The original Titanfall was a lot of fun, but unless you were really into multiplayer, it was also a bit thin. Does the sequel, which adds a single-player campaign and diversifies the multiplayer, add anything? It does, to the degree that the franchise should have never launched without a single player mode in the first place.
Titanfall 2 looks and sounds damn, damn good. While it appears early on that the game going to adhere to the usual level tropes — jungle level, sewer level, etc. — the game quickly takes a surprising and witty turn with its level choices and design. One of the highlights is a crackerjack sequence about halfway through the single-player campaign that takes place in a mysterious factory, which quickly reveals itself as a sly yet affectionate parody of Portal. Everything is beautiful, snappy, clearly marked, and most importantly, fun to play. The soundscapes can get a bit crowded in some areas, which can be a bit of a problem when you have to track enemies with your ears half the time.
Mostly, Titanfall 2 upgrades various aspects of the original game. The platforming and jumping, which felt tight and responsive in the first place, is more finely tuned, something the game shows off with challenge rooms it hides in the single-player campaign. One addition is you now have dialogue options you can pick from as you chat with your Titan, and your choices can affect how it talks to you. That little change makes, surprisingly, a big difference.
Mechanically speaking, Titanfall was rock-solid: Tight platforming, snappy and responsive guns, and gameplay that was fun even when you were getting stomped by a giant robot. That’s all back, with slight tweaks and recalibrations; you can pick up and play the game, and the multiplayer aspect is as fun and surprisingly welcoming to newbies as ever. Even if you’re bad at multiplayer and consistently get killed, you’ll be having too much fun to care.
The single-player, though, adds an essential element in that it both shows off Respawn’s level design chops and gives the game a beating heart. The single-player is classic FPS fun, where you run around like a madman, leaping through the air and pumping bullets into chumps with an extensive arsenal, from an energy weapon that explodes people to sniper rifles to missile launchers. It’s also got an abundance of platforming sequences that are both sturdy, classic ideas and fun new riffs on the concepts of wall-running and double-jumping. But the story it tells becomes affecting as you build a relationship between Jack Cooper, rebel soldier, and BT, his Titan. Titans, it turns out, have personalities and feelings; you can wound BT a little bit by being curt with him, and get warmer responses by being nice to him.
It’s undeniably a simple thing, these dialogue options, but it gives the game a surprising heartbeat in the vein of the classic ’80s action movie. The stakes become surprisingly personal as you learn more about BT and realize that while Titans may not be people, they’re close enough that you care about them. It gives the game a sense of stakes it lacked before, even if the whole war you fight in is rather poorly explained.
The single-player campaign will last you eight to ten hours, depending on whether or not you delve into the various challenge rooms you’ll stumble (you should.) The multiplayer is meaty and engaging, and if you like shooting your friends, it’ll likely be in your rotation for a while.
Maybe you heard there’s a bunch of multiplayer map packs and the like on the way. And there are. But since they’re arriving completely free, with no season pass or credit card needed, it’s safe to say you can buy with confidence.
Titanfall 2 improves an excellent game where it really counts, by making you care. Too often, games focus on world-building at the expense of explaining why you should care about what’s happening, but Titanfall 2 really does make it personal. The result is an incredibly fun game with real heart, and not one you should miss.