Titanfall 2 – Impressions 1

Titanfall 2 starts off fairly strong. We are swiftly introduced to our protagonist, Cooper, a plucky, ambitious sort desperate to break through, rise beyond his rank and achieve the much-coveted position of pilot, thus having at his command his own titan and companion; it seems to be his one dream. In these opening sequences, the first-person perspective is never broken, serving only to increase the level of immersion. Just a ways into the narrative, Cooper makes further strides towards his ultimate goal and dream – escorted to a trial course of sorts by his friend and mentor, he is put through the ropes. Cleverly, this area teaches some of the mechanics to be found in the game proper – opportunities for wall-running abound, while the overall potential for rapidity of movement is also present. It is a very well-designed area, repeatable and enlightening – it is a perfect tutorial, with even a wide arsenal of weaponry available to the player, allowing him to experiment with these guns, many of them unique and all characterized by a slightly futuristic aesthetic, which carries over to the environments and the people which inhabit it. Beyond merely teaching the ropes, this brief yet complex tutorial also determines the recommended level of difficulty. I did well on my run, but not spectacularly; initially encouraged to play on normal difficulty, I ramped up the difficulty level to hard – it has been a good choice, I feel. Either way, the game proper begins shortly after this point. Cooper is given a taste of the immense titans’ powers, though he is taken away from the glory and strength he so desires.

Things rapidly turn south. Cooper is ambushed, promptly landing on a crashed, hostile planet. In this starting area, the game’s great creativity can be detected; overgrown and neglected, though somehow still magnificent, it is an interesting place, with dinosaur-like enemies, frightening in their own right. While they are intimidating and deadly, the greatest threat does, of course, come from man. Cooper, badly wounded, is taken to a position of relative safety, treated with medicine which can prolong his life, though the curative effects are not immediate, putting Cooper in a brief and total haze. Waking up groggily, he sees his friend shot in the head at point blank range, dying instantly. We don’t at this point know who exactly this madman is; we know from the first, though, that he is dangerous. Proceeding over to Cooper, he prepares to deal him a similar fate. Luckily, at the last minute this foe is encouraged to pursue leniency, to display less savageness. Heeding his friends’ advice, the man walks away; Cooper, recovered, is set free.

Here, Cooper investigates the corpse of his fallen foe; in desperately bad shape, death was inevitable. Cooper salvages his helmet, receiving also the intelligence held therein. This man, Lastimosa, was pilot of his own formidable mech, BT, who quickly comes under the will of Cooper – good for both of them. Before being reactivated and commandeered, Cooper must find battery cells to repair his new friend. Here, the game proper truly begins. In this noble quest, Cooper runs across great human opposition, overwhelming at times yet still very fair. A fair of bit of the engagements are at medium to long range; there are more opportunities for cover, then, and attacking situations with a sniper rifle or marksman rifle results in the easiest time; getting surrounded by multiple enemies at close range almost always results in death. Furthering this flexibility in playstyles is the great diversity of weapons on offer; sniper rifles and marksman rifles barely touch the surface. There are a plethora of assault rifles, sub-machine guns, shotguns, and even some more exotic weaponry. Ammo can at times be sparse, so picking up weaponry left behind by dead enemies becomes a necessity. This constant swapping results in a pervasive sense of freshness to the gameplay, while the gunplay overall is extremely satisfying. Though the world and weaponry are fantastical and epic, vague believability is retained. Enemies are almost never bullet sponges, taking a reasonable, fair number of shots before collapsing to the ground.

