Respawn’s highly-anticipated follow-up to the 2014 hit “Titanfall” releases this week, offering new maps, modes and Titans for players to enjoy on both PC and consoles. The sequel fixes many of the missteps of the original, almost explicitly, but falls a little short when it comes to offering new content for returning players.
The original launch two years ago was met with enthusiastic praise for offering a new spin on the first-person shooter genre, but the game was dragged down in reviews because it failed to offer a single-player mode and was still upwards of $60. The original game also started out fairly barebones, which isn’t unusual for a new IP in the industry, but was eventually expanded through DLC over the following year. ‘Titanfall 2’ fixes all of those issues, offering a single-player campaign, more maps and modes right out of the gate, and the devs have set a clear roadmap for future offerings. All the holes are filled, but maybe that’s why “Titanfall 2” feels like a remastered, finally completed, Titanfall 1.
It seems that the devs focused solely on patching the holes in the original creation, and when the dev-cycle was complete, they were simply left with a more stable and more complex version of the original. The second-installment adds new pieces to the original framework, but doesn’t really expand the franchise into new horizons. The largest addition to the series is the single-player campaign, and that is really the worst part of the new installment.
In this new single-player mode, players will take on the role of a low-ranking private within a futuristic military service. Our protagonist, named Jack Cooper, hopes to become a Titan Pilot. These elite forces are the game-changers on the battlefield, and the aspiration to become one is shared by many in the military.
The Titans are mostly the same as the were in the first game. They are AI assisted super-tanks, that can be commanded and/or piloted by the player after they are deployed into battle. In the original game you played the role of a mostly faceless hero that was a fully trained Titan Pilot, now you play a soldier that happens to stumble across one and gets early access to the weaponry.
I wouldn’t say that the story is compelling, or even well explained. While it did seem that I was fighting for some rebellious group against a military dictatorship, the game didn’t really fill me in on the finer details of what was going on in this universe. I was simply told about my Titan, what it could do, and given enemies and objects to destroy. I’m assuming I’m the good-guy in this IMC and Militia war, but honestly I don’t think it’s that clear, or important.
The game made me wonder if I was just out of the loop with the lore. Was there a gigantic subculture of people that had been building upon the original game while I was away? In just two years are we at the point where Titanfall 2 only makes sense to a small group of researchers that have invested time into learning about the IMC? Even if that was true, I’ve at least played the original game in the series, for anyone coming into the franchise for the first time, this story must be even more bland.
It’s great when comics and web-series and other mediums fill in plot-points about a franchise (like in Mass Effect) but if this game has other platforms trying to fill in the holes of this story, then they have their work cutout for them. My main issue is that the story was barely nonexistent, not confusing. The game didn’t seem to care at all to build up more than a few characters and locations, and the single-player campaign seemed like it was just a chore to make, and flushed out with as many empty locations and AI units as possible to satisfy the group of players that complained about the original’s price. At this point, I think EA should have gone the “Overwatch” route and cut the price to $39 and made it online only.
The lame single-player mode is unfortunate because the multiplayer side can easily be one of the most-fun, first-person shooters out there. Not because it has such a deep story, lovable characters, or dramatic moments, but how the level design and the gameplay stylings are so wonderfully constructed. Taking all of this great gameplay from multiplayer to single-player seemed like a no-brainer, but it just didn’t work out that way.
The game-mechanics and design are really the game’s saving-grace, and it was part of the original installment’s fame as well. Sliding along walls while firing at fleeing enemies, only to leap out into the air while calling in your Titan, is as seamless and fantastic as you could get.
The new game offers the same high-octane fun and increadibly fluid movements as the original, and it makes for a terrific multiplayer firefight. The game can be wonderfully exciting and is so very fulfilling when you start to get a handle on the controls. Few games, in any genre, have the silky-smooth animations and intuitive controls that Titanfall has and it’s one of the best games on the market in that regard.
New features like skills and load-outs have been added to the multiplayer-side as well, as a fix for fans that requested the feature from the first game. Now you and your Titan can unlock more abilities as you progress through the multiplayer ranks. Skill-based progression is a terrific way to keep fans in the game, and it does offer some diversity as you play through hours and hours of the same maps.
In most sequels a developer tries to take what worked in the original and expand on those ideas. In Titanfall 2, I think the entire process got thrown offtrack by putting the single-player campaign into the mix. I think the time and manpower spent developing this second-rate ‘off-line’ mode, prevented Respawn from creating something better overall. While the developers and publisher had two-years to construct a better installment, what we ended with feels like it was rushed out in 7 or 8 months. Titanfall 2 feels like a patched Titanfall 1, and while that may be better, I think returning fans will be left wanting more.
Titanfall 2 is available starting today on PC, PS4 and Xbox One and can be found on authorized retailers like Amazon.com.