Developer: Respawn Entertainment
Release date: October 28, 2016
Available on: PS4 (reviewed), Xbox One, PC (via Origin)
Although the original Titanfall made waves as one of the biggest Xbox One exclusives in 2014, the lack of a campaign was super depressing. I fell in love with the beta, intrigued by its mix of agile pilots and hulking Titans, but truth be told, I’m not a multi-player guy. I wanted to experience a story-driven campaign using Titanfall’s solid mechanics, but alas, that just wasn’t in the cards.
Titanfall’s release came and went, and despite my overall enjoyment with the beta I passed on the game entirely. To this day I’ve never once had the desire to give it a go, even as an EA Access subscriber.
When the folks at Respawn confirmed the inclusion of a campaign in Titanfall 2, my interest was piqued, but thinking back to the original’s multi-player focus had my expectations sitting pretty low. I brushed it off, assuming it’d just be a half-baked slog to appease the complainers angered by the feature’s absence two years ago.
Would you believe me if I said that Titanfall 2 has one of the best shooter campaigns of the year? Because it does.
You begin the game as Jack Cooper, a low ranking rifleman in the Militia training to become a Pilot. Taken under the wing of Captain Lastimosa, Cooper’s virtual training session is cut short when the Militia launches an attack against the rival-controlled planet of Typhon.
Pilots are quite special. Aside from using their superb agility to gracefully run along walls or effortlessly hack in to computer terminals with their fancy data knives, they’re also neurally bonded to their own hulking mech, called a Titan. It’s like a sci-fi buddy cop film, where the agile and heroic Pilot teams up with his bestest of pals, who just happens to be a pseudo-sentient robot with an overly literal sense of humor. It’s the best.
Jumping back to the beautiful planet of Typhon, ol’ Lastimosa becomes mortally wounded and, in his dying breath, removes the neural bond from his Titan, BT-7274, and hands the reigns over to Jack.
Clearly he’s not a Pilot, so the opening chapter serves as an introduction to things like cloaking and double jumps, but also lays the foundation for your newfound bond with BT. The concept of companionship between human and machine isn’t exactly new, as we’ve seen in the past with Borderlands’ Loaderbot and, more recently, the Xbox One console exclusive ReCore, but that doesn’t make it any less interesting. Give anything human emotion and it’s no longer unfeasible to develop an attachment, right?
The core narrative itself isn’t very interesting, but thankfully the constant stream of military mumbo jumbo is pushed aside in favor of Jack and BT’s touching buddy moments. There’s some really great lines that help break up the intensity of an earlier firefight, or the featured image above of BT flashing a thumbs up as he dangles Jack from the ledge of a satellite thousands of feet in the air.
The moment that stuck with me the most occurred toward the end of the campaign. I’ll spare you the details leading up to the exchange, since spoilers aren’t fun, but in this particular instance BT had just returned from hiatus, much to the delight of Jack Cooper. Jack, being a living, breathing, and caring human being, tells BT that he’s glad he’s back, to which BT responds “Copy, pilot.”
That may not sound important, but it’s within those two sentences that we’re reminded Jack is, indeed, human, while BT obviously is not. Regardless of what’s occurred during the last 6 hours, the death, the loss, the carnage, the bonding, we display these human feelings toward a mechanical Titan that’ll get to never feel the same way. No matter the neural bond Jack and BT share, he’s merely programmed to protect you at all costs. Nothing more.
Buddy segments aside, Titanfall 2 is just an absolute joy to play. It’s chock full of standard shooter fare, like iron sight aiming, weapon variety, and grenades, but breathes life in to the genre by way of its unique Pilot and Titan abilities.
As mentioned earlier, the agile Pilots can run along walls a-la Prince of Persia, temporarily cloak themselves to become invisible, and hack devices using a data knife. The most fascinating is the way in which they handle general traversal and platforming. Playing as Jack is typically more exciting, as you’re tasked with challenging platforming segments that test your ability to combine wall runs and double jumps in some truly awe inspiring ways.
