Respawn Entertainment was triumphant at E3 2013. Vince Zampella took to the stage to announce Titanfall, the first game the ex-Infinity Ward director had worked since his departure from the Call of Duty studio. Everyone loved it, and then it launched. Despite some solid praise and excellent gameplay, Titanfall quickly faded from memory. Now Respawn is back with Titanfall 2 and the developer is hoping to make the franchise stick this time.
I got to go hands-on with Titanfall 2 at E3 2016, playing a few rounds of the brand new Bounty Hunt game mode on the Boomtown map. If there’s one thing Respawn is driving home from the get-go is that the Titanfall experience is finally on PlayStation. The team told me just how excited they are to bring the game to the 40+ million players on PS4. In fact, the E3 demo was only playable on PS4. Don’t worry Xbox One and PC players, Titanfall 2 is still launching on those platforms.
Titanfall 2 keeps a lot of what made Titanfall such a hit to play. The shooting feels snappy and fluid, and the game still down wall-running and double jumping better than any of its competitors. It can be extremely satisfying to chain together all the different type of movements to land satisfying kills. Of course, there’s also been plenty of improvements to soldier combat. The Front Rifleman class had access to the new grappling hook, allowing him to zoom across the rooftops, and rodeo up Titans. Players are also now able to power slide, a handy tool for getting out of firefights.
Respawn Entertainment has also put a lot of time into addressing the concerns of the first game. A major problem was Titan variety. There were only three different Titans, and they all played mostly the same. This is not the case with Titanfall 2. I was shown two Titans; Scorch and Ion. Scorch is an evolved form of the Atlas Titan from the first game. He is capable of launching a mortar shell that unleashes flames upon impact, fire a line of flames, and holds up a flame shield that melts all incoming fire. Finally, his ultimate sends out a massive wave of flames that cover a huge arc.
Ion comes equipped with a Splitter Rifle capable of shooting up to three shots at once. He also gets the returning Vortex Shield, which collects incoming bullets and sends them hurtling back at enemies. Any critical hit Ion lands help to restore a little energy. Finally, Ion’s ultimate sends out a red beam capable of dealing massive damage.
Titans are still massively fun to play, and actually have to be earned this time. In the original game, Titans were handed out based on a time. In Titanfall 2, players actually have to earn the right to climb a Titan. Also, Respawn confirmed that there will be six Titans, this time, around, and one of them will have that awesome sword we’ve seen in the trailers.
Another problem area in the original was the AI allies and map flow. In the original, it was hard to find human players, and maps rarely flowed well. Respawn has really tackled this issue with its game modes. Some feature AI, and some don’t. Those that have AI do their best to funnel players towards certain objectives. Take Bounty Hunt. Yes, it has AI, but the objective charges players with killing the AI within two specific areas. Naturally, players are drawn to these areas like flies. While I did kill a lot of AI, I also found plenty of human players to fell with my rifle.
Finally, Respawn has taken steps to improve Titanfall 2’s visuals. While speculation suggested that the game would be running on the Frostbite 3 engine, in reality, Titanfall 2 is running on a heavily-modified version of the Source engine. The team has taken to calling it the ‘Titanfall engine’ due to the massive changes they’ve implemented. Though it may not look quite as good as Battlefield 1, Titanfall 2 does look much better than its predecessor. It does run at a buttery smooth 60fps and man did it feel good.
Unfortunately, I did not get to see anything from the single player campaign. EA and Respawn clearly wanted to focus on the multiplayer experience at E3 2016. I was told that players will not have to know the plot from the first game to understand what’s going on in Titanfall 2. Titanfall 2 takes place years after the first game and stars a batch of new characters.
Titanfall 2 left us very impressed. After being disappointed with the first game, it was fantastic to see Respawn return with a product that corrects so many issues from the original. The AI are still there, but the game mode did a fantastic job funneling players to certain areas of the maps. Titans are more unique and there are a lot more of them. Shooting still feels amazing and it looks like there is going to be a wide selection to choose from. This finally appears to be the game we were so excited for back at E3 2013.
Titanfall 2 is out October 28 on PS4, Xbox On and PC. A multiplayer stress test will launch sometime later this year. Platforms for the stressed test have yet to be announced.