As much fun as 2014’s multiplayer-centric Titanfall may have been, which is a lot, the lack of a single-player campaign was a rather glaring omission. But while Titanfall 2 (PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC) thankfully corrects this error, and in spades, it does so without sacrificing the game’s established, and still solid multiplayer. Which is why this sequel ranks among the year’s best shooters and strongest overall games.
For those who missed the original, here’s a quick recap. Titanfall 2 is a first-person sci-fi shooter in which you use futuristic versions of machine guns, shotguns, and pistols to fight other humans and their humanoid robot companions. Though you also have at your disposal a Titan, which is like a more advanced version of the mechs from The Matrix movies.
What sets Titanfall 2 apart is that when you’re on foot, you’re more nimble than your counterparts from such similar sci-fi shooters as the Halo games or the Borderlands series. In both the single and multiplayer modes, you can not only slide like in MLB 17: The Show, and can wall-run like in a Prince Of Persia game, but you also have mini jetpacks that allow you to double jump like in the new Doom. You also, in multiplayer, have the option to employ a grappling hook like you had in Batman: Arkham Knight and Batman: Return To Arkham. Best of all, you can keep shooting while you’re sliding, double jumping, wall-running, or grappling your way around the battlefield.
While the biggest addition to Titanfall 2 is its single-player campaign, for many people, this sequel and this series are all about multiplayer. So let’s start there.
Not surprisingly, multiplayer in Titanfall 2 plays much like it did in the first game. Which is good because multiplayer in Titanfall was fast, furious, and especially addictive. That said, there are some minor changes and addition to this game’s online modes. Not the least of which is that you have six new models of Titans to choose from, all of which have their own special abilities.
Along the same lines, Titanfall 2 adds more customization and a deeper progression to both its humans and Titans. Besides the usual aesthetic options so you can make yourself all pretty, this also gives you a wide variety of guns, weapon attachments, and execution moves for when you’re on the ground, as well as similar offensive and defensive attachments for your Titan. You also get to pick a “Boost,” which can “increase damage for your primary and secondary weapons,” “scramble the enemy’s radar,” or give you an “anti-personnel automatized turret” with a “1 minute life time.”
Titanfall 2 also makes some minor changes to the rules of some multiplayer modes. Take “Capture The Flag,” which largely works here as it did before, and it does in other games. Except now, if you’re killed while you have the flag, you drop the flag next to your body, where it stays for a few moments. This not only allows your teammates to grab it and run off, but your opponents can as well, though the latter have to hold it for a few seconds before they take possession.
Then there’s “Attrition,” which is basically “Team Deathmatch” and plays accordingly. Except that along with a team of human opponents, you also face a third team comprised of A.I.-controlled enemies. What’s different in Titanfall 2, as opposed to the original, is that those computer-controlled enemies get increasingly tough as the match progresses. After taking on human soldiers, you move up to CHAPPiE-looking Specters, then to larger models called Stalkers, and finally to the super tough Reapers.
Titanfall 2 also now lets you form groups of friends, much like a guild in an MMO. This allows you to not only move from match to match as a group, which is not uncommon, but it means you can easily reconnect with this group when you play another day. You can even form multiple groups in case some friends only play “Amped Hardpoint” (a capture point-style game), but others prefer “Pilot Vs. Pilot” (a.k.a. “Team Deathmatch” with no Titans).
What ultimately makes the multiplayer in Titanfall 2 so much fun, though, is something that hasn’t changed, and it’s that this game’s basic mechanics make it unique among first-person shooters. Chief among these is the verticality you gain from being able to wall-run, double jump, and use Batman’s grappling hook. Though it also amps up the action in such modes as the “Team Deathmatch” variations as “Bounty Hunt,” “Last Titan Standing,” and “Attrition” that you can go all MechaGodzilla when Amazon drops your new Titan onto the battlefield.
While multiplayer in Titanfall 2 is as rock solid as it was in the first game, the biggest improvements actually come in the game’s story mode. In the original Titanfall, the campaign was just a succession of loosely connected multiplayer matches loosely strung together with bits of story and played with other people. But the one in Titanfall 2 is a linear, story-driven series of battles that comes from the same people who previously devised the excellent single-player campaigns in Call Of Duty 4: Modern Warfare and Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.
