Ever since watching the movie Robot Jox as a young boy I've yearned for games that let me pilot gigantic robots. Over the years we've seen plenty of media from the infamous Mech Warrior series to the visually stunning film Pacific Rim. Early in 2014 Respawn Entertainment launched their new FPS game called Titanfall. The hype this title landed with was bordering on ridiculous and what was not to get excited about? Huge robots bristling with weapons, being piloted by super agile pilots in an explosive grudge match of metal and bone. However, a few weeks after launch many players had stopped logging in and it was soon clear that the game had failed to hold a decent player base for any longer than a month.
EA and Respawn obviously decided the would-be franchise deserved another shot so here we find ourselves with another game of Titans. The big addition this time around is the inclusion of a dedicated single player campaign. Many early reviews have showered high praise on this part of the game: so let's take a look at what Titanfall 2 brings to the table.
Johnny Five on steroids
You start the game as a normal grunt (Jack Cooper) who is aspiring to become a Titan pilot, the short tutorial shows that you have the backing of your commander for the role. When said commander is killed in front of you, he uses his dying breath to transfer command of his Titan known as BT to you. Separated from your command and deep within a hostile environment, the odds are stacked against you. The Titan you are now piloting (BT) is a vanguard class chassis so can implement any of the six configurations in the game: these actually act as the campaigns rudimentary progression system. Each class of Titan fits a certain role from long range attacks with the North Star to the Ronin that is best up close and personal. Like in Pacific Rim: your mech and pilot are linked via a neural bonding that makes you one with the combat droid. As soon as you exit the mech its own advanced AI takes over allowing it to act and fight independently while still following its prime directives.
I can also see newcomers to Titanfall being a little disorientated by the plot because many situations are not really explained very well. The story and writing are something we've unfortunately seen many times before and Jack's character just come across as a paper thin. The interactions between Jack and BT are endearing though and in the short campaign, there are some genuinely touching moments. In one scene BT has to throw you to a distant structure and just before the pitch he turns to you and says 'trust me'. There are also choices in dialogue but these seem like a wasted mechanic as they do nothing other than to offer alternative responses to BT and at times become an unwanted distraction from the scene.
The villains of the game are about as cookie cutter as they come, all professing what horrible acts they will do to you and all being dispatched with relative ease. That said the fights with enemy Titans are fun, I just wish some more imagination had been used rather than just shooting them until they explode. With the campaign taking me around five hours it is very short when you also consider the basic enemy AI I can't say I agree with many of main media sites who have given the campaign high praise. There are some clever ideas here and there but all are over way too fast. However, if you are just in it for the ride then there are some very entertaining platform sections that really do take advantage of the amazing pilot mobility.
My Titan is bigger than your Titan
The original Titanfall was a multiplayer only game and when Respawn charged full price many gamers were left feeling short-changed. What made matters far worse was how the season pass implementation divided the community between those who had it and the players who decided to stick to the base game. To combat this the developers have very wisely avoided a season pass altogether and have claimed they will implement all new maps for free. This time around there is also a decent range of game modes: Last Titan Standing, Amped Hardpoint, Capture the Flag and Attrition to name a few. My favourite so far has to be Bounty Hunt where you dispatch assets with your team to earn cash and then deposit it at pop up banks. The fun part comes when you steal the enemy players money by dispatching them and the banks become watering holes for predatory players to lie in wait.
In terms of maps we have nine to kick things off with the base game, then more to drop as and when. The first free map will become available in December and will actually be a remake of one of the most popular maps from the original game. So far I have found the maps to be well designed and mostly take full advantage of what the nimble pilots can do. I can't say any one map stands out yet but the game is still new for me so that might change over time. One thing I am not too keen on is how when you get a little too high (not in that way) a timer starts prompting you to return to a lower level. Ok, I'm just going to say it, I wish the developers had been a little more adventurous this time around. A map set in a collapsing cavern, a map built around an erupting volcano or even something crazy like a level partly under water: these are the kind of things that would add some personally to levels. What I'm saying is the level design is excellent but still a smidgen too safe for me. After coming from the destructibility of the Battlefield One levels I don't think some environmental deformation would have hurt either.
