STAFF REVIEW of Titanfall 2 (Xbox One)

Monday, November 14, 2016.
by Brent Roberts

Titanfall 2 Box art Throughout the years EA has strived to publish games that give their audience an incredible gaming experience. Originally launched in 2014, Titanfall set standards that now most top tier first person shooters take inspiration from. With the first release becoming known as an innovative staple in the gaming community, how can Respawn and EA top this? By releasing Titanfall 2 and delivering yet another incredible gaming experience. They always say that if you learn from the mistakes you made then you will grow and develop as a person. So has Respawn learned from its mistakes of the original? I would have to say yes.

The first Titanfall was a purely multiplayer experience and sported a campaign that was essentially more multiplayer maps. It made the game feel as if it was only half finished. This time around Respawn has put a proper campaign into Titanfall 2, and even though it's short lived, the fact that it even exists at all is one instance where Respawn listened to its loudest critics, the gamers. It may not be perfect, but Respawn's primary goal seems to have shifted to include something that most gamers tended to overlook, that being depth. In the original Titanfall there was no emotional attachment to your Titan. You shot and killed people and bots over and over until your Titan was ready to be called in. When it dropped you used it till it was destroyed and then the process repeated. In Titanfall 2 one of the main goals has been to give you that sense of comradery. A bond that you form with your Titan that turns it into something more than a user controlled killing machine, but a friend and companion that just happens to be the size of a small house and packed with enough armaments to put a small crater in the planet.

Titanfall 2's plot begins with your character, Frontier Militia Rifleman Jack Cooper. This soldier has always had a dream of becoming a legendary Titan pilot with his own Titan by his side, so naturally he worked hard to put himself in a position to train for the very role he's always dreamed about (or he could have simply manipulated the system to promote his own selfish goals, but I'll be positive here). Jack finally gets a chance to do a pilot simulation with his instructor and it's here that you learn the subtleties of Titanfall 2's gameplay mechanics. Originally praised for having a gameplay that was as smooth as silk, Respawn went back to work and said how can we make it better. They decided to allow a bit more controller customization and even include an option to allow user controlled inputs from an Xbox Elite controller (another reason of many to own one). All the mechanics you know are back, and this time it feels like the controls have been tweaked a bit to near perfection. Wall running, that naturally happens when you a wall, feels like it takes longer for your character to drop naturally and this is thanks to the increased in speed while in this motion.

You can now cover more ground faster while traversing from wall to wall, and this makes taking on a Titan while you're on foot more of a fair fight. The ability to jump between buildings and gain and decrease your height all while running at a rapid pace means that pilots now have a distinct advantage when playing. Sure, they may not have cool weaponry that's the size of an 18 wheeler, but board a Titan and drop a couple satchel charges and boom, what Titan? You learn all of these skills while in training; however, just as you're about to finally call in your very own Titan, your pilot training simulation ends and you're thrusted back into reality's cold grasp as your squad is mobilized for an offensive fight on a planet called Typhon which has fallen under attack. This is where you get a convoluted story where you don't realize why this planet is being attacked or why you're once again fighting the IMC (Interstellar Manufacturing Corporation). However, once you arrive you realize that things have turned south and have done so in a big way.

Realizing that your team is under attack and that it appears to be an ambush, you barely survive only to watch a critical moment happen that then changes the game permanently. Watching your mentor of the pilot program die right before your eyes, you bear witness as he transfers control of his Titan BT-7274 to you, and now you are officially a Titanfall Pilot. Throughout the game you and your Titan will converse and it's up to you to select what option you want reply with. I have to admit, I wanted to see what all the experiences were so there were numerous times where I restarted the checkpoint just to select the other dialogue outcomes. I was quite surprised at how well this was written and delivered. You can really see a development of a relationship forming throughout the entire campaign, and while some of it is cold and factual, some of it is quite humorous. This whole sequence of events adds so much more depth to what was originally offered in terms of a campaign compared to the original Titanfall, and while there may be moments that leave you asking why and how, the delivery of such a campaign is one that should be well received with the gaming world.

