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Let’s Ramble About Titanfall 2’s Tech Test

August 29, 2016

August is reaching its end. Battlefield 1’s beta is on the horizon, but before we go back in time to World War 1, let’s talk about the sci-fi future of Titanfall, as well as my thoughts about the sequel, Titanfall 2, and more specifically the technical test (the names for these public test demos really are all over the place) which was held over the past couple of weekends.

First: Titanfall. After the Infinity Ward/Activision fallout, the development team Respawn Entertainment was born, spearheaded by the brains behind the rise of Call of Duty as a blockbuster franchise, Jason West and Vince Zampella.
The next generation of consoles was upon us, and as a fan of, let’s say, degrading interest of the Call of Duty franchise, the idea of the minds behind Modern Warfare blowing the hinges off of the shooter genre once again was quite exciting.
Respawn’s first game would be Titanfall.

Sporting cloud-driven AI combatants, big burly mecha, and (in my opinion) a brilliant attempt at telling a narrative through competitive multiplayer, Titanfall didn’t fail to impress by terms of gameplay, but was indeed lacking in available modes, and despite being developed behind the minds behind Modern Warfare, lacked a worthwhile progression system to keep you playing.

But still, good first try.

Which brings us to Titanfall 2. Gone is the competitive campaign. In are the class-based Titans. Gone is the pumping multiplayer music. In are the grappling hooks.


A Soldier With a Story
I was one of the people who loved campaign multiplayer in the first game. While being immersed in a shooter isn’t a difficult thing to do, Titanfall’s campaign (and to a lesser degree, regular ol’ multiplayer) was the closest I’ve gotten to feeling like I was stepping into a living world within a competitive game; like a mercenary on the frontier “getting it done”.
This was achieved through the radio play-esque delivery of the narrative, where the big names on either side chatter at one another throughout the match, clearly expressing that there is unfinished business between them, but as well as through smaller, out-of-match things, such as the introduction of the Burn Cards system.
Non-player characters speak directly to you, but it never felt as though they were speaking only to you. You were but one spear in the stack, and that to me, in a way, is even more immersive than the run-of-the-mill “Universe Revolves Around You” narratives games typically deal in.

If the story trailers that have been released, as well as the technical test are any indication, Titanfall 2 is brushing aside their push toward that immersive multiplayer experience, and while I’m greatly disappointed in that, what we’re getting (again, judging by the tech test) is a wonderfully refined continuation to many of the concepts laid down in the first game.


A Grunt on the Ground
First, the on-foot. I won’t lie to you. Despite all of the things I loved about the first game, I hated the on-foot gameplay. Running, jumping, wall-running and shooting was smooth and perfectly suited for cruising circuits around the map while taking out small legions of AI enemies on the way, but the moment a player met another player, it all felt like a flimsy mess. Health pools were low, weapons were accurate, and the movement abilities, while well-suited for traversing the map, didn’t mingle especially well within player-on-player engagement.
In Titanfall 2 however, the movement speed has been cut down a small bit, and while you will occasionally get caught up on rocks or other small outcrops within the environment, the slightly reduced movement speed makes the traversal mechanics feel less flimsy, and more empowering. After a very small acclimation period, you’ll be zipping around maps in creative free-form ways without so much as thinking about it.
As far as the gunplay goes, there have been improvements there as well. Weapons aren’t as accurate as they used to be. Player health pools seem to have gotten an ever so slight boost. Human players now faintly glow at a distance to make them easier to pick out from the environment and AI combatants.

Titanfall 2 still adheres to the Call of Duty logic of “If I spot you before you spot me, I will likely kill you effortlessly”, but offers enough battlefield chaos that it doesn’t feel like you’re constantly just being shot in the back and killed upon spawn, which is what recent Call of Duty games have suffered from.
The weapons themselves are more diverse than the ones found in the first game, and more unique by terms of shooters in general. The shotgun this time around, for example, fires a volley of energy in a straight horizontal line, while one of the LMGs fires slower moving bolts of energy, and can overheat, but never needs to be reloaded. I can most certainly see myself having more than one custom class in Titanfall 2, whereas in the first game I saw very little reason not to just roll around with the default assault rifle.
And I need not mention how satisfying the grappling hook traversal is. (But it is.)


