Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 came out on November 10, 2009. The team that defined the modern FPS as we know it disbanded the following year due to a falling out between studio heads and the game's publisher. That team broke off and reformed as Respawn Entertainment, and Titanfall 2 is the first campaign they've crafted since that time. This is all in the record books, but that fact seemed to fly under the radar as EA's hype machine powered on this past year to promote the next in their line of high-octane giant robot shooters. Having achieved proper footing after the original Titanfall, the developers of Titanfall 2 have improved on every facet of the original and added a sorely needed single player component. This is a game that looks to change what people think of as an FPS in the same way that Modern Warfare did in the good old days, and it's hard to argue that they don't succeed.
You play as Jack Cooper, a rifleman of the Frontier who is fighting against an evil mining corporation that wants to take back the land that they legally own. A Titan pilot sees something in Jack and takes him under his wing for some after hours training. A few pretty standard story beats later and Jack is piloting his own Titan and fulfilling the mission given to him by his mentor. The story is bog standard and falls apart the second you think about it too much, but it accomplishes the important goal of allowing players a window into the universe of Titanfall for the first time. There was a story in the first game in theory, and characters do return, but the way that story was presented made it completely forgettable in a way that Titanfall 2's more standardized campaign certainly is not.
Instead of focusing on well-written prose, Titanfall 2 is all about moments, utilizing both a unique movement system and a vast arsenal of sci-fi weaponry to their full potential. Taking inspirations from both obvious and obscure sources, Respawn has crafted a tight string of combat scenarios that both refamiliarize players with Titanfall's combat and offers unique spins on shooter tropes. Not only that, Titanfall 2 is one of the first games to combine the solid first person platforming introduced in games like Mirror's Edge with gunplay that feels on par with anything else out there. Everything about this game feels magnificent, and players of all skill levels will be running across walls and landing insane dropkicks with ease.
That isn't to say that this is a dumb campaign by any stretch. It is an action movie, but the dialogue is well-crafted and clever. This is especially true in the case of BT, the AI of the Titan who accompanies you throughout the six-hour experience. BT's lines land more often than not, and his struggles to understand the snarky quips of your protagonist never stopped being fun. Beyond humor, Titanfall 2 makes you care about BT in a real way, making the ridiculousness of the overall plot mere window dressing for the buddy cop adventure you're living through. You can see some of the character moments coming if you pay attention, but they hit either way and press you to move forward, and that's something to celebrate.
It's clear that Respawn gave both multiplayer and single player the time they needed during Titanfall 2's development. The campaign is filled with unique narrow environments and a handful of exclusive weapons and abilities, and everything looks gorgeous. The game runs extremely smooth on Xbox One, adding another technical showpiece to the console's lineup of shooters. The multiplayer maps take obvious inspiration from memorable single player levels while also having a feel all their own, and there are numerous places on every map for me to hide cloaked in a corner and wait for a hapless AI grunt or human pilot to wander into the barrel of my Sidewinder LMG.
However, the multiplayer is where some of the most questionable decisions of Titanfall 2 were made. While the campaign feels like a game that is breaking out and making a statement, Titanfall 2's multiplayer suite feels like it is reducing its scope in order to please everyone. Unique elements of Titanfall's matches like Burn Cards, the hackable heavy turrets, and the mass of AI controlled soldiers are simply missing from the second game's offerings. AI returns in two modes (Attrition and the new Kill Confirmed-esque Bounty Hunt), but even there it seems reduced from the last game, and there are lulls in the action during matches that simply didn't happen in the original.
That being said, what is here is a wide variety of options that should please all types of players. In addition to the previously mentioned modes, there is a fast-paced Capture the Flag variant, modes that focus on just pilots or Titans, the return of Hardpoint with a twist to make matches move at a quicker pace, and the unique Coliseum mode. That last one is a Final Destination type experience where two players battle it out on a flat arena with nothing but a one hit kill grenade launcher and a short reach phasing ability. It's interesting, and winners of the rounds receive rare and unique cosmetic items, but the requirement that you spend purchasable tickets to enter the mode makes it less appealing. Still, it's easily the most disposable of the game's modes, so players who hate microtransactions aren't missing much at all.
Once you get into a match, you'll notice the same impressive combat feel from the campaign transitioned perfectly into an online setting. Any nagging issues from the Technical Test seem to have been resolved, and I can say with some authority that this is the same great Titanfall gameplay as before. New additions to the sandbox, like the explosive ninja stars and deployable bomb robots, only add to the available options for players, and each encounter feels fresh and challenging inside of the game's bite-sized matches. Considering that Titanfall 2's DLC map additions will be free of charge and the game is available on a console that people seem to like, there is some hope that this game will succeed in capturing an audience where the first one failed.
In the end, I do hope that Titanfall 2 finds success, as it has definitely earned its keep. The game is a newcomer in a sea of remasters, a sharp and satisfying FPS that continues 2016's trend of amazing single player campaigns without skimping on the deathmatch. It's a sci-fi game that's not afraid to go for a fun tone and still brings the serious character moments where it counts. Most importantly, it allows players to pull off amazing feats of agility and deadly precision that make it a blast to participate in. The Modern Warfare team are back folks, and I can't wait to see what thrill ride they take us on next.
Titanfall 2 was reviewed on Xbox One with a Deluxe Edition code provided by EA. It is also available on PC via Origin and PlayStation 4.
Titanfall 2 effortlessly improves on the original release's deep multiplayer gameplay and adds in a memorable single player campaign that stands out from the pack. All that and a bundle of explosive ninja stars make this a must play FPS.(Review Policy)
- Acrobatic and Satisfying Gameplay
- Engaging Campaign
- BT Character Moments
- Loss of Burn Cards and Other Unique Mechanics
- Coliseum Mode Locked Behind Microtransactions