Reviews// Titanfall 2

Posted 8 Nov 2016 11:45 by
Expectation is a hard thing to manage. Rarely does something live up to the hype you've built up in your head so I try and avoid focusing on pre-release material for something I've been looking forward to.

In this case, I found it exceptionally hard. I'm a huge fan of Titanfall and after putting well over 100 hours into the first game I couldn't stop myself getting a more than a little excited. I thought about what I'd like to see in a sequel and that soon become what I was demanding of it.

As the release of Titanfall 2 neared more information was leaked as to what direction Respawn was taking the series. None of it matched up with what was now a brain in meltdown and the Open Beta left me with more questions that it did answers.

If there's one thing that playing the retail release of Titanfall 2 has taught me, it's that sometimes trust is better than expectation because what Respawn has produced is the best shooter this year.

One of the contentious points amongst fans was whether the first game needed a single-player campaign or not. I didn't think it did. The multiplayer portion of the game was strong enough to satisfy me and I felt that trying to force one in could have been detrimental to the final package. So when it was announced that Titanfall 2 would include a single-player mode I wasn't really interested, that was until I was an hour or so in to it.

You'd probably think you've got a fair idea of what a Titanfall single-player campaign would be. The gunplay from the multiplayer with the option to jump into a giant robot every now and then. It sounds fun but a tad predictable. What has been delivered is far from that. In fact it's the best solo FPS I've played in years.

Titanfall 2 sets out to surprise and to dodge what you expect of it. When you feel you know what direction it's taking, it drops everything and introduces something new to surprise and entertain in equal measure.

It feels like a game that is trying everything it can to impress. A game that falls short of a AAA budget and has to offer a new angle to make it stand out, but with the polish and shine of a game with a limitless pot of cash. When it ends you'll be screaming out for more, even if that means replaying what you've just worked through.

The issue for me is that I can't say too much about it without spoiling it. The slightest suggestion of what games it feels like and what mechanics it plays with will destroy the twists and turns it takes. What I can say though is that for the six or so hours that Titanfall 2's single-player lasts it's constantly entertaining, rewarding and better than it ever needed to be. If you're looking for something more than just a multiplayer game then you absolutely have to put this on your list.

Some may argue that it could have lasted longer. And, from what we're used to, each idea and direction the game embraces could have been padded out by a few extra hours. If I'm honest, it could easily have filled them without feeling tired, but instead it makes sure there's no filler and at no point do you feel like you're not having a good time. If that means it has to sacrifice a few hours of gameplay then so be it, because what it leaves is a thrilling experience from start to finish that's almost relentless throughout.

However, as good as the single-player mode is, it makes up a small percentage of where I'll be spending my time. Titanfall was an incredible shooter online and it was one where I couldn't see much room for improvement.

The tweaks Respawn has made seem controversial at first. Less computer-controlled bots, no burn cards and a change to how Pilot abilities work were all things that took me a while to adjust to. It seemed to be a personal attack on the comfort zone I'd fallen into with the previous game, but the more I played the more the genius started to sink in.

Take the decision to remove Burn Cards, for example. When I heard that they would be absent from Titanfall 2 I was pretty angry. In Titanfall you could select one of three chosen cards at any point to activate a perk. They were integral to how you played, so removing them seemed utterly insane.

In Titanfall 2 they have been replaced by 'Boosts'. These are essentially a single Burn Card that you can activate only when you've earned enough points or spent enough time in a game. Initially they feel less effective and a step back from what the previous game was doing, but seasoned players know that the problem with the card system was that there were so many useless ones and that their single use meant that if you activated one at the wrong time they could be rendered pointless within seconds.

This new system allows players to use them more tactically. At no point will you find yourself running out of your chosen advantage and hoping to find one in a pack of fictional cards. You can now incorporate them into all aspects of your game and if you're playing well they can be used more often.

There are some balancing issues though. Map Hack was the most popular of Titanfall's Burn Cards, allowing you to see all enemies on the map for as long as you could stay alive. Although that time is now limited in Titanfall 2, the boost system means that you can activate it more than once a game, making it far too overpowered. However, Respawn are a pragmatic bunch and have already issued patches to address initial concerns from fans and critics.

The theme continues. Some abilities have been nerfed, some changed completely. but all with the intention of either balancing the game or encouraging mixed player builds for team play. Seeing through walls felt almost like cheating in Titanfall, but here the ability is limited to a fixed area but with the advantage of enemies becoming visible for the whole team rather than just yourself. Although I've dropped that perk for cloaking this time out, I'm always grateful when we have someone on our team who hasn't.

One of the highlights of the series is the free running aspect of the pilot's movement. It's something games have tried to tackle on many occasions, but Titanfall 2 has absolutely nailed the hop, skip and jumping. It was fun to do in the last game but this time it's essential thanks to the speed boost you get from combining wall running and sliding. You can make it from one point of the map to another within seconds if you plot your route well. If you nail this side of the game, you can use it to flank your opposition or escape from an enemy titan with ease.

Even the challenges have been changed with positive results. In Titanfall you were forced to focus on personal achievements if you wanted to prestige beyond level 50, which was certainly a fun way to make experienced players mix things up. Eventually, though, I found a weapon that I couldn't click with and just stopped levelling up.
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