Respawn Entertainment somehow squeezed together Super Mario, Super Meat Boy, Mecha and the sweet sweet feel of their first person shooters into one brilliant package. I was all but ready to write TitanFall 2 off after the less than stellar Tech Test; it wasn’t terrible but its incomplete state muddied the message Respawn were trying to convey. Movement felt off and the time spent in the Titans was far too infrequent. I wasn’t too keen on the Bounty Mode either. The brilliant Gauntlet was included but as a wall running novice, I failed to appreciate its nuances and potential. By the end of the second week of testing, I was left wondering if Respawn had lost the plot. I knew there was a campaign but with little to no word about its quality, I was struggling to find reasons to purchase the game at full price.
As the release date approached and reviews began to roll out, positive word began peculating across gaming outlets and forums. I saw games like Portal 2 and Super Mario were associated with the the campaign. The multiplayer also received similar praise by the community at large with many claiming Respawn listened to the feedback and made necessary changes. After hearing so much positive buzz, I couldn’t ignore it and decided to pick it up on day one.
I started with the multiplayer which was indeed a superior experience compared to the earlier Tech Test. Framerate was much improved (but not perfect on the standard PS4) and the feel of the wall running was less mushy than before. I was also introduced to Attrition — team deathmatch with A.I fodder — for the first time and began to understand why people enjoy this mode so much. Straight forward team deathmatch with Titans would have felt empty without the A.I. They acted like fodder and a source of “food” for my Titan meter but towards the end of a match, they posed a threat to real player Pilots and Titans alike with the tougher Reaper class A.I roaming the battlefield.
There are 50 levels of progress to go through and it took me about 25 – 30 or so before I came to grips with what TitanFall 2 was actually about. Call of Duty: Black Ops III and Overwatch (by way of Lucio) had wall running but they failed to properly train me to the intricacies and possibilities of jump jets, slide dashing and wallrunning. Black Ops III featured wall running and the maps reflected that. They had spots clearly marked for wallrunning but it didn’t feel like it was baked into the DNA of the maps. TitanFall 2’s maps were larger in both horizontal and vertical sense. Successful movement maneuvers enabled Pilots to traverse the majority of a map quickly and get to spots that just weren’t considered as possible in other games. In many ways the maps felt like Battlefield style maps where just about every roof, ledge and building was accessible within a set boundary; I wasn’t repelled off surfaces by invisible boundaries.
Gun unlocks, scorestreaks and perk analogs were to be expected in a game by the makers of Modern Warfare. What was unexpected, however, was the manner in which I unlocked said multiplayer staples. The Merit point system replaced XP points giving fixed rewards for completing simple objectives during a match such as inserting a battery into a friendly Titan or killing a couple of Pilots. They’re such simple objectives that I didn’t bother to review them prior to each match and just played the game. Winning obviously netted anadditional Merit point but losing while successfully escaping during the Epilogue sequence also netted one. This system rewarded me for playing the game the way it was meant to be played and, as silly as it may sound, I have to credit Respawn for it. Other systems put players through tedious grinds for progress which dulled their appeal to me, TitanFall 2’s did the exact opposite.
The way TitanFall 2 managed clans was innovative and encouraged group play. Being able to swap between multiple clan networks, create a party and open up to all clan members within a couple of button prompts is fantastic. It was only held back by the inability to join parties in progress and the instability of said parties. The number of times where one party member is left out in the cold while the rest of us successfully join a match is a growing concern.
The single player campaign was a first for the franchise and while it was easy to picture a Call of Duty styled campaign filled with set pieces and explosions, it would be a disservice to a studio that has a knack for shaking things up. TitanFall 2’s campaign featured many one-off ideas and concepts packed into a six hour adventure. Nothing was particularly outrageous or mind bending if you’ve played Portal 2 or Super Mario Galaxy before but in the context of a first person shooter featuring talking mechs? It was refreshing. The story was predictable but the progression of levels was anything but — I never knew what to expect next.
The Super Meat Boy comparison stemmed from my time with the Gauntlet. Like Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare’s obstacle course, TitanFall 2’s Gauntlet was put in place to test the player’s skill and recommend a difficulty setting. It’s easy to fumble through it and choose my own difficulty setting but challenging for the “…Becomes the Master” Trophy gave me a newfound appreciation for the TitanFall 2’s mechanics and design. Placing in the top 3 was tough and I didn’t think I had the patience to shave off those seconds required to place. Thankfully super quick restarts and responsive controls kept me coming back and after about 2.5 hours across 3 sessions of play, I cobbled together this narrow victory. I have a lot of work to do if I wanted to challenge for the world record though.
It’s been quite sometime since I’ve played a game that was genuinely enjoyable from top to bottom. I would either love the multiplayer but find the single player campaign a let down. Or I would enjoy the campaign but absolutely zero interest with the multiplayer. Respawn Entertainment nailed the entire package and they should be commended for it. My favorite shooter campaign is still Doom but when the only reason I played the multiplayer was for Trophies alone, that speaks volumes about it. It also says a lot that every time I boot up the game, I find myself wondering if I should hit multiplayer or revisit single player (for Trophies but still). There may be meaty campaigns (Doom) or more engrossing multiplayer experiences (Overwatch) out there but there’s only one game that features strong efforts on both fronts and that’s TitanFall 2.
I love it