Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Titanfall 2 (PS4, XB1, PC) Review

Fresh off the heels of Yoshi's friendly relationship with Poochy comes a different kind of friendship: one between human and titan in Titanfall 2. The game has been out for several months, but now it's SuperPhillip Central's chance to cast a verdict. 

Clash of the Titans

The original Titanfall was an impressive beast of a multiplayer game that unfortunately suffered due to corporate politics-- in particular, Microsoft getting an exclusive deal from EA, making the original exclusive to the Xbox brand. However, now Titanfall 2 is a brand-new entity, no longer just stuck to Xbox, supporting an improved multiplayer package that will keep players coming back for more, as well as something completely new-- a single-player campaign. Thankfully, both the multiplayer and the all-new single-player campaign make Titanfall 2 one of the most impressive first-person shooters on the market today.

The campaign features the story of a relatively inexperienced rifleman named Jack Cooper who gets the honor of being mentored and trained by one of the most notable titan pilots in the military force opposing the evil IMC. When his mentor gets taken out in battle, in his last moments he relinquishes control of his titan, BT, over to Jack. Throughout the game, Jack and BT establish a rapport. Some humor even comes about in Titanfall 2's campaign which is a nice change of pace compared to all of these modern shooters, particularly military ones, that take themselves way too seriously. There will be moments where Jack will say a turn of phrase, such as after a particularly fierce battle on Typhoon where he says he's on a hot streak. BT, the dry sentient being it is becomes confused by this, saying that Jack's body temperature is perfectly normal. These small moments give the campaign some character, and I found myself enjoying them even when I didn't really care about the overarching story.

The moment in Titanfall 2's campaign where Rifleman Jack Cooper and BT first meet.
The campaign itself isn't that long to experience (taking anywhere between 5-7 hours the first time through with optional collectibles to find), but at the same token, it doesn't outwear its welcome... well, for the most part. I must say that something that does outwear its welcome are the scenes within the game that have you unable to speed through dialogue or a particular story sequence. They have you either stuck in a static position able to look around, or have you able to move around while the story sequence unfolds. These happen all too often throughout the campaign. They're fine the first time through, but on repeated play-throughs they just become tedious.

However, that issue is the only big problem with Titanfall 2's campaign. They're sort of worth it in an essence because what you get to do in the campaign is a lot of fun. This is due to the level of mobility that Jack has a pilot. In the campaign, you start off learning the basics of wall-running-- dashing forward, jumping at a wall at an angle, and then rushing along the wall to jump to the other side of a chasm, for instance. By the end of the game, you're expected to leap from wall to wall, dodging hazards, and taking out foes during your feats of acrobatic excellence.

The movement possibilities in Titanfall 2 make for multiple layers of available strategy.
A fantastic part of Titanfall 2 is how the developers constantly throw new mechanics and things into the campaign to keep things from growing stale. One level has you riding through a factory of sorts that manufactures houses. You ride on platforms to designated stops where enemies await to ambush you. Then, you hop onto the next platform to another stop. This process repeats itself until the platforms form full houses, taking you deeper inside the facility. Another notable part of the campaign has you using a specific tool to activate mechanisms that open doors as well as move platforms into position for you. There's one section where you need to activate platforms in midair to move them in position to either run or wall-run on them. If you're too slow in doing so, your "reward" is falling into the abyss below.

A late mission in Titanfall 2's campaign has you bringing the fight to the enemy while in BT.
Thankfully, Titanfall 2 is quite generous with its checkpoints. Seldom will death ever mean you have to redo a significant portion of a level. Instead, it usually means you just have to start your current firefight or platforming section over again.

Besides running around levels as Jack Cooper, there are many times where you'll be piloting his titan BT. You always have the ability to dismount and mount into BT during any occasion, but in battles against other titans, you probably don't want to take them on solely as Jack. During the campaign, BT acquires new loadouts that can be cycled through with the press of the right direction on the D-Pad. These range from loadouts where BT's primary weapon is a machine gun, one where he can lock onto enemies and fire homing missiles at them, and also one where BT can launch a ball of fire to create an eruption on the ground to slowly but steadily deal damage to foes. Each loadout has several offensive and defensive abilities to it, and some are more useful than others.

Talk to the hand because the chassis don't understand.
Other than taking on typical enemy titans, in specific parts of Titanfall 2's campaign, Jack and BT will face off against a boss titan, a member of a mercenary group that is serving the IMC for the good of their wallets. Each encounter begins with a quick introduction of the merc opening its titan's cockpit hatch to reveal themselves to Jack and BT and give each some semblance of character before the battle begins. Each encounter takes longer than a typical enemy titan would as they have bigger health bars, but overall they're almost just as easy to dispatch as any other titan. The real takeaway from each boss titan is their personality and design, which is unfortunate.

While you will most likely enjoy Titanfall 2's campaign, the part of the game you'll be returning to again and again long after finishing off the story is the multiplayer. The original Titanfall suffered from a lack of mode variety. Fortunately, Respawn took the criticism from players to heart, giving Titanfall 2 a multitude of modes and lots of variety in them.

One of the best things I love about Titanfall 2's multiplayer other than how fast it is to get back into battle after dying is that the movement found in the single-player campaign is just as wonderful in the multiplayer. It's a blast to chain jumps together, sprint, and slide through maps to discover the best routes to get back into the action or to temporarily retreat. There is a tremendous amount of skill found in doing this.

Another terrific part of Titanfall 2 is how the game balance has been altered from the original's multiplayer, and it has been altered for the better. One means to balance Titanfall 2's multiplayer is that titans no longer have the ability to regenerate their shield. You can just take damage and then rush out of the storm of battle to some safe corner of the map to regenerate health. Instead, each shot you take deals permanent damage to your titan. Even a one-man army who strategically picks and chooses his shots can take a titan down with enough patience and skill. This makes it so titans are much more valuable to have and important to keep in battle. Yes, they're powerful machines, but losing them can be the difference between victory and defeat.

Titanfall 2's multiplayer features an abundance of modes. The more original of these include Attrition, returning from the original game. This signature mode has eight players on each side taking one another out as well as the occasional AI reinforcements to score points. Titans can be called into battle when specific conditions have been met, making this mode one of the most popular and also one of the most enjoyable. Additionally, there is a brand-new mode in the form of Bounty Hunt. Here, players destroy AI enemies in both humanoid and titan form as they simultaneously take one another out. Kills earn money for each player, which is then banked between waves. Hoarding your money isn't the best strategy, as being defeated by a foe gives half of your money to them. Bounty Hunt is an interesting addition to the Titanfall 2 multiplayer experience.

This won't end well for one of these guys. (Hint: It's the guy lying down.)
The other multiplayer modes in Titanfall 2 basically check the boxes of what is to be expected from any first-person shooter's multiplayer offerings. You have deathmatch in both team and free-for-all varieties, and Titanfall-themed pilots-only and titans-only battle modes. There is plenty to sink one's teeth into in Titanfall 2's multiplayer, and that incentive to play continues with the awards system that constantly earns you experience points that when you reach new levels, gives you new unlockables for use in the multiplayer like new weapons, titan loadouts, cosmetic goods, and much more.

Titanfall 2 greatly improves on the multiplayer foundation created in the original while adding a single-player component that is one of the greatest first-person shooter campaigns in recent memory alongside, of course, DOOM. The constant feed of unlockables and awards in the multiplayer as well as the sheer fun of the mobility options in the game make for a shooter that should keep players coming back for more day after day, and maybe even months from now.

[SPC Says: B+]

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