Titanfall 2 (Xbox One)

Focus. Fight. Win.
Entirely new FPS games that are both unique and fun are rare in the console FPS genre. Through all of the quick scoping and rage-quitting, sometimes you just wanna have fun. Enter Titanfall 2, the sequel to the 2014 original, Titanfall. Sales of the original game weren't so hot due to console exclusivity and an underwhelming depth in multiplayer but man was it an awesome game. Titanfall 2 address both of those missteps, but does it lose itself on the path to greatness?

Well There's More Ways To Dominate, To Defeat, To Destroy, etc.
Starting with multiplayer, Respawn hooks players up with 10 more weapons than before and a suite of Pilot tacticals, including a cloak, super speed, and a deployable one-way shield. It's all good fun, but the most fun of them all is the grappling hook. Oh boy. In the right hands, that grappling hook can transform any Pilot into a deadly one-man strike force, outsmarting enemies with superhuman agility and speed. If someone is camping way high up and you want 'em dead, then you go git that camper dead and roast their marshmallows booboo.

It takes time to completely get the hang of TF2's gameplay, but once you learn to use speed, wall running, and your Pilot tacticals together, your enemies won't know what hit 'em. One moment, a blur. The next?

Because of the seamless wall running and the long reach of the grappling hook, you'll quickly learn the best grappling points for the quickest launches and swings to surprise your enemy with bullets in the face. But careful now, don't tell anyone about your best grappling points, keep that as your little secret.

It honestly makes you feel like a badass super soldier, confounding unaware opponents from above, below, and any other direction you can think of. Other shooters won’t give you that feeling without punishing you for it. They may include a really fun weapon or ability for laughs, but usually they're not very useful. TF2 allows you to enjoy the more exciting weapons and tools, like the micro-missile launcher and grappling hook, and still kick Major Ass.

And of course, the other Pilot tacticals will force you to drastically alter your play style. These abilities aren't different than adding faster reload or an extended mag to your rifle, because they actually demand you to play differently. Personally, I don't care for the others (Grapplin' Hooks 4 Lyfe, yo), but there's the amount of depth they bring to a franchise that desperately needed it is a God-send. Oh hell, I like you so much that I went ahead and captured some cloak gameplay anyway. I hate it, but I like you, so....

Combining the cloak with a powerful weapon like the G2 semi automatic rifle and you’ll earn enough to points to call in your Titan. And when you do, thankfully....

Titan Gameplay Still Feels Great
Titans, of course, are the giant robots that you, the Pilot, get to control after a set amount of time of infantry play. Earning points through kills and playing the objective speeds up their build time. Each Titan plays differently, but the controls are super simple and easy to use. That matters, because some mech games can become over-complicated affairs satisfying only the mechanical engineers among us. On the contrary, TF2 will transform you into a worthy Pilot right outta the box.

Now, in a surprise departure from TF1, each Titan in TF2 comes preloaded with it's own set of weapons and ordinances. My favorite is the Titan named Scorch, for reasons that'll become immediately clear.

Ah, the cleansing power of a flamethrower can never be overstated. Another unique standout is Ronin, a Titan with a badass electrified broadsword. With his phase shift ability, he can annoy the absolute turds out of an enemy Titan by disappearing into thin air to return behind 'em, slicing ‘em in twain. There are four other Titans that each with vastly unique weapons and abilities that you’ll want to practice with. Sure you can’t mix and match load-outs like in TF1, but hey, you couldn’t do this in TF1 either:

I don't even understand why there are other Titan choices. Scorch is all ya' need suga' plum. But ya' know, maybe after a few hours of multiplayer you begin to hate your friends. It's okay, I too hate my friends. Well guess what? TF2 has you covered with an actual campaign mode! BOOM! Suck it, TF1.
You'll Laugh, You'll Cry
Oh boy, TF2's campaign mode is a real treat. You start as a Militia grunt named Generic Neutral Face who is thrust into the role of piloting a gently used Titan named BT. BT is special in that he’s a new Titan chassis and A.I. with the ability to use a multitude of loadouts. Together, your goal is to stop the IMC corporation from using Star Killer Ba-- um, the Fold Weapon, to destroy the Militia home world. The story itself is basic, but the way it unfolds is just so damn fun.

The fact that you get to outfit Generic Neutral Face and BT with any weapons that your heart desires gives you more reasons to keep playing campaign mode even after completion. That's something that you will want to do, by the way, because beating levels in ways you haven't before it's good wholesome fun. The level where you can jump a year or so back in time in the middle of gunfights immediately comes to mind. My first time around I used a fully auto, maybe next time I'll stick to pistol whipping space-wolves? Who knows. And then there's the actually challenging boss fights, which when you can switch up the weapons between the Pilot and your Titan, BT, offer plenty of a replay value.

For instance, after this d-bag points a gun in your face, you get to parkour your way to safety and the way the moment is set up is done supremely well. I've replayed this level multiple times just to find new ways to kill 'em all.
But while the level design and boss fights are a good time, the well written dialogue between you and BT stands out the most. The chats reveal a clever human touch that catches you off guard in the best way possible. While other games in the FPS genre try and fail miserably at this (Like that one time MW2 gave you the choice to shoot up an airport of civilians for dramatic effect), the bond you'll form with your mechanical companion is an experience that you won't forget. Sure, the character that you play as has all of the personality of a potato undercooked in a microwave, but the upside is you can more easily pretend that it’s you who's going on a clandestine adventure in an effort to save your home world (Especially if you too are beautiful).

Be aware though. As soon as you fall in love, the credits roll and it's all over. The story isn't short, at least not to me. But the fact that it mostly takes place in one setting and the variety of gameplay doesn’t go far beyond “Shoot this, shoot that” definitely makes it feel short. Overall. It’s still a good story, but there's something keeping it from true greatness. In fact, it's something that TF2 lacks. It's....

