Monday, November 21, 2016

Review: Titanfall 2

Developer/Publisher: Respawn/Electronic Arts

Platform: Xbox One, Playstation 4, PC

Rating: Mature (Blood and Gore, Language, Violence)

Reviewed on: Xbox One

When the Xbox One launched in 2014, Respawn Entertainment was tapped to create a launch title for the new system.  It was a decent game, not without its flaws, but I enjoyed what it offered.   With the arrival of Titanfall 2, I knew I needed to pick it up and review it.  How did it turn out?  Pretty good, actually!

The first Titanfall game was maligned for its lack of single player, and a confusing story.  Respawn learned from the mistakes of the past game, and decided to make a single player campaign for Titanfall 2.  You follow Rifleman 3rd Class James Cooper, who is involved in a militia Assault on an IMC research facility on the planet Typhon.  After they find out it's a trap, Cooper receives a Titan from Capt. Lastimosa, a pilot who is mortally wounded by bounty hunters hired by the IMC.  Cooper and his Titan, BT-7274, explore Typhon and wind up saving the militia.  The story concept is horribly generic, but still entertaining.  There's nothing really outside of the norm with regard to the way the story is written and how presents itself.  That said, it served as a great entry into Titanfall 2's gameplay mechanics.  You can learn more about how to rodeo an enemy titan, get a feel for terrain traversal, and try out the weapons to find out what you really like.

At the end of each chapter is a battle with a special titan, piloted by a mercenary. These guys have battle mechanics all their own, but they're a great climax to the chapter.  Certain chapters, like the one involving the pilot named Ash, were particularly memorable for their setting and mechanics.  Ash's chapter involves a factory with lots of death traps, then a traversal challenge that will certainly trigger some acrophobia in those easily affected.  It was a neat trick, though.  I liked it, even as I was shouting profanities while jumping to the next ledge.

I liked the scene in the research facility, where it introduced a time travel mechanic reminiscent of Singularity.  Jumping between the past and present felt like the way Singularity should have been, but I'm glad it was relegated to only one chapter.  Including that mechanic outside of that chapter would have made the game a little too weird.  One particularly memorable scene involved dropping down a tube with vent fans and flames, and you're jumping between the past and the present to avoid an untimely death.  It was tense, but a ton of fun.  Looked really cool, too.

Remember how I said the story was kinda confusing in Titanfall 1?  There's a lot of backstory that newcomers to the series will miss.  The Militia victory on Demeter, mentioned in the opening Cinematic, is one of the critical battles and the largest part of the Titanfall Lore.  Without going back and covering the Icepick, the Fall of Demeter, and the relationship that Blisk and McCallan held, there's a lot of backstory that could stand to be revisited either in a "war history" section or a small series of videos.  With the pilot helmet collectibles already present in the campaign, this could have been a fantastic opportunity to bring people new to Titanfall up to speed with the lore.  It also would have been a great way to retcon the prior game and establish some sort of canon lore.  Because honestly, the universe they've created was phenomenal.  It just really needs a consistent story.

Splash art when loading Titanfall 2 on the Xbox One
The titans in Titanfall 2 are all new.  None of the original Titans stuck around, which is actually okay.  Respawn added more than double the titan offerings compared with the original Titanfall, and they're very diverse. Weapons and ordinance are locked to the titan, rather than being customizable across the bodies.  In this particular case, it work to Titanfall 2's favor.  Ion and Scorch are the base models available in multiplayer, and the player can unlock Legion, Tone, Ronin, and others as they progress.  Players will eventually find their favorite titan and go nuts.  Personally, I usually play Ion and Tone in multiplayer, but I see a lot of Ronin, Legion, and Scorch in multiplayer.  It's refreshing to see that titans are being used and people aren't ignoring specific builds.

The overall campaign had it's memorable moments, but everyone knows that the multiplayer is the real meat of the Titanfall franchise.  And Titanfall 2 delivers on that in spades.  The multiplayer is honestly the biggest draw to this game for me.  Matchmaking is fluid, it pairs you with people reasonably around your skill level.  They carry the standard FPS gameplay modes, like Capture the Flag and Free for all.  Attrition and Last Titan Standing made return appearances, and they added a new gameplay mode: Bounty Hunt.

Similar to Attrition, Bounty hunt is a PvP mode with NPCs.  Instead of allied and enemy NPCs, there's a shared pool that drops in. Players earn cash for their bounty kills, which they deposit between rounds.  If you can kill an enemy pilot, you steal half their cash on hand.  This gameplay mode is a ton of fun, and honestly one of the main multiplayer modes that I play most.

The executions in Titanfall 2 are over the top, intense, and awesome.  Grand Theft Semi-Auto grabs the victim's sidearm and shoots them in the back.  2-3-2 combo is a couple good punches to take 'em down.   And then there's the "In Your Face" execution, currently only available through the Dew and Doritos promotion.   Youtube user Paradox posted a fantastic montage of the In Your Face execution, on the left.  How crazy is that?  I love just how over the top it is!

Respawn made changes to the progression system in Titanfall 2.  Where the original titanfall had a leveling system for your profile, Titanfall 2 add leveling mechanics for every weapon and titan in the game.  As you level and complete challenges, you unlock new skins, weapon mods, and abilities.  Raising these titans and weapons is what gives you the merits you need to increase your profile level.  It's a nifty way of expanding the progression system in a way that rewards players for using specific weapons, titans, or items.

The Colosseum is another gameplay mode that's new to Titanfall 2. Two pilots enter!  One pilot leaves!  You can only enter the Colosseum by spending tickets to gain entry.  You occasionally get tickets from leveling up, or you can get them from Mountain Dew and Doritos codes.  That said, it's definitely worth going into the Colosseum. There are unlockable skins that are only available from Advocate gifts, which are given out for winning Colosseum matches.  You can also earn Advocate gifts through leveling up your player profile, but those are much fewer and farther between.

Titanfall 2 is definitely a step in the right direction.  Respawn Entertainment learned from the mistakes of the first Titanfall, and created a game that's entertaining and enjoyable.  Between the gunplay, cool mechs, and frenetic action, fans of Sci-Fi shooters should definitely pick up Titanfall 2.

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