The original Titanfall was a multiplayer-only game, where you, your robot buddy, and an army did wall-runs, double jumps, and flying knees to defeat the enemy in combat. It was a lot of fun, but the lack of single-player was keenly felt, and was something of a missed opportunity. Respawn, however, has grabbed that opportunity with both hands in Titanfall 2, with a single-player campaign that’s old school in the best way.
The basic plot is straightforward: You are Rifleman Jack Cooper, a grunt who dreams of teaming up with a Titan, a gigantic mech with a neural link to its pilot. After stumbling into an ambush and watching your grizzled mentor get murdered by cartoonishly evil mercenaries, you get a battlefield promotion and start bumping off chumps in deft, snappy combat.
This is not, perhaps, a surprise. Titanfall 2, like the original, is from Respawn Entertainment, a developer that rose from the ashes of an acrimonious split between Infinity Ward’s top team and Activision over the Call Of Duty franchise. So there’s a lot of experience with shooters, but what stands out about the game is how free it feels.
Oh, the shooting is finely tuned, and there’s little flourishes that seem like jokes at first, but that serve an actual purpose. For example, when you land a headshot, enemy helmets go flying off:
The whole game is like this; melee an enemy and when they die, they go flying like you hit them with a truck, and one gun you find early on reduces any human foes to giblets. That’s in service to the very old-school gameplay style; there is no cover button, and you’re expected, rather quickly, to start running on walls while blasting chumps and to keep moving. Holding still for more than a minute is risky, and much of the combat you run into relies as much on reading the environment and figuring out how to use your double-jumps and wallruns strategically as it does running and gunning. For example, early on there’s an excellent sequence where you hop from sniper cover to sniper cover, picking off the enemy, before jumping in and finishing off the leftovers.
Then, there’s the Titans. Piloting a Titan was always a highlight in the last game, and very little has changed, mechanically. And it’s hard to complain when you’ve got moments like this:
Titans are chunkier and not as mobile, so in single-player that tends to be where the game brings its loudest fireworks. There’s definitely strategy at play as you go through; your Titan, contrary to what it can feel like, isn’t bulletproof and can’t take damage forever, so you’ll need to think on your feet when fighting the surprisingly tough Titan AI.
We’re not done with Titanfall 2 yet: A full review will arrive Monday. But if you were hesitant to join the franchise without a single-player mode, Respawn has delivered a ridiculously fun game.