The first-person shooter genre has stagnated as of late, setting the stage for 2016 to be the year of revolution. It’s been a nice time for FPS fans, a group to which I don’t belong.Admittedly, I find the class to be monotonous, bland, and overly linear. Yet, amazingly, Titanfall 2 tickled my fancy. “Combat from the chassis of a large, militaristic robot” is one of the many ticks on my “dream game” checklist; surprisingly, Titanfall 2 exceeds in this and a multitude of other categories.
As many players may know, the original Titanfall released as an Xbox One exclusive title with only a multiplayer mode. Surfacing on multiple consoles while adding a single-player campaign, Titanfall 2 does a complete 180. Refreshingly, this story mode is not some half-baked, hashed-in cash grab. Rather, it establishes a cohesive story to explain the multiplayer shenanigans, and explores a variety of interesting platforming mechanics. Players, or “pilots” within the game, run, shoot, and even parkour their way across different alien planets as a member of the Militia. The pilot and their Titan (the large robot mentioned earlier) find themselves in cliché action settings and eventually unravel a surprisingly deep mystery.
Pilots rely on the Titan and their own parkour skills to survive in this universe. Titanfall encourages you to have fun bounding through and exploring its world. The free-running feels fluid and smooth, and enhances combat rather than encumbers it. It feels satisfying to scurry along a wall, shoot some enemy drones along the way, and then slam into a goon at the end of the run. Such gratifying gameplay makes the world feel larger, despite how linear each level may be. Aiming, the fluidity of which is normally hit-or-miss in other titles, always feels easy and snappy in Titanfall. The controls never fought against me, but rather gracefully performed the tasks I requested. Every action felt like second nature: double-jumping, wall-running, aiming and firing, or any combination thereof.
The back-and-forth between these strategic robot fights and the adrenaline-pumping Pilot ones formed an addictive loop that left me wanting more.
In contrast to the fast, frenetic fighting as the Pilot, combat as a Titan was slower and more methodical. Your Titan companion is a quirky, smart character in his own right, and his fighting style reflects this. Giant mechs are, understandably, quite slow and unwieldy. Weapon loadouts can be swapped on the fly, allowing a Pilot to change their tactic mid-fight. Perhaps a specific enemy is begging to be hit with a flamethrower, while the next wishes to be blasted with a shotgun. This is not only possible, but quick and painless as well. The back-and-forth between these strategic robot fights and the adrenaline-pumping Pilot ones formed an addictive loop that left me wanting more.
In fact, this boomerang action is so addictive that I’m disappointed Titanfall 2 isn’t longer. This isn’t necessarily because I believe I didn’t get my money’s worth. I feel that the title has some truly exceptional moments, and I wanted to see more of them. I was sad to see them go. Most of the first half consists of Pilot-focused levels, later giving way to Titan ones, and finally mixes the two play styles in a creative way. Unique platforming ideas (many of which disappear once a level is finished) compose a majority of the missions. It’s sad, because several of said mechanics could hold their ground as a major central component in the game.
The title has some truly exceptional moments, and I wanted to see more of them.
My largest complaint, however, stems from the plotline. While the story hits the right notes, Titanfall does a subpar job at forming a set lore for its world. I felt as if I was thrown into a random tale, and never fully understood why I was doing what I was doing. While future entries could remedy this and flesh out the in-game universe, it would have been nice to see this established from the get-go.
Thankfully, one mode fixes many of these problems: multiplayer. Online matches (which, again, are not normally my style) breath new life into the game once the campaign is finished. Skills, guns, and perks all reveal themselves, burying their heads in the sand during the single-player missions. Grappling hooks and anti-titan rifles await, as these rounds expertly combine the quick, fluid pilot movement with the tactical titan combat. The myriad of match modes contained in multiplayer are each exciting in their own right.
Titanfall 2 paled in comparison to other large-name FPS releases surrounding it, which is a crying shame. Interesting mechanics and entertaining combat hold this up as a fantastic little game. The multiplayer components are just as intriguing and addicting as the single-player ones. Sadly, the plotline occasionally falls flat, and the experience feels too short to fully explore all the fantastic ideas it brings to the table. Nevertheless, its successes outweigh its faults, making Titanfall 2 an adventure that shouldn’t be skipped.