Titanfall 2 - REVIEW

Standby for Titanfall... Again.

Spiderman vs Spiderman 2. Batman Begins vs The Dark Knight. The Godfather vs The Godfather Pt II. Assassin's Creed Vs Assassin's Creed II.

Sometimes, just sometimes, sequels knock it out of the park, exceeding all expectations regardless of how impressive or financially successful the product preceding it has been. The above are all examples of this, and despite our tendency to dread sequels for fear of them underperforming we have to remember - for every Taken II, there's an Empire Strikes Back.

And so it is with Titanfall 2. In my review of the first game, I noted that despite its anaemic content offering, it was a game filled with small twists on a well-worn formula. Escaping battles via drop ship, surprising AI grunts with a wall-running shotgun frenzy and, of course, calling down one of the titular Titan's all interwove to create a narrative in every match that couldn't be found in any other shooter. Misguided attempts to shoehorn story elements into the game were made up for once all DLC became free and it was even the game that convinced me to jump into the world of Xbox One in the first place.

And therein lies one of the challenge's the sequel has to overcome: with the original game an Xbox and PC Exclusive, and with it's release sandwiched between eternal juggernauts Battlefield and Call of Duty's latest offerings, can Titanfall 2 carve a niche again two and a half years on from its predecessor?

In simple terms, yes. To elaborate, there were glaring omissions with Titanfall's overall package. Beyond reaching different "Regen" thresholds (think Call of Duty's prestige mode) in multiplayer, there was seemingly little to draw you back. A handful of weapons and attachments, three Titan variants and a disappointing lack of single player content (especially from a large group of the people responsible for the stellar Call of Duty: Modern Warfare campaign) meant that Titanfall burnt brightly but burnt out quickly. All of these concerns have been negated in the sequel, and as a result it could be one of the best shooters of the year.

Not the kind of bunch you'd like to meet down a dark alley after hours...

Titanfall 2's newest addition is its campaign mode. The story here is a simple one, and to it's detriment it is painfully familiar. Assuming the role of Jack Cooper (possibly the most generic protagonist name in gaming history), you are a pilot-in-training before (shock horror) receiving your very own Titan when things go awry. So far, so generic, especially when factoring in the game's central conflict between a largely vague militia force and a faceless manufacturing company. What differentiates the story here is the addition of a personality for your death-dealing bipedal companion BT-7274, or "BeeTee" for short. The dialogue between BeeTee and Cooper never feels particularly forced, and while it covers most tropes associated with a robot who takes human phrases too literally, it still has the potential to raise a smile or two. The breadth of environments, from flora to fauna, hint at a wider universe that I hope to see more of in the franchise's future.

Taking only 4 to 6 hours to complete, the game uses its short runtime to its advantage, fitting memorable level design and gameplay mechanics into each half hour chunk. It reminded me of a child opening a toy box and being excited to show you each and every one of it's contents before moving onto the next. From first person platforming segments with a sprinkle of puzzle elements in one section, to manipulating time in the next, Titanfall 2's campaign moves at a breakneck pace. I only wish some elements weren't discarded so quickly, but the way with which it keeps a player interested is something no other campaign has managed to do in a very long time.

This variety carries over into the game's predictably expanded multiplayer suite. Featuring more modes, Titans, weapons and personalisation options than previously imagined, it feels like the game many expected when considering Respawn's pedigree. Wall-running and taking down AI combatants and enemy pilots alike is as thrilling as ever, and somehow feels even more refined. As with the previous game, jumping into your Titan changes the dynamic from a quick flowing, parkour playground into a slower and more methodical game of seeking out those same wall-runners and taking cover from other behemoths using whatever buildings you can as cover. Everything feels balanced to perfection, and without the recharging shields that they used to have, Titans become a lot more vulnerable and a lot more valuable. To repair a Titan you can now remove the battery from your oppositions mech and add it to yours, or hope that a team mate is able to do the same. Unlike previously where Titans were susceptible to pilots jumping on board and causing huge amounts of damage, the battery swapping mechanic ensures that no one is safe - and its a much more exciting game of cat and mouse because of it.

While most modes are standard fare for an online-centric shooter, Bounty Hunt stands out as the pick of the bunch. With both teams taking down rounds of AI-controlled grunts while watching out for each other, you'll earn currency which must be deposited to a bank at the end of each round. This usually involves rushing and using every traversal technique available (including an insanely fun grappling hook) to get there without being chased by an opposing pilot, or worse yet - their Titan. The excellent sound design conveys the frantic nature, with constant gunfire occasionally punctuated by moments of calm before you're on the receiving end of a headshot and lose the majority of the cash you've grabbed. Worth noting as well is that fanfan-favorite Attrition mode returns, having been conspicuous by it's absence during the beta. Racing to be the team to get the most points from killing other players, Titans and grunts is always a rush, as is pushing the other team all the way back to their dropship as they flee when defeated. The promise of free DLC should keep things fresh long into 2017 as well, so be sure to keep an eye out for details for that.

You'll notice that throughout this review i've constantly compared the two games in this fledgling franchise, but it really needs to be commended at how much fuller the title is than its already enjoyable predecessor. In a crowded landscape of excellent shooters this year, Titanfall 2 deserves a spot in your collection.