1ST2H: Impressions on the first two hours of gaming, working through some of my unplayed titles. Less about the overall game, more about that first experience.
Platform / Released: Playstation 4 (slim) / 2016
Developer / Publisher: Respawn Entertainment / Electronic Arts
It’s good, I urge that you play it. And then to hope Titanfall 3 happens, too, and is just as good. Phew, that’s the lede out of the way. Now I can bang out the rest of this write-up and get back to the game.
Titanfall is a first-person shooter series set in a sci-fi universe. Players control human ‘pilots’ who have a number of pistol/rifle/heavy/special weapons at their disposal to defeat enemies as they traverse the world by foot. Nothing unusual there. Enemies faced in the campaign mode are either sentient or robotic, or they are other players in the multiplayer arenas. Nothing particularly different there, either.
Where the game does start to vary is the less-common wall-jump, using a built-in jump pack to leap and run along vertical surfaces, which adds a third dimensional parkour aspect to the game and opening up the environment. Which is a pretty gorgeous one at that. This game looks good.
Oh, and then you have titans. No biggie.Just GIANT ROBOTS WITH HUGE KICK-ASS WEAPONS.
Players can summon their companion Titan in-game, a huge bipedal battle suit, watch it fall from the sky as it is deployed (Titan-fall, see?), then enter the machine and pilot it themselves. Usually while laughing uncontrollably about revenge.
Titans are scaled to about seven meters tall and pack some serious punch. Enemies who were bothersome on the ground are trivially easy to dispose of while in a Titan, and there is a sense of invulnerability that comes from striding around the battlefield unleashing obnoxious levels of devastation. Crushing defeat is generously handed out in a manner that only Internal Auditors and Compliance Officers usually get to experience.
There are other Titans out there too, of course. Should you encounter one while you are not in yours, you are probably dead if you don’t run (or wall-run) away very quickly. If you are actually in your Titan, however, then the game changes mode and becomes one of cat-and-mouse pursuit around scenery, trying to use buildings and and force-shields to get out of the way of their punishing ordinance – all the while trying to land your own return fire at high enough levels to cause them to detonate.
For the first two hours of playing I concentrated on the campaign mode. I loved Titanfall 1 when it was released in 2014, but was never good enough to survive against other players for particularly long. Possibly the only gripe, anyone ever had about Titanfall 1 was the lack of a campaign mode to play in, and Titanfall 2 addresses that. And it addresses it oh-so very well.
The campaign follows the story of you, an unexpectedly promoted pilot, who must now bond with a Titan and learn to control it, all the while being stranded behind enemy lines after a mission went wrong. Titans have a ton of sensors and a sort of AI built into them, and the missions base themselves around you and it working together to navigate enemy facilities. Sometimes you go it alone to get through narrow points and trigger switches or building control panels, then try to meet at a rendezvous point. Other times, you control the Titan yourself and unleash merry hell. This gives a surprising sense of changing scale throughout the game, switching priorities back and forth as you start to think of yourself as the smaller-sized part of a twin entity.
The story so far has been easy to understand, forgiving in its pacing and save points, and unexpectedly amusing. The Titan you control, dubbed ‘BeeTee’, is surprisingly sly in some of its remarks and responses to you.
A series of boss fights occur through the play; enemy-controlled Titans who are increasingly annoyed that you are disrupting their plans. The campaign has, so far, been fairly linear – but the maps I’ve been playing through more than make up for this in their imagination. The sense of depth was particularly striking during one level, navigating a vast production line inside an enormous industrial fabrication facility.
At the time of writing I’m a little stuck on one end-boss, as I’m having to learn a new skill. The game has been ramping up difficulty in a steady learning curve, throwing in hints when I’m stuck, but now someone has given and enemy titan a sword. A seven-meter tall robot keeps charging at me, with a SWORD. It’s unnerving.
Even three years after the game’s release I’m told that the player-base is alive and well. When I do feel brave enough to face off against other players I’ll definitely give the multiplayer combat a try, but I expect to be bad. Really, really, bad.
Titanfall 2 is said to be one of the better first-person shooters. Sadly, EA chose to release it right between the two FPS behemoths Battlefield and Call of Duty. One of these was even another EA game. Unfortunately, this meant that Titanfall 2 went overlooked and didn’t sell as well as it should have. Even now, there is no firm word on whether there will be a Titanfall 3. The October EA earnings call name-checked the franchise, but also confirmed there is nothing currently in the works.
While that is a shame, it does not take away from what Titanfall 2 is. It is a great, fun, and pleasantly different FPS game with amazing mechanics in both the wall running and the titular Titans. At a time when games-as-a-service are being touted by the major studios, and where single player content seems to be fading away in place of monetisation opportunities, Titanfall 2 shines as an example of a game with high production values and a desire to create a fun gaming experience.
If you don’t smile in glee when you first take over the awesome firepower of a titan… well… maybe there’s no hope for you.