One chapter in particular gives Jack an Arc Gun that can be fired at switches in order to move platforms. It started off simple enough, zapping a switch and drawing out a piece of wall in order to reach the opposite side, but I later found myself having to shoot switches while running along walls or in the midst of a double jump, sometimes five or six in a row with no failsafe.
There’s actually quite a few of these rad little moments where Respawn dedicates an entire chapter to some new and exciting gimmick. For example, during the middle of the campaign you acquire a glove that allows you to change time between the past and present. It’s initially just a cool storytelling feature, but it’s eventually used to frequently swap between time periods in order to summon and banish platforms in mid-jump. It’s a bit like Mighty Switch Force, if you’ve played that one.
The Titan-controlled chapters aren’t as exciting, since you’re mostly planted on the ground. With Titanfall 2’s campaign focusing mostly on the Pilot, I became so accustomed to Jack’s fast paced, think-on-your-feet gameplay, that stepping in to the Titan felt like swimming through tar at times.
Hopping in to BT is still fun though, since he can dash, punch, and shoot as well as Jack can, but they’re vastly different otherwise. Your mechanized pal unlocks additional class types (referred to as loadouts) throughout the campaign, with each offering a defensive ability, like reflective shields that send bullets hurling back toward their owner, along with a few different attack options; typically one damaging attack with a bit of a cooldown period, a standard fire mode for the class’s weapon type, and a support ability, like trip wires. Each loadout has their own overpowered “special move” as well, unleashing a constant barrage of rockets, bullets, or fire, which builds up over time.
Along with being an absolute joy to play, Titanfall 2 is the most visually stunning game I’ve seen yet in 2016. The artists at Respawn did an excellent job crafting its sci-fi inspired landscapes and the creatures that dwell within it. Typhon remained foreign at times, yet still showed signs of habitation by the familiarity of human technology. Be it flying monsters, spacecrafts, or the beautifully designed Titans piloted by the opposition, I found myself steadily filling my PS4 hard drive with a torrent of screenshots. The lighting, the flow of water, it’s just eye candy. All of it.
However, Titanfall 2 is a feast for the eyes and the ears, with composer Stephen Barton at the helm. Having done a stellar job with Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare and the original Titanfall, Barton provides a variety of epic tracks that assist in setting the mood for each of the game’s tense setpieces. The sound design as a whole is just excellent. The hail of gunfire, the sound of bullets peppering flesh and armor, and hearing the weight of BT’s massive structure pounding the ground beneath his feet — it’s things like this that really fuel the immersion.
Titanfall 2 does a great job at making you feel like a badass without being overly taxing or complicated, and approaching it this way allows Respawn’s phenomenal world design to be soaked in and admired along the way, rather than blown through and ignored.
The campaign itself is the perfect length for a shooter, sitting at just around the 7 hour mark, and it’s nothing short of spectacular. Similar to this year’s reboot of Doom, Titanfall 2 provides a fun, fast-paced campaign that totally exceeded all of my expectations.
Two years ago I wanted to take the look and feel of Titanfall through an epic campaign. Whatever the reason may be for its absence in 2014, it’s definitely been worth the wait. While it’s a shame that EA sent Titanfall 2 out to die, being cannibalized by their own Battlefield 1, it’s clear that I’m not the only one who enjoyed it (since it currently sits at a 90/100 on Metacritic). Hopefully this review will encourage you to give it a shot, or at the very least a rental, because it’s truly been one of the most enjoyable games I’ve played yet this year.
Cooper and BT are BFFs and I’m definitely on board for more of their adventures. Make this happen, Respawn.
*So where’s the final score? There isn’t one! I spent a lot of time conveying my opinion in the above text, and I hope that’s worth more to you than some arbitrary number or a sequence of shaded-in star shapes. Basically, I’m not a fan of scores so I no longer use them. Read the review and judge for yourself if the game is worth your time and money.
Full disclosure: This review was done using a PlayStation 4 copy of Titanfall 2 that I paid for myself. It is also available on Xbox One and PC, but this review only pertains to the PS4 version of the campaign (not multi-player). While I’m sometimes given games to review, I pride myself on providing unbiased reviews to fellow consumers, along with constructive feedback to hard working developers and publishers. Whether or not I pay for the game is completely irrelevant.