Titanfall had high expectations, but didn’t reach its full potential despite a dedicated community. With Titanfall 2 finally on store shelves, now’s the time for the futuristic FPS to fix its biggest issues both online and off. Not only does Titanfall 2 return to the cockpit with more varied multiplayer action, but also the series’ first truly single-player campaign. All those features are almost overwhelming, but Titanfall 2 finds a lovely harmony when its sophisticated gunplay comes together.
A Man and His Titan
Like its predecessor, Titanfall 2 is a shooter with one foot in reality and the other in more colorful sci-fi. You play as a soldier locked in a lengthy war over freedom and resources, but you're also going to fly through the air and team up with huge robot soldiers. In particular, Titanfall 2's campaign straddles the line between a relatively straightforward soldier's story while mixing in alien creatures, a humanized AI partner, and even time travel. Overall, Titanfall 2's blend of ideas causes unfocused storytelling, but also opens the door to some creative high points.
The campaign allows the developers to design stages differently than they would for multiplayer. Some campaign missions lead to some creative platforming challenges, feeling more like Mirror's Edge than Call of Duty. Later in Titanfall 2, you'll be tasked with hopping between moments in time to get to seemingly unexplorable areas. At its best, you're using all of a pilot's tools to complete a creative mission objective. Unfortunately, that brilliance doesn't sustain itself, making Titanfall 2's standard "keep shooting this boss until they're dead" objectives seem even duller in comparison.
Titanfall 2's campaign is a mishmash of moments, but worth the eight-ish hours to complete. The sections of smart level design and "wow" set pieces make up for the pedestrian bits of shooter cliches. And yes, the protagonist is dull as dirt. But his constant Titan companion BT has some cute moments of personality. As tempting as it may be, don't skip past the campaign to go straight into the multiplayer.
Fighting a War on Multiple Fronts
Speaking of Titanfall 2's multiplayer, it's excessive proof that the developers at Respawn are experts at FPS action. The base level gunplay is quick and exciting when on foot, with an impressive variety of weapons that grows the more you play multiplayer. Titanfall 2 moves like no other shooter -- an intense shootout from behind cover can shift to rooftop chases in an instant, and the levels are smartly designed to accommodate multiple styles of play. Your standard deathmatch gets even more hectic when many titans fall onto the field, making for random battles no matter how familiar you may be with the map. Multiplayer is strongest when all the players are ready to take advantage of every gameplay option.
That adaptability also leads to Titanfall 2's most glaring shortcomings. The gameplay has all these unique options happening simultaneously, and they don't always gel for consistent entertainment. It's great that there's so much complexity to each stage and match-up, but it's a lot to wrap your head around. You have so many combat options that it's easy to forget you could've just used your grappling hook or turned invisible instead of getting blasted with a shotgun.
The campaign does its best to communicate these nuances to combat. The gradually introduced Titan loadouts all offer different pros and cons. Titanfall 2's solo gameplay also does its best to teach you to get off the ground as much as possible. But even with all of those hints and tutorials, it takes a good deal of practice before those options feel natural in multiplayer.
Should You Play Titanfall 2?
If you enjoyed the first Titanfall:
Absolutely play the sequel. Titanfall 2 refines many aspects of the original that felt half-baked, especially the campaign. Even if you didn't love its predecessor, Titanfall 2 expands on both multiplayer and solo so much that it's worth another try.
If you prefer more "traditional" shooters:
Titanfall 2 is worth picking up. However, it might be a little too complicated or different from its competition. If you're only in the mood for the occasional quick death match, the multitiered design is a little too fancy for your needs.
If you don't play multiplayer:
Titanfall 2's campaign is different enough that it's worth a rental. Sure, it's full of action movie cliches, but don't underestimate it. Some stages are full of inventive challenges and storytelling choices.
Titanfall 2 is one of the better shooters in a year full of great FPSs. Whether you played the original or not, give a chance to this unique approach to an omnipresent genre.