E3 2016 -- Despite its lack of a single-player campaign, I sunk probably 50 hours into the original Titanfall on Xbox One and PC. It was a successful first effort from Respawn Entertainment, combining the twitch gunplay of games like Call of Duty with just a taste of the massive mech power fantasy I've been craving since the original Xbox's MechAssault. I'll be honest though, the trailers for Titanfall 2 didn't get me too pumped up, but when I got my hands-on the sequel at EA Play during E3 this week, my tune changed significantly. From what I experienced, Titanfall 2 is notable improvement on the original's multiplayer, although we didn't get even a peek at the single player, offline campaign.
Our group (and I believe everyone else) played on PlayStation 4. As much as I preferred Titanfall on PC, it's a smart move to highlight Sony's system here because it was left out in the cold for the original Microsoft exclusive. Like the original, it's also tuned nicely for controller play, and Sony's console handled the action exceptionally well. Thus far in development, Titanfall 2 is running at a smooth 60fps (no slowdown detected even during moments littered with grunts and Titans) on a version of the Source engine that's been heavily modified since the original shooter. I know gang, I wish it used Frostbite too. Still, it looks noticeably better, although some indoor environments -- walls especially -- almost looked like muddy screen doors. We're still in unfinished territory though, so no judgment until it hits retail.
The multiplayer mode we played was Bounty Hunt, which tasks your team with taking down designated Titans by executing them up close, or by pulling off a rodeo takedown. I noticed something when I had the chance to score my first bounty: the rodeo process was more involved and took several seconds longer. That's because now you have to essentially break into the Titan's chassis and lob a grenade inside. You're not just destroying a mech, though, you're stealing health. Your pilot -- if he or she survives the move -- will escape with a battery that can be given to teammates to heal up their own Titans. That should facilitate a bit more teamwork -- even if no one's communicating.
It was downright thrilling to be able to launch my Ion Titan's ridiculous laser cannon attack (which is about as wide as the mech itself and just wrecks whatever is in front of it), hop out, rodeo the bounty, and escape the chaos to heal a struggling teammate. I also noticed that your mechs can absorb a bit more damage than the last outing, meaning you'll be in the cockpit a little longer than last time around.
Oh, and your Titan is earned now. You can't just call it down after a timer expires. Fortunately, hordes of grunts and Sentinels are still roaming the streets for you to mop up. I wish human pilots were more easily identifiable though. Sure, you can tell from their Gamertag and probably their movement style, but it can be tricky to assess the risk in your peripheral vision.
My time with the game was tragically shorter than I wanted (basically 15 minutes or about two rounds), so while I can't remember specifics like weapon names, I can tell you that overall they felt more imaginative, more futuristic, and the gunplay itself felt fantastic. And there's an even stronger emphasis on verticality now, with items like grappling hooks that allow to mount a Titan the direct way, or reaching very elevated areas for your sniper to start double-tapping enemies.
Overall, Titanfall 2 was awesome. I slipped right back into it, my muscle memory kicking in almost instantly despite not having played it in nearly 16 months. Overall gameplay felt faster and twitchier, and it's undergone a serious visual upgrade (even on the console). I do wish we could have at least seen a glimpse of the single player campaign, but with all new mechs, revised classes and loadouts, and some tasty new modes, I think Titanfall 2 is shaping up to be well worth its asking price.
Of course you can expect a full review as we get closer to its launch date this fall.
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