Early Impressions: TITANFALL 2
Back in June, we were teased with a whole lot of goodness at E3, and TITANFALL 2 was EA’s choicest item on the menu. While the Battlefield franchise is veering off on its own historically bastardized tangent, Titanfall appears to be EA’s direct answer to the giant that is Call of Duty. Though its late October release is still a few months off, Respawn Entertainment has launched a multiplayer beta (sorry, “pre-alpha technical test”) for console versions of the game. After playing quite a bit of it, however, TITANFALL 2 is beginning to look less like a challenger to COD and more like a clone. But more on that in a bit.
TITANFALL 2’s beta comes stock with three gametypes: Pilots vs Pilots, Bounty Hunt, and Amped Hardpoint. Pilots vs Pilots is your vanilla team deathmatch, while Amped Hardpoint is a reworked version of the Hardpoint mode from the original TITANFALL. Teams fight for control of three objective markers to score points, but this time around, campers can stick around to “amp” the sites so that they generate more points. It’s a general improvement in that it adds nuance to the mode, giving teams the choice between aggressive expansion or the strengthening of their territory.
Bounty Hunt is a mix of new and old, recontextualizing TITANFALL’s PvE elements into a mad SMASH TV-esque cash grab. NPC enemies spawn into the map, but rather than supplementing either side, these AI make up a third faction that is hostile to both human teams. Killing one of these mooks nets players’ money that can be cashed in at terminals, and the team with the biggest bank wins. Get killed before you reach a terminal, on the other hand, and your payday goes bye-bye.
The classic struggle between blue LEDs and red LEDs
Though exciting on paper, Bounty Hunt bungles its premise in a few key ways. NPC grunts will drop in only two locations on the fairly expansive maps, and they are perfectly content to stay there (assuming they aren’t immediately slaughtered). Because of this, both teams are forced to mill about in the far corners of the level, trawling for kill points, which is rather antithetical to TITANFALL’s blazing fast, parkour-based combat. Additionally, the bizarre scenario of two mercenary armies fighting each other, while also taking on an invading army, makes absolutely no sense outside of the context of “THIS IS A COMPETITIVE FPS.” This would be inoffensive if it weren’t for the fact that TITANFALL was a pioneer in bridging the gap between narrative and multiplayer, so TITANFALL 2’s abandonment of such philosophy is a betrayal most bitter.
Gametype gripes aside, TITANFALL 2’s beta is plagued by some serious balancing issues. Currently, the default R101 assault rifle is the only gun you should be using online. The rifle is simply overpowered in every regard, sniping enemies across the map and spraying at the hip with equally absurd amounts of precision. It’s too versatile, better than every other specialist gun at their own job. This is a shame, since there’s a wide selection of weapons to choose from. Grenade launchers, twin barreled SMGs, and laser guns with unlimited ammo are all intriguing options, but all are chump choices compared to the bland but beastly assault rifle.
Did I mention that you have to play about 30 matches before you unlock a pistol?
Even worse, the titular Titans are practically useless in this installment. While Titans were set to spawn on timers in the original, TITANFALL 2 pilots are rewarded with a big old mech only after killing a set number of enemies, meaning that some matches can pass with nary a Titan. If you do manage to actually summon a robot, you’ll witness the roster in this selection pack less of a punch and get knocked down faster than in the first game, at which point you’ll realize that you’re still better off with the ungodly broken assault rifle.
To top it all off, the two maps available in the beta are complete trash. The wide fields of Homestead aren’t conducive at all to wallrunning, meaning that anyone caught in the open is fodder for Titans snipers default assault rifles. The amount of players shot in the back from a mile away here recalls the darkest days of the Call of Duty franchise. The other stage, Boomtown, would seem to offer more opportunities for TITANFALL 2’s traversal methods with it’s tight urban spaces. Yet, in practice, the best tactic here is to bob in and out of the city’s exposed rooftops, turning gunfights into glorified games of whack-a-mole. If the two sample maps are any indication, TITANFALL 2 is set to abandon all of the freerunning elements that made TITANFALL’s matches so frenetic.
Is TITANFALL 2’s multiplayer really that bad? I’ve played worse, but in its current state, without meaningful parkour, mech combat, or balance, TITANFALL 2 basically feels like an inferior Call of Duty. If that’s the case at release, I see no reason to not just wait a week and pick up INFINITE WARFARE instead. The folks at Respawn have a lot of work on their hands before TITANFALL 2 ships, but it seems like too many of the basics have changed for the worse for this one to be salvaged.
Reviewed on PlayStation 4, also available on Xbox One