It's rare to see a company actually listen to its customers, but Respawn did, and they also listened to other critiques as well. For instance, gamers thought that the multiplayer experience (which accounted for the entire game) of the original Titanfall actually decreased in enjoyment as there was very little, if anything, to keep going for that actually meant anything. Respawn has hit back with tons of new customizations, and the beautiful thing about this is that you get to experience all of them and try them out in the single player campaign. Yes, your Titan in the single player campaign can wield a massive sword that would make Cloud from Final Fantasy VII jealous. This type of customization means that when you go into your multiplayer experience you will have already tried out numerous loadouts and found one that works for you. The same also goes for your pilot's weapons, as you will have access to a wide, and I do mean wide, variety of weaponry for you to wield. Weapons such as your standard assault rifles and SMGs, to sniper rifles that fire 2 shots at a time, and even varying types of grenades, all of which will allow you find what works best for you while you prep for multiplayer.

Once you start to develop a familiarity with the loadout and weapon systems you'll start to gravitate to a few, and it's from there that you can start to develop your pilot and Titan for multiplayer. It's a multiplayer system that, in my opinion, is damn near perfect in a game. Realizing the statement "if it's not broken don't fix it", Respawn took to task a way of improving something that was great and have created something that will have a lasting impact on multiplayer games in the future. Some of the new items that help improve the multiplayer are tools like the grappling hook, which you can fire at buildings, or even Titans, to latch on and pull yourself towards. You may be saying "why would I want to get pulled towards an enemy Titan?", well because it gives you a chance to syphon off a power core of your enemy, drop a charge or two, jump off, grapple back to your Titan, and in midair detonating the charges while instantly transferring into your Titan where the health you have gotten from the enemy power core is immediately applied and you, then can continue to decimate enemy Titans.

This is just one of the ways you can incorporate your new tech toys in multiplayer, but one aspect that struck me as a bit odd is that the Titan customizable loadouts are now gone, and that feels like a step backwards to me. This really perplexes me; however, in its place you get to choose from 6 different Titans, but be warned that not all Titans are available at the beginning and you will have to play and grind your experience and credits to not only purchase new perks, accessories, and abilities, but also new Titans as well. You'll notice that each one of the six will carry with it not only their own unique style of weaponry, but also a unique core ability that can vary between Northstar, which allows you to hover in the air while raining a barrage of missile warheads at your opponents, to Ion, which has this massive Iron Man type chest blast of energy that decimates all. These unique cores are what keep Titanfall 2's multiplayer feeling more balanced than ever.

Speaking of multiplayer, you'll find game modes that you already know such as Last Titan Standing (5 person teams go head to head and the last Titan that is left alive wins), free-for-all (12 players in a confined area and they battle it out with Titans available, what could go wrong?), Attrition (basic 6 on 6 fight to the end), Capture the Flag (capture enemy flag and return it to base), pilot vs. pilot (which is an 8 on 8 fight that disables the ability to call in and use Titans), and Amped hardpoint (similar to games of conquest where you capture and hold an area, and once obtained it takes longer for the enemy to reclaim it for themselves). There is a new mode which called Bounty Hunt. In this mode you're tasked with not just shooting and killing every enemy you see, but fulfilling tasks and objectives that you have to earn cash for your team. Once you have acquired cash it's then up to you to get it to a stash where you can deposit it. Be careful though because should you get killed while in combat then you're going to lose some of that money.

These gameplay modes more than equate to a solid multiplayer experience that seems to never get old or tiring and that’s in part to the graphics which are absolutely stunning. Even though I have a 4K TV and play it on a day one launch Xbox One console, the game looks beautiful. All the detail that goes into the varying environments showcase the painstaking time Respawn took to make this game not only play masterfully, but look breathtaking. Spending the time exploring each level was wonderful and trying to find new ways to adapt to the level itself was a breath of fresh air. This is complimented by audio that makes you feel every trigger pull, every explosion, and without question, every single incoming Titanfall. The ambient noise helps establish each unique area and when you hear soldiers around you, and having a surround sound system really surpasses all expectations, especially once my Dolby Atmos system is finally finished, as I can't wait to experience something like this. Imagine having the sound field above you from an incoming Titanfall descend upon you and end with a colossal thud as a new crater has been formed from landing.

I actually have to look very hard to find something wrong with Titanfall 2 to knock it, and that's a wonderful thing. Normally gamers are force fed projects that developers produce without paying any attention to their audience, but not Respawn. Titanfall 2 is a near perfect example of what a quality developer can produce when it listens to the feedback of the community, as it delivers a stunning marriage of near perfect gameplay, near perfect multiplayer, and a story that is well...near perfect. I am very confident saying that Titanfall 2 is one of the best games you can play in 2016, period.

Overall: 9.0 / 10
Gameplay: 9.5 / 10
Visuals: 9.5 / 10
Sound: 9.0 / 10



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