BT-7274 and I
At first blush, Titanfall 2 has decidedly more to offer and is simultaneously less exciting than the original. The single-player campaign plays out as something akin to a much stronger, sci-fi-heavy Call of Duty story. You play as rifleman Jack Cooper in the early stages of his training to become a “Pilot,” the aptly named commanders of the towering mechs which give the game its name. Shortly into the game’s story, Cooper takes over as the Pilot of BT-7274, or BT for short, and the campaign properly begins.
Leading up to the game’s release, Respawn made it clear that the campaign was in no way just a tutorial for the multiplayer—that it had its own merits and expanded on the story of the Titanfall universe. While the campaign does cover some substantial events and further the story along, it does little to suck the player into this world and create a passion for the characters involved. The largest merit I can see from the campaign is that all but three of the game’s trophies/achievements are earned from it.
The campaign is paced excellently with new Titan loadouts becoming available after a corresponding villain is defeated. This is another significant change from the original: the advent of Titan classes over customizable loadouts. It comes to bear significantly in the story, as each notable boss utilizes a different class, and BT can switch between any of them on the fly. There is ample time spent outside of the Titan as well, where intricate puzzles and accurate parkour skills add some depth to the campaign. The one thing missing from the Pilot experience is the utilization of the Pilot abilities from the multiplayer.
Overall the length of the campaign and the lack of significant development in the main character makes it hard to truly get invested in anything that’s happening. Returning characters from the first game, like Sarah Briggs and mercenary leader Blisk, help to hold interest in the world Respawn has created here, but they’re just not around enough to carry the story.
It might not be the most popular opinion, but the integrated multiplayer campaign and wider range of support NPCs helped make the original Titanfall a much more inventive and risky game. It didn’t take devoted time to play through a separate campaign and ultimately led me to prestige twice while also familiarizing me with that game’s various maps and characters.
While the sequel’s campaign isn’t bad, it doesn’t do much in the way of cementing the narrative as important to the player. That’s not to say that it doesn’t deserve at least an initial play-through. But any subsequent play-throughs would be more for collectibles and achievement pursuit than anything else.
The Great Frontier
Earlier, I mentioned how Pilot abilities were notoriously absent from the campaign. If you played through the campaign before even touching the multiplayer, then this aspect won’t affect your experience with the single-player story. But once you do jump onto those online servers and start serving up some delicious Militia justice, it’ll be hard to go back.
The multiplayer in Titanfall 2 is really just an overall upgrade to everything good that was in the original. Maps are larger, enemies are more plentiful, and there is a seemingly endless amount of methods and styles at your disposal with which to kill said enemies.
Pilot abilities are a returning feature from the original and are a primary skill on a cooldown that fundamentally changes the way you can play. The newest addition to the set is the grappling hook, which allows you to attach to ledges and buildings to get a quick boost forward or reach a vantage point for some casual sniping. The applications for it seem limited at first, but it’s insanely versatile, and I’ve seen it used to actually slingshot around a building to land on top of an enemy player. Some of the other abilities at your disposal include sonar knives, which reveal enemy positions through walls, and stim packs, which boosts health regeneration and speed for a short time. Other features include the iconic wall-running that made the original so unique, as well as various types of grenades and guns, some familiar and some radically different.
As for the Titan experience, it’s dramatically different. There’s less customization in favor of six different classes. These switch up the play style dramatically, and while I do miss the original’s arc cannon dearly, the new classes are fun and varied enough to allow for hours of play. They’re less beefy than before, so it’s harder to go a whole match with just one mech, but with the upgrade to the Pilot’s arsenal, the trade-off makes sense. I found myself drawn to the Ion class of Titan, which uses energy weapons and a chest mounted laser cannon to destroy my its enemies. All of the new chassis are fun to play, but the virtual abandonment of the lore behind each actual type of mech was disappointing, especially after the level of detail the first game put into its three varieties.
Clear for Titanfall
Releasing during a shooter-heavy year and a shooter-heavy holiday season, it can be easy for many gamers to overlook Titanfall 2, especially since it was significantly less hyped than the original. While its narrative elements are lacking anything to truly invest in, the mechanics of Respawn’s frenetic parkour wonderland have never been more fun. It’s disappointing that they didn’t try to further pioneer their original intention to integrate a story into the multiplayer modes. The lack of any truly challenging achievements for the multiplayer is a bit of a letdown, but the mode is fun and can be appreciated as such. Overall, Titanfall 2 is a solid successor to the original, with marked improvements in the simple mechanics and the variety of ways to play.