A Walking Armored Whale With a Gun
The biggest gameplay changes seemed to have been aimed at the Titans, and it has made not only the Pilot-to-Titan interaction more interesting, but the Titan-on-Titan violence as well.
Class-based shooters are big now. “Hero Shooters” they call them. Overwatch. Black Ops 3. You choose a character with abilities specific to that character, and while they may be less effective at doing specific things over other classes, their own traits are what makes them feel unique. This is what Titans now are.
The technical test only included two of the new mecha, the cutty shooty laser behemoth Ion, and the hulking, brutish fire-belcher, Scorch. Ion was my go-to, as it felt like more of a in-between of attack and defensive abilities, and had a dash by default, but Scorch seemed to be a perfectly viable choice, especially for mopping up waves of AI, as it had greater area of effect abilities than Ion did.

As mentioned before, not all Titans will be able to dash from the start (though one of the perks you can choose for your Titan gives it one, or an extra if one already exists), and where in the original game, Titans were basically bigger, tougher soldiers with some new abilities here or there, the gameplay for Titans in this game is based around utilizing your chosen Titan’s tailored abilities, and the cooldowns associated with each.
In the first game, Titan combat seemed to be primarily attrition-based. The team with more in a given scrap would more than likely be the team to win said scrap. In Titanfall 2 however, (and some of this is no doubt due to the playerbase on PS4 being newer to it) there were loads of occurrences of me being outnumbered in a Titan and feeling like if I managed my cooldowns correctly, and the other players did not, I could come away from the battle the victor.
In Titanfall 1, I got in my Titan because I felt silly not doing so. In Titanfall 2, I got in my Titan TO. DESTROY. EVERYTHING.
The mechanics for rodeoing a Titan as a Pilot have been changed. You can still hitch a ride on a friendly Titan, but jumping onto an enemy will play out an animation where you grab a battery off of its back (which can then be played into a friendly Titan to give it health, ultimate ability charge and a snazzy overshield), or if the battery has already been removed, toss a grenade in to do a chunk of damage instead.
What comes out of it can be a chaotic series of jumping from the top of one Titan to another to juggle batteries, and can leave the battlefield riddled with green cylinders once the dust settles.


My Age In Experience
The progression system was one of the weakest aspects of the first game. After a couple of hours you generally had the gun and perks you wanted, and while the game had a prestige system similar to Call of Duty, thanks to the crummy progression rewards, losing all of your unlocks didn’t really carry much weight.
If I remember correctly, the technical test was capped at player level 15 during the second weekend, and while the full game will answer whether or not the progression loop is satisfying or not, the flow of the unlocks, as well as the value of the items being unlocked is designed much better this time.
Weapons and Titans level up separate to your player level, and items you want before you are of a level high enough to unlock naturally can be bagged up through spending in-game currency earned through just playing the game. Hopefully the inclusion of in-game currency used to unlock things early doesn’t portend a micro-transaction disaster akin to Halo 5 or Black Ops 3.

I was excited for Titanfall 2 even before playing it, since the first game had a number of tremendous ideas which were executed in a serviceable way, and my ‘Rule of the 1st Sequel’ decrees that the first sequel to a franchise is almost always the best in the series.
Now I’m sitting on the other side of the technical test, and while I am undeniably bummed that some of my favorite things about the first game appear to have been tossed out (multiplayer NPC chatter and music primarily), the gameplay has been so wonderfully honed down that it would be impossible not to look forward to it.
It will be a crowded shooter season this year, but I know that even if the other big names on that list fail to deliver, Titanfall 2 is lookin’ mighty fine.

From → Games

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