You don't even have to love Titanfall to love Titanfall 2
Have you ever gone to a party and met someone that seemed really cool, only to have them kind of disappear off the face of the earth? That Mauricio guy seemed super chill, you and your buds will say sometime after that party. I wonder what happened to him.Titanfall was kind of like Mauricio—a ridiculous, kind of incredible game that was also, unfortunately, a flash in the pan. It was a game about movement—it strapped rockets to your ass and told you to move and never stop moving. You could run along walls, jet up to rooftops, and do the coolest goddamn powerslide in video games. And then there were the Titans: Big-ass war robots that you could call down to the battlefield for some 100-proof carnage.
As great as that all sounds, there were some things about Titanfall that kept it from being the toast of the video game town. It was multiplayer-only, for one: There was no solo story for you to play through, just variations on the standard sort of internet bloodsport that's become the baseline for online competitive gaming. Granted, Titanfall made it more interesting than ever, but support for the game waned a few months after release, with little being done to keep players interested after launch, and exclusivity to the Xbox One keeping the game from anyone who only had a Playstation 4 in their homes.
Titanfall 2, then, is a bit of a coming-out party, where the original game's merits are reasserted and improved upon, while slyly slinging everything the first game lacked with aplomb. Now available on both Xbox One and Playstation 4, sporting a single-player story to play through in addition to a suite of online multiplayer game modes to do battle with online. The latter is as rad as anyone who played the first might remember, the former is an extremely welcome addition.
It's also where the game surprises most. First-person shooters are rarely where the height of video game storytelling takes place, and Titanfall 2 isn't particularly memorable for its plot. It's workmanlike stuff—the world and universe are clearly pretty well fleshed out in the minds of the people who made it, but delivered via a generic story that mostly exists just to get the job done. And that's fine, because Titanfall 2 gets the job done in an astonishing fashion, slowly introducing you to the ways you can jetpack and wallrun and powerslide over and under and around your enemies, hop into your Titan for some dope sci-fi spectacle, and combine the two turn into an unstoppable future ninja, scaling walls to glide over your enemies and wreck them with your shotgun with a giant robot bro watching your back.
This is a great way to get acclimated to Titanfall 2's super-fast, highly mobile style of shooting, because one of the terrible things about having to learn how to play a game online is that everyone, it seems, is instantly better than you. They are trials by fire and sometimes hate speech, as rude people with more time to play than you mow you down over and over again. Play through the story and you'll learn the basics—and be treated to some wild twists on said basics—in a space where you're free to be a badass without the pressure of knowing there are dozens of people out there just waiting to blow up your big beautiful robot pal. (That said, Titanfall 2 does a lot to keep you from feeling helpless and useless—moving your ass is just as easy/fun as it is in the single player, and there's lots of great gear that'll help you gain an edge. Also, most game modes have computer-controlled grunts you can mow down for points and contribute to your team's score.)
One of the terrible things about having to learn how to play a game online is that everyone, it seems, is instantly better than you. But play through the story and you'll learn the basics in a space where you're free to be a badass.
Here is the part of the review where I'm supposed to be a downer and tell you about how Of Course, Titanfall 2 Isn't Perfect. And yeah, it's got some stuff that is less finely tuned than the shoot-y, jetpack-y, robot bits. Like progression—the fancy word video games use when they're structured to dole out rewards for playing. Normally the way this works is that playing nets you experience points. Get enough experience points and you gain a level, gain a level and you get cool new stuff: new guns, colorful new clothes, gear and abilities to use in-game. It is normally a pretty straightforward affair: Here is the carrot, have fun with the stick. Only in Titanfall 2, progression barely makes a lick of sense. After a match, meters will fill and rewards will be doled out for everything—your guns, your Titan, your pilot—but the logic to it is needlessly complex. Fortunately, it doesn't matter all that much, and the principle is the same: Play more, get more stuff.
The Titanfall series gets its name from the term used when Titans are dropped onto the battlefield. Sometimes you're in the Titan when this happens, but most of the time, you're not. Most of the time, you'll be in the middle of a match, maybe doing well, maybe not, as things get increasingly heated and friends and foes alike begin to call in their Titans. Soon, the little meter in the bottom left corner of the screen will fill up, and it'll be your turn. You'll hit a button, and a five-second timer will begin as a voice tells you to "prepare for Titanfall," and your very own giant robot crashes to the earth from somewhere in the sky.
And let me tell you, that shit never gets old.