deal-breaker, but it would've been nice for the multiplayer game to still have had some narrative significance.
There are a dozen different multiplayer match types and playlists to choose from. There's all your favourites like Attrition (team DM), Amped Hardpoint (domination), Pilots Vs. Pilots, Capture the Flag and Free-for-All. Bounty Hunt, Last Titan Standing and the one-on-one Coliseum cage-matches round off a selection of modes that should appeal to all.
The multiplayer games themselves are frantic and exciting. The maps encourage vertical gameplay, with building for pilots to scale. There are also plenty of open spaces for Titan combat.
Each match starts with just the pilots and each faction's AI grunts on the field. As combat progresses and the kills mount players start to spawn their Titans, changing the battlefield dynamic. As more Titans spawn the match becomes a frantic battle. The action is, quite frankly, exhilarating. Titanfall 2 provides just about the best multiplayer experience of any game released this year.
The multiplayer mode uses dedicated servers situated around the world, with our local servers located in Sydney, whilst this is OK for me, located in a Sydney suburb within thirty clicks of the server, with a ping of 12ms, the experience from NZ may be a bit different. From Sydney, I'm pinging 112ms to the Tokyo server, so I'd expect a sub 100ms ping across the Tasman, which should be fine.
Titanfall 2 improves on its predecessor in every way. It's faster, slicker and more polished than the last game. The graphics are uncompromisingly beautiful, running fantastically on PS4 and even better on PC. The single-player campaign is excellent, both as a game in its own right as well as serving as a six-hour training programme for the multiplayer element.
This is a game that we should have got last time. Respawn have proven that their Titanfall franchise has the chops to become a classic. If you felt the previous game was lacking, don't be put off. Titanfall 2 is one of the best games this year.