It’s funny playing Titanfall 2 after completing Star Wars Jedi Survivor (and Fallen Order) since half the gameplay in Star Wars Jedi Survivor is lifted from this game. The wall running is a copied mechanic with the only difference being that you do it in third person. It has the same funky unrealistic level design that for the most part makes no sense. And it has the same kind of boring generic story that I couldn’t wait for it to finish. Actually, I think Jedi Survivor wins out on this one, Titanfall 2 is just pure suffering when it comes to the narrative. Star Wars Jedi Survivor had me at least a little interested at the end, but then again, it has a famous franchise to fall back on. Titanfall does not.
Middling space epic, here we come!
Titanfall 2 is set in the far future, and there is some kind of war between the core worlds and the colonial population. Much more isn’t told, and I assume there is lore from the first game, but since it didn’t have a campaign I never played it. You play as Jack Cooper, a rifleman in the space infantry. You are supposed to do a planet drop with a bunch of other dudes, but regrettably, you get blasted out of the sky. You crashland, and being the only survivor you have to link up with a still intact mech. See, in this world, mech pilots and mechs bond through some kind of neural link, so not anyone can control these things. Right before the pilot of the mech dies, he orders the mech to bond with you, and from here on out you are a soldier with a semi-sentient mech as a buddy.
The first couple of missions is just pure survival, with extremely little in plot being delivered between missions. There is a human-robot-buddy thing going on, except it felt pretty weak, and the lines delivered you can see coming from a mile away. It’s so pedestrian that the writer that wrote Titanfall 2 must have been the same writer for Respawn Entertainment’s Star Wars games, because it requires some special kind of talent to write this boringly, yet, still recognizable. I’m not kidding, everything is so dull, even the background lore, and I’m a big military sci-fi guy! This should be right up my alley, but it’s oh-so generic, it becomes painful to the mind. All spectacle with zero depth!
Anyway, after a few missions, the story picks up a bit, in theory at least. It doesn’t change anything, with the excitement level remaining low, however, you get an actual storyline to follow, and a reason as to why stuff is happening. It all comes down to the typical doomsday weapon kind of thing, and wouldn’t you know it, you have to stop it before it’s too late as everyone else involved are nowhere to be seen. The story is told as there is a huge war going on, but as usual, you are the only guy around to get anything done for the most part. There are a few interesting missions, like when you come across some kind of time-looping device, and you have to use it as a puzzle tool to complete the level. There are some interesting ideas here, yet, it never feels like it’s part of the narrative. It’s like they came up with the mechanics first, and then shoved it into the story in the hope to make it work.
Even the characterization is meandering. The dude you play as does talk, and you even get to pick the dialogue occasionally, yet nothing interesting ever comes out of his mouth. The same goes for your mech buddy, and everyone else connected to the story. The enemy also got a few named pilots with their own mechs that you interact with throughout the campaign. Sadly, they are as uninteresting as the rest of the lot. I can’t remember a single one of them by name. I know there was a chick, a German guy, and a dude from South Africa, but beyond that, nothing. It does not help that you wipe them out in five seconds flat after all their blustering. Not a lasting impression exactly, which is a real shame because sometimes just having a good villain lifts the story out of the gutter.
You will be shooting a lot
The gameplay is competently made, as in the controls, however, even here the generic feeling comes through, and I would argue it’s mostly because of the already dry setting and story. It’s pretty fast and deadly on the hard difficulty setting, but it has nothing really to make it stand out, and yes, this is with the free-running included. It feels artificial, and I didn’t find it integrated with the combat that often. It’s mostly used when you are moving from one point to another. Instead of ever walking to the next objective normally, you will have to wall run and jump to get over there. It gets old pretty fast, and this exact style of movement mechanics has already been done in Mirror’s Edge. Nothing new here, at least not in the campaign. You also get to control your robot mech friend. The main difference between the human protagonist and the mech is that he can’t wall run, and uses jet packs to dodge attacks, otherwise, it’s pretty similar since he is just a much larger humanoid, well, except that he is a walking tank.
