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Like you, I was worried. The slower running speed. The Titan battery health system. The open map design. An array of changes discovered in the multiplayer tech test that threatened to make Titanfall 2 not feel so much like Titanfall. And I loved Titanfall. Probably a bit too much, truth be told.
But while those changes still exist in the final game, they don’t make as much of an impact to its overall feel as you may expect. Yes, they affect strategy – making daring runs to grab a battery and recharge your Titan was never a thing in the original. But after some extensive play you can understand the thinking behind it. With batteries (aka health packs) available on the battlefield, there’s now an incentive to get out of your Titan before it’s completely destroyed, or if you’re the more considerate type, help teammates out of a tight spot. There’s something a little sad about waving goodbye to the thrill of blowing a
Titan’s brains out, I’ll admit, but in terms of balance and design, the new system is a little more considered.
And there’s no question here: The first time you load up Attrition on one of the more built-up maps (Black Water Canal, Boomtown and Exoplanet being three of my initial favourites), it is still unmistakably Titanfall. Attrition remains the highlight by far, tasking two teams of players with killing AI troops and opposing team members to score points. An AI kill nets you 1 point while a
player kill nets you 5. The first to 400 wins. It felt fresh in the original and it still feels great here, with the mix of AI and human enemies putting a terrific spin on your standard online shooter. It’s still one of my favourite game modes in any multiplayer FPS, and it continues to live up to its reputation here.
Personally speaking, I quite like Bounty Hunt, too, the divisive new mode debuted in the tech test that has players killing AI enemies for cash and banking their takings after each wave. Killing an opposing team member nets you half of their unbanked cash, too (and likewise, being killed gives them 50% of your unbanked amount), resulting in a
tense risk/reward game mode unlike any other. Bounty Hunt won’t be for everyone (clearly), but don’t take its prominence in the tech test as an indication that Respawn has gone and fluffed the whole thing up. If you loved Attrition in the original, I’d be surprised if it disappointed you here.
Maps are generally excellent (just one map – Complex – hasn’t quite jelled with me yet), with their remarkable design allowing for the same wallrunning opportunities as the original. Don’t take Homestead’s open design as being the rule for the rest, either. Others have the same urban, industrial feel of the original, and are superbly crafted for Titanfall’s momentum. My only initial criticism would be that some of their aesthetic similarities can make it difficult to distinguish between certain ones.
Different players will respond differently to the game’s new loadout options, too. In the early game I’ve been more of a traditionalist, largely mimicking my play style of the original and failing to yet work out how to use the new grappling hook particularly well. Instead, I’ve been sticking to using the cloak (as many others have, too, it seems), which has been given a slight buff for the new game, temporarily painting you near-invisible until you fire your gun, and, depending on how much time you have left, re-activating once the shooting stops. Stim is back too, buffed to make you run even faster but for a
much more limited amount of time. Again, they’re changes that some hardcore fans may scoff at or take a bit of time to readjust to, but they aren’t major enough to stray too far from the overall feel of the original.
Sadly, then, one of the biggest elements working against Titanfall 2 isn’t the changes to its own design, but those of the competition. Two years ago, Titanfall’s kinetic energy felt fresh and unique, but after a year of Black Ops 3’s successful imitation, it doesn’t quite have the same impact it once did. Respawn still does it better, for what it’s worth – the larger maps and greater verticality work in favour of a movement system like this – but when the biggest multiplayer shooter of the last year has been doing it too, it’s hard to replicate the same wow factor two and a half years on.
And then there’s the release date. Sandwiching Titanfall 2 directly between Battlefield 1 and Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare/Modern Warfare Remastered is a potentially grave mistake by the publisher and developer, and with four huge multiplayer shooters releasing in the space of three weeks, it’s easy to see Titanfall 2 fall the victim. It’s the least established to begin with, but its perception has also been damaged amongst some fans (perhaps wrongly so) by the tech test. And let’s not forget, despite being superb, the original gained itself a reputation for being underpopulated.
That’s no reason not to pick up the sequel, of course, but in an industry as fast-paced as this one, it does require a little more thought when there’s so much on the market to choose from. Had Titanfall 2 released at any other time of year I’d be urging shooter fans to buy it without hesitation, but it’s a relatively harder sell when everyone is still talking about how great Battlefield is. And when one of the best multiplayer shooters of all time is returning next week.
Ultimately, then, you’ll probably want to know which one is best. And while I’m not in a position to score it just yet (multiplayer servers only went live on Thursday) or compare it to Call of Duty (reviews for that don’t go live until next week), rest assured that Titanfall 2 doesn’t disappoint. It is an excellent multiplayer shooter that more than lives up to the standards set by the original, filled to bursting with unlocks, well-crafted maps and terrific gunplay. Yes, there are some changes, and no, you may not agree with them all. But it’s still Titanfall. And you don’t know how relieved I am to say that.