Speaking of Battlefield One I found the pace of Titanfall 2 multiplayer to be lightning fast in comparison: it took me a few hours to get back into this rapid style of gunplay. However, after I got used to the wall running and grapple hook mechanics I was soon kicking ten shades of mech coolant out of the other pilots. As the single player campaign game alludes to, this time mechs come in class based flavours with more than enough variation to suit any player. Pilots also get a very decent level of customisation: gone are the burn cards to be replaced by modules and these work very well. Some offer temporary invisibility, a sonic blade to reveal enemy players or you can just stick to the grapple hook (which is my personal favourite). There is also a decent selection of weapons and related buffs which change how you fight. On top of all this, you can also change and tweak your Titan/Pilots aesthetic to your heart's content with unlockable paint jobs, banners and signs.
Even though Pilots and Titans feel far more squishy this time around I didn't find this to be a huge negative, although I can see some players missing those regenerating shields from the first game. In addition to the excellent combat, we had before there are also some nice new mechanics: pilots can now actually rodeo on an enemy total and steal power cells. These can then be given to friendly Titans or even your own to boost their health. This is an awesome new feature because it adds really interesting dynamics to what is already an outstanding combat system. Just a note: if you rodeo a Titan for a second time you can drop a nade down the hatch and watch it blow. One of my favourite moments so far was being cornered by two enemy Titans confident that they had the upper hand: at the last second I burned forward pinning them to the wall and activated my self-destruct. My pilot hurtled skyward as I watched all three Titans below explode into a scrap metal: awesome.
Is it PC?
So my system is a fairly decent Rig with 16GB of RAM and a 980 GTX so it can play most games on the highest settings. I was initially happy that the game ran very well on ultra settings with all the trimmings. However, once I was a few hours into the single player campaign I started to experience massive but short bouts of stuttering where the game would literally jam up and stop. This usually resulted in my untimely death by enemies that didn't seem to be sharing me temporary tea break which of course was infuriating. I obviously cannot say categorically what is causing this but it didn't feel like it was down to the power of the system and in fact, I have heard other PC gamers seeing the same problem. It's not a deal breaker but certainly makes me hope the developers take a look and sort this out. This problem aside the game runs very well with all the control and video options you would want on PC.
If you consider this season the bench for multiplayer shooters is getting a little crowded. Overwatch and now BF1 are both doing extremely well: add to this the looming launch of Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare and Titanfall 2 could end up getting squashed. So I question EA's wisdom of releasing this game when they did but as they say, there's no point crying over spilt milk. Titanfall 2 is here now and so what are my final thoughts on this second game in the series?
While I'm sure many who play through the single player campaign will have fun, make no mistake: Titanfall 2's beating heart lies within the multiplayer side of the game. As I have already mentioned, this time around there is far more variety on offer and no divisive season pass to hamstring the player base. Respawn know their strengths and the biggest of these is a player movement system that has no rival. Whatever the games shortcomings are whether it be a poor campaign story or a selection of maps that get tiresome fast in multiplayer: the core gameplay loop seems to make these issues almost vanish.
I have pointed out plenty of issues both big and small with Titanfall 2 but if I pan back and take the whole package into consideration: this is an amazing game with tonnes of fun to be had. Respawn have taken onboard everything gamers said they wanted after the first and provided it in spades. From what I can see the game isn't doing all that great in terms of sales and that is to be expected considering the other big games out these last few weeks. The key will be how the player base is doing a few months from now and if players will stay until (or at the very least come back) new maps and modes unlock.
Thank you for reading my review for Titanfall 2 on PC, I hope you found it helpful or at least entertaining. Please if you don't already follow me on Twitter @riggedforepic, tell your friends about me and come back soon.