Titanfall 2 aims to take the frenetic shooting, wall-running, mech-blasting gameplay of the first title to new heights, tightening up familiar mechanics while adding a few new toys to play with. A few members of Team GamesRadar+ got to play a round of the upcoming sequel at the recent EA Play event outside E3, and here are some quick thoughts on how it feels and how it compares to the original.
If the first Titanfall was all about making you feel like a badass sci-fi action hero, Titanfall 2 is all about making you feel badder-asser (...that's the proper term, right?). The most obvious addition is the grappling hook, and while it's as thrilling to use as it looks, it's a little tricky to figure out at first. You point your reticule at where you want it to go and fire, but doing so will launch you right into a wall, so you need to boost jump to angle yourself up and over while you're speeding forward. It introduces even more verticality, if you can believe it. But the grappling hook is a specific class skill, so not everyone will have access to it. You can grapple into enemies, like grunts, other pilots, even Titans. It makes rodeoing them much easier - which is good, because it seems like it's an instant kill on Titans now (once you're latched on, you rip their battery out or chuck a grenade in and they're done).
Speaking of Titans, I played in the Ion Titan (the pre-demo video made sure to call the mech out as a 'she', compared to the other one which was a 'he' (maybe that's dependent on their AI voice?). It's a little like the standard Titans from the first game - energy shield, powerful machine gun - but Ion's damage core ability is a giant energy laser that rips through enemy health and shields like tissue paper if you can properly line up the shot. One thing I noticed during my brief demo is that Titans don't arrive on a set timer any more. Instead, their arrival is based entirely around your kills - take out grunts and pilots to fill up the meter. Once it's full, you can summon your mech from the sky. Unlike Killstreaks in Call of Duty, your meter carries over between deaths, so it's much more newbie friendly while still allowing their presence on the field to be more about skill than inevitability.
Somehow Titanfall 2 is even more over-the-top than the first game, and a lot of the changes Respawn have made seem to be about refinement, as well as giving combat a little more personality and edge. And if its single-player campaign can match this pace, it could be incredible.
I wanted to replay the Titanfall 2 E3 demo immediately, and considered queueing again as EA were nudging us out the door – so, yeah, it’s pretty good. Xbox One owners will recognise the feel: snappy targeting and bristling ballistics – as you’d expect of the developers behind Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare – allied to huge agility and verticality. I spent a lot of time juggling weapons (tap triangle), alternating between close range automatic rifle combat, and double-leaping onto raised rooftops to unleash the charged sniper rifle: watch the circular meter spin up to max and unleash for an instant head-shot kill. It seemed easier to earn – and destroy – Titans than I recall, with a shrewd asymmetry between on-foot troops and mech pilots: both sides have pros and cons; subtler than pure mobility versus firepower. PS4 newcomers are in for a treat: with the addition of a true single-player mode, this feels like the real Titanfall, despite the impressive, if restricted, Xbox original.
Despite getting our first look at Battlefield 1 multiplayer during the EA press conference, Titanfall 2 was the game everyone was talking about after the show, and with good reason. All those, what looked to be ‘staged plays’ from the trailer are actually possible, and damn do you feel good when you pull one off. I was playing as ‘grappling hook guy’ and at one point called in my Titan, attached my grapple to it’s head and fired myself across the map landing on an enemy Titan who’s vent was introduced to a grenade. I don’t care if it wasn’t totally intentional because that’s what so good about Titanfall 2. It makes you feel like you're a tactical genius even if you're just making it up on the fly. The original always had that ‘one more round’ appeal and this is no different, as soon as it was over and we were ushered out of the makeshift tent I wanted to go again. The main takeaway though was that it’s a multiplayer shooter that’s a hell of a lot of fun. There’s no hiding in corners and taking pot shots here, you’re on the move all the time and moving fast. So even if you didn’t play the original and you're just shooting grunts to learn the ropes for a few rounds you'll be able to pull off some cool moves with a giant grin on your face. Now where’s the end of the queue…
I was really worried when I heard that Titans are no longer an automatic gimme in Titanfall 2, because I figured unless you were the best of the best, you’d never rack up enough kills to earn one. But Titanfall 2 isn’t about kill streaks and headshots, it’s about being smart, moving fast and any kill kill, be it an AI grunt or player-controlled Titan, counts towards preparing you for Titanfall. We played the new mode Bounty, in which a beefed-up Titan is marked for elimination. Once it’s been suitably softened up - which will take some doing, because these things are tough - either a pilot’s rodeo or a Titan’s melee attack will finish it off and earn points for their team. It was an energized spin on the typical multiplayer kill fests, where taking out enemies isn’t the objective, but a means to an end - namely calling down your own mech from above. If Titanfall was the outline of a great game, Titanfall 2 is all the filled-in details. Now, about that single player campaign...