It can be fun to glide around in the mech, especially when you get to blast enemy infantry. Fighting other robots are bit of a hit or miss, though, since either they get smashed within five seconds or you have to pummel several of them with rockets for ten minutes until they all die. In particular in the ending, where you have to fight at least twenty of these things in a row. This also makes the role of the mech a bit odd when it comes to the narrative because you get the impression that they are pretty rare and unique. However, here they are used as regular infantry meatshields, and when you got that many mechs, why even use infantry in the first place? Pilots and mechs are both rare and super-talented soldiers and a commodity that can be wasted on whatever. It makes it a little confusing, and I question the use of a pilot in the first place. The mechanoid AI is advanced enough to handle the missions by himself without the squishy pilot.
Another thing that sinks the gameplay beyond what it should, because as mentioned, the mouse and keyboard controls are tight, is the abysmal AI for the NPCs. It’s completely brain-dead. They mostly just stand around and leave themself open for headshots. On rare occasions, they might seek cover, but mostly they just talk a lot of bullshit and die a horrible screaming death. And the same goes for the robots, both small and big. The small ones just lumber slowly towards you, and the big one got some moves, but they are so goddamn spastic that it borders on comical. I assume it’s supposed to look cool and energic, yet it just feels like the AI is spazzing out, especially when you are fighting several at the same time. They keep dodging into each other, and it’s very noticeable when you got a few mechs on your side. Blocking shots is the name of the game here.
Splendid Source visuals
What is interesting when it comes to the visuals, and what would explain the tight controls is that Titanfall 2 runs on a modified Source engine. Despite my dislike for the story, I can’t complain much about the graphics. It looks fantastic and runs extremely smooth, even when everything is cranked out max. The only thing that drags it down is the aesthetics, but on a technical level, it’s very impressive. It also makes me wish that more developers would use this engine instead of the Unreal engine. Mostly for engine diversity and the different feel when playing, because all these engines do differ from each other on more than just the visuals. The reason I didn’t like the aesthetics that much has to do with the future vision on display. I prefer a more industrial gritty style, like from the Alien movie franchise, instead of this clean high-tech style that most modern productions go with. I usually call it the “Star Citizen” -style with its sleek, samey design that covers everything from spaceships to weapons and suits.
There is one issue I have with the visuals, though, but it lies within the UI, more than the actual graphics for the game. The problem I have with it is that the crosshair is hilariously large for some reason, and the hit markers (which I hate with a passion) block much of the ongoing action. I will never understand why this is a thing in modern games, considering it’s a pure bullshit UI element that is unrealistic and ruins the artwork and visual consistency of any game. I guess blood spurts aren’t enough to confirm shots anymore.
The sound and music are good, quality-wise. While the sound effects are good, and the music passable, the voice acting feels a bit tired. Once again it goes back to how generic the setting is. The voice actors might have done a good job on a technical level, however, the lines they say are just inane. Especially when you listen in on the enemy pilots – yes, we know, they are bad guys since it’s the only thing they talk about.
Overrated if I have a say
I don’t get the rating for this game, on Steam it sits on a ninety-four percent rating which translates to an fantastic game. I don’t see that at all, the campaign is painfully generic and unimaginative. Maybe it’s the multiplayer, but then, how come people don’t play it anymore? From what I can tell, the servers are dead and gone. This is one of those games that are totally lost on me. It has nothing on say Halo when it comes to scale and setting, it feels small while branding the war as something big. Except for a few twists in the gameplay, I was constantly bored, the movement didn’t feel very special, and the story is a black hole of cringe. I’m going to go against the norm here, but I do not recommend Titanfall 2 at all. It’s not even worth it when you are bored, because it will increase that feeling tenfold. Oh well, at least it looks nice!
Thanks for reading.