Titanfall being Too Afraid to be Titanfall
Campaign mode simply refuses to explore the world of Titanfall. Crucial elements are either poorly explained or completely ignored, leaving players with major questions. How is it that BT shows oddly human reactions to some situations? Are we not going to talk about the Pilot augmentation? What planet are we on? Why are the space dragons on this planet the same ones from the completely different planet of Leviathan? Moreover, why can’t I stick my ponytail into said space dragon and ride it into battle? We demand answers!

Ah, this must be space-wolf planet.
Respawn has beautifully designed the relationship between you and your Titan, yet the setting of the relationship was given as much attention as I have to this blog over the past three years (not much). Not every first person shooter needs a fantastic single player campaign, I will admit, but Titanfall 2 is one of the few that deserves one.

Lore-rich collectables and levels in more varied locations, planets, would serve TF2's story due justice. Even those cool space/time mechanics and awesome set pieces (like the one that basically takes place in a life sized doll house factory) just feel like unrelated ideas thrown at a wall. I'd whine less if this was Titanfall's first attempt at a campaign but it’s not. I foolishly assumed Respawn would embrace its riot of a franchise by its second game, nourishing it with a beautiful blend of gameplay and lore. Unfortunately, that's not the case.

The Lack of Titan Friendly Multiplayer Maps Suck
While the lack of an outstanding single player campaign can be easily forgiven, an absence of good multiplayer maps designed for the titular Titans is less so. There are only 9 multiplayer maps compared to its predecessor's 15 maps, and most of these maps follow a dull, cramped three-lane design philosophy with relatively little verticality. These cookie-cutter multiplayer maps are perfect for eSports, but boring and enraging for us regular gamers.

Forget the unique, well-designed maps from previous titles, like Bone Yard or Fracture that encourage creative tactics to get an edge on your opponent, the few maps in TF2 are apparently slave to the whims of ADD-stricken Mountain Dew addicts.
Don't get me wrong, a simple three-lane map can be fun for everyone, no matter their level of ADD, but do consoles need more me-too shooters with mostly cramped, three lane maps? TF2 shipped with maybe two maps that harken back to the imaginative style of TF1, and that's a real gershdanged shame. Oh well, at least the Titans aren’t….

Slow Pieces of Shit

Oof, too bad that they are slow peices of shit. Titans are the tools that make wars happen in Titanfall's universe. These imposing beasts put the fear of space-God in grunts and Pilots alike. Usually. In TF2, Titans have less health, no regenerative shields, and move much more slowly than their predecessors. Players new to the series might not care too much, but original Titanfall fans just might scream. Shoot, they might even scream twice. I know I did. I understand the need to balance Titan and Pilot gameplay, but I don’t understand how removing the purity of an unstoppable death-juggernaut improves the game.  

Titans are still powerful weapons, but you'll feel unacceptably vulnerable when piloting them. Each Titan chassis, from lightweight to heavy, can have its health drained in a matter of seconds if surrounded by enemies. In the first game, the generous dash ability and deflective vortex shield gave you a surviving chance. Not so this time around. This time around, you gon' die. You gon' die quick.

Further chipping away at the appeal of Titan gameplay is how Titan loadouts are married to their Titan chassis, and anti-Titan weapons are more powerful than before. All of this means that the balance of power in the gameplay has shifted away from Titans and towards Pilot, on foot, combat. You did buy Titanfall 2 for a more mainstream FPS experience, right? No? Too bad.

Lastly, there's Live Fire, a free DLC multiplayer mode created when Respawn said, "Fuck it, let's be Call of Duty" after so-so TF2 sales. Live Fire provides everything you love about TF2's multiplayer: no Titans, no respawns, and lots of light machine guns on tiny three-lane maps. So, charge up those $300 headsets and get good n' ready to sweat, you've got footsteps to listen for!

New, free content isn't a bad thing, but it can be when its a shallow attempt to appeal to a, uh, passionate group of gamers who do tend to spend a lot on gaming. It makes business sense at the cost of a better video game. There are five Titan-less maps in total since DLC releases, by the way, and there's a sixth map that allows Titans, but it's of the cramped three-lane variety. Gee, just release the "Pilotfall" spinoff that I just made-up whydoncha? Luckily...

Titanfall 2 is Still Fast, Explosive, Ridiculous Fun
It's very frustrating experiencing a new IP take it's first steps down the road of irreverent console FPS, but Titanfall 2 is still a very awesome game. Besides the well-done campaign mode, there's no denying the tactical power of the grappling hook, the burning gas of the Scorch Titan, or the sublime satisfaction of gently forcing a boot up someone's ass.

And ya' know what? Titanfall 2 remains my go-to FPS after a long day of work. Even if a lot of TF2 exists solely to stroke and prod the e-peen, there's nothing wrong with trying to survive in a highly competitive market. Speaking of, if you want to try something different in the overpopulated genre of console FPSs, and you should, TF2 can be yours for around $25 on Xbox One, PS4, and PC. Some of the charm of the original Titanfall may be gone, but the thrill of Titanfall 2 still provides a compelling cocktail of badass mech, fast infantry, and competitive gameplay that other games can't match.

See on Amazon.

Did You Know?
Stopping to play Titanfall 2 has postponed the publish date of this review multiple times because it's just that damn fun?

Titanfall 2's "Become One" trailer is motherfucking badass?

If you use the Devotion machine gun or the Tone titan in TF2, I will find a way to crawl through your Ethernet cable and smash your nuggets?

Thanks to Nicole Addison for her help editing this review. You can contact her on the Facebooks.


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