Even cooler, it’s a single-player experience. Because it was a co-op multiplayer thing, you could only play the campaign in Titanfall if other people were playing it, and even then the odds of them being at the same point of the story as you were slim. But by making the campaign in Titanfall 2 a solo experience, you’ll be able to play it now, a year from now, two years from now, and so on.
Which is good because the campaign in Titanfall 2 is so effortlessly fun that you’re going to want to play it multiple times.
In Titanfall 2‘s story-driven campaign, you’re cast as a rifleman in the Frontier Militia. After being shot down over the planet Typhon, you have to take control of your commanding officer’s Titan and complete his mission: locating and investigating a research facility being run by the IMC, much to the chagrin of the trigger-happy mercenaries they’ve hired to protect it.
Or, to put it another way, Titanfall 2 is a cross between Avatar and a Lethal Weapon-esque buddy cop movie if it was written by John Scalzi (Old Man’s War) and co-starred the Hulkbuster suit from Avengers: Age Of Ultron and the guy who voices the promos for The Walking Dead on AMC.
As in the original, you spend most of your time Titanfall 2 shooting soldiers and humanoid robots, both on foot and in the larger feet of your Titan. Except, as I mentioned earlier, you’re not always on your feet since you can double jump, wall run like a ninja, or slide on your butt like a second baseman. Which not only makes you nimble, but it also adds a bit of platforming to the proceedings.
The platforming in Titanfall 2 works especially well for a multitude of reasons. Not only do the controls make it feel more intuitive than similar mechanics did in Deus Ex: Mankind Divided and Mirror’s Edge Catalyst, but it’s always driven by the story and the terrain, and never feels like you’re solving a puzzle or running through a sadistic obstacle course, even when it does get creative or require a bit of trial and error. This is especially true when you get a rather clever bit with some cranes, during which you have to seamless chain together wall-runs and double jumps. Well, unless you want to fall to your death.
More importantly, because many battles take place in mid-size to large areas with open floor plans, you can use the platforming, as well as these area’s inherent multiple points of ingress, to approach both your enemies and your objectives in different ways (though this also means your enemies can come at you from all sides). You can even stealth kill enemies if you approach them from behind, either by using your personal cloaking device or, if it’s run out juice, by just being slow and careful.
Even your Titan gets to do cool new stuff in Titanfall 2. While the campaign has you using a model not available in multiplayer, you can actually pick up their weapons as you make your way through the campaign. This not only gives you their guns, but their special attacks and defensive moves as well. Even better, you can switch between these weapon loadouts on the fly, even mid-battle.
All of which is motivated by Titanfall 2‘s epic and often explosive story, which is told with cinematic flair. It’s not quite as grand as the tales told in Call Of Duty 4: Modern Warfare and Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 — there’s nothing as emotionally effecting as the part in the latter when you come out of a bunker onto the lawn of an occupied White House — but it does do a great job of making you care what happens next, while also setting up the action nicely. It even has some funny bits that are actually humorous without being jokey.
Unfortunately, while all of these elements work well in Titanfall 2, there are some minor issues with the campaign. Like how you can’t turn the music down or off like you can in multiplayer. Or how one of the bad guy’s Arnold Schwarzenegger-sounding voice renders him complete non-threatening. Or how you can’t mix and match the offensive and defensive capabilities of the various Titans.
Titanfall 2 also has a problem so prevalent in video games these days that I cut and paste this paragraph into every relevant review I write: some of the type is too small. If you sit at a reasonable distance from your television — y’know, like your mama told you to — you’ll have trouble reading the captions. Which is odd given how the developers had the forethought to put the captions in black boxes so the white text wouldn’t disappear against the light colored backgrounds.
Even with these minor annoyances in the campaign, Titanfall 2 is still one of the best shooters of the year (high praise when you consider this year has also given us The Division, Doom, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, Battlefield 1, Far Cry Primal, and Gears Of War 4), and one of the best all-around games (add Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, and Forza Horizon 3 to the previous paragraph). Best of all, it corrects a glaring error in the original, while not messing up what worked so well in that first game.