As we enter the tender twilight hours of the parched summer months, the grinding gears of shooter season 2016 are beginning to fire up as audiences the world over watch with bated breath to discover who will be crowned the king of the FPS mountain this year. First out of the gate is Titanfall 2, the highly anticipated sequel to Respawn Entertainment’s much loved, if rather short-lived mechtastic shooter Titanfall, who’s second tech test concluded last week. As a self-confessed FPS fanatic, I decided to saddle up and launch myself headfirst into the chaotic maelstrom of online multiplayer.
The fundamental component of any shooter, multiplayer or otherwise, is undoubtedly the mechanics. They form the very essence of the game, tying together every other element to create a truly electrifying experience. Nailing this crucial component can mean the difference between success and failure and, thankfully, Titianfall 2 does just that. The shooting is simply exhilarating, and might honestly be the best I have seen for many years. Unlike certain other sci-fi explosion-fests, where the weapons feel like glorified peashooters, every gun I laid my hands upon filled me with a tingling sense of excitement. Each one roars with barely caged animalistic passion, making you feel as if you are truly holding a thing of immense, and scarcely contained power. You feel powerful, a sensation that is carried throughout the rooster of weapons. Of course, it was only a tech test, and thus there were only a handful of guns on offer. I just hope that the rest will be as outstanding as those in the tech test.
The movement system is another essential factor, and while the fast-paced gameplay is as explosively dynamic as you’d expect from a game that includes rocket jumps and wall-running, I can’t help but feel underwhelmed by its originality. It’s too close to the likes of Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare and the Halo series, and if fact manifests rather on the sluggish side in comparison. That’s not to say it’s not fun – leaping like a kangaroo off a building and onto the soft skull of an opponent in utterly fantastic – yet it’s hard to escape the similarities to the game’s competitors. The addition of the grapple hook does inject a sliver of individuality into the movement system, allowing budding players of fulfil their repressed Spider-Man fantasies. However, I found it to be relatively situational, and thus I cannot draw any concrete conclusions on how game changing it might be.
What really sets Titanfall 2 apart, however, are the titans themselves. These hulking machines tower over everything else on the battlefield, dominating the aesthetic landscape and instilling fear in any player unlucky enough to be caught in their crossfire. At least, that’s what you’d expect to happen, but I was left rather underwhelmed by these so-called magnificent mechs. Both titans on offer in the tech test – the flame-spewing Scotch and the pinpoint precise Ion – feel far too vulnerable. Unless multiple team members also possessed titans, I constantly felt powerless and exposed whenever I suited up. This is a huge problem. I should be able to stride around the map, snuffing out enemy pilots as if they were ants under boot, and yet there were preciously few instances where this was the case. Respawn have already addressed the issue of obtaining a titan, making sure that every player will acquire at least one per match, so hopefully they will increase the deadliness of the Titans by the time the game releases this October.
Another issue I have with the tech test are the maps, or rather one in particular. As previously stated above, one of the core fundamentals of Titanfall 2 is the dynamic movement system, and so it is utterly perplexing why Respawn would design a map that disregards such a defining component of the game’s DNA. Homestead is a wide-open zone resplendent in evergreen fields of grass and dotted with the occasional building at the ends and in the middle, as well as a small cave system to one side. In another FPS it might sound like a thrilling arena for some high-octane action, yet the map lacks many areas for wall running and rope swinging. As such, the nitrous-fuelled movement systems are unceremoniously discarded, be it intentional or not by the developers. The other two maps, particularly Forwardbase Kodai, perfectly complement all of the systems of Titanfall 2, and so I hope Respawn take the fan feedback to heart for future maps.
The last, but certainly not least slice I want to touch upon are the gamemodes. The tech test offered up three for players to try: Pilots vs Pilots, Amped Hardpoint and Bounty Hunt. The former two are nothing special, simply being renamed variants of team deathmatch and domination from other shooter franchises. It is the latter, Bounty Hunt, which is the most unique and the most exhilarating to play. The mode features two teams and one neutral A.I faction, with the objective to kill the A.I troops to gain money which have to cash in at two futuristic A.T.Ms. Die and you lose half of your earnings. Kill an opponent and see your dollars spiral into the stratosphere. It’s a fantastic and excitement mode, and one that almost perfectly demonstrates the core advantages of Titanfall 2. The addition of the A.I adds an additional layer of strategy, and the wave-based nature of the mode means that the action becomes concentrated in certain areas of the map, promoting conflict between the players. It helps keep things flowing and prevents, so far at least, from infuriating spawn-trapping, something that blights the Amped Hardpoint gamemode. The A.I is the way to go, so I’m crossing my fingers that Respawn takes note and includes more modes that make use of the brilliant A.I component.
The overall package Respawn have presented in these tech tests has certainly peaked my interest, and potentially ushers forth a bright future for the game come its release later this year. The base mechanics are in place and functioning brilliantly, though for Titanfall 2 to have a modicum of hope to challenging its fellow squad mates Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare and Battlefield, the game needs to ensure its unique qualities are as polished and enthralling as they can be.