In these early areas, there isn’t an overabundance of wall-running spots; they are there, but for me, given the great satisfaction accompanying these movement systems, I wish they were more numerous, though it looks as though their frequency will increase as the game progresses. The wall-running and gunplay being introduced, the game’s third primary mechanic is also revealed: the titan gameplay. Cooper has recovered the two battery cells required to repair BT, who gladly accepts him as his new pilot. Initially, I was rather disappointed with these sections, though this may be attributed to my great love and admiration for the infantry gameplay. At first engaging a few grunt enemies, it seems overwhelmingly basic. As I have progressed, though, this basicness has completely given way to complexity. This complexity shines most brightly in the tian vs. titan combat. Every mechanical foe poses a threat, no matter how weak they might at first appear. They are satisfying and rewarding to defeat, though real strategy arises in the titan boss battles. Occurring in mostly open areas, there are options for mobility, seeing the controlled titan dodge and weave throughout the area, dodging gunfire, rockets – or worse. It becomes this war of attrition, whittling away the enemy’s health bar, all the while protecting your own. Every tool becomes vital for success, not least of all patience. Triumphing over these foes is even more satisfying than besting the grunts; they are tense, rewarding engagements, and I have already developed much love for this core pillar. Furthering the depth of these systems, there are titan loadouts scattered throughout the levels, which see things like altering the primary weapon from machine guns to rocket launchers or gifting some titan chassis with a limited jump ability. They are all well thought out, and, simultaneously, fun to mess around with – experimentation is encouraged. 

The game consistently vacillates between this titan gameplay and the more traditional shooting segments. As with the changing in weaponry, this brings about a certain freshness; if infantry combat has grown boring and tiresome, or even frustrating, BT is always just around the corner, anxious to take in his beloved pilot, offering him protection and a change. Indeed, a certain camaraderie seems to develop between them. Whilst Cooper is exploring the areas on foot, for instance, he might here over his comms some witty comment by his titan, offering him advice or even just commenting on the situation. Cooper, in turn, is usually given a pair of dialogue options, flexibility in terms of response. It is all seamless, communication occurring in real time, never slowing down the gameplay due to unnecessary cutscenes; the game moves at a consistent, rapid pace. I absolutely love it, love the bantering between these two main characters. The stellar voice acting only furthers this charming likeability. BT’s robotic voice is endearing, as is Cooper’s. Even if the writing was bad, these guys seem to put their heart and soul into the effort and succeed greatly.

There have been a great many interesting levels so far. Some see the separation of Cooper and BT, usually tasking the former with a quest or objective to lead to their reuniting. One level, for instance, is saturated with a slimy, caustic goo which is lethal to Cooper. Altering the concentration and extent of this toxic becomes the primary objective, to permit safe movement. More interesting, though, is a level which occurs in some absurd, massive, futuristic construction complex, with conveyor belts and massive robotic arms working together to fabricate houses and other such things. BT has been grasped by one of these arms and carried rapidly away. From here, Cooper sets out on his quest, in pursuit of his captive ally. Here, there are the expected enemies, though locomotion takes on an especially important role, Cooper jumping and dashing from platform to platform, they moving at times in a dizzying, confusing motion. To assist the player, there are “Ghosts,” as the game calls them, which mark a path for what might be especially difficult movement sections. With this guidance, frustration is kept to a minimum, without totally diluting the sense of self-satisfaction. Frustration is also dampened by the fair, frequent checkpoint systems, the game auto-saving before nearly every major encounter. The load times, too, are graciously short, while resurrection by a death caused by platforming failure often times eschews load times entirely. This forgiving nature might be seen as fostering a sense of aggressiveness, with no real penalty for death. Not, so. Playing on the hard difficulty, tactical gameplay is a necessity. This tactical nature is enhanced by certain infantry abilities, like a brief, effective cloaking power, which sees Cooper turning invisible, permitting flanking and other tactics. The double jump and wall running only further strategic flexibility. The combat, then, is excellent, as is the movement system. The level design fully capitalizes on these successes in gameplay at nearly ever interval.

At the ending of this manufacturing level, there is a riveting, tense shootout. There are the basic grunts present, but, terrifyingly, there are a few titans which spawn in, an especially frightful sight because of Cooper’s vulnerability, detached from his protective titan. This engagement is very epic. There are many options for maneuverability, very high vantage points, and even houses to take cover in, and resupply weaponry. Victory here was, as with so many other things in the game, immensely satisfying. This combat and exploration were incidental side diversions, and after emerging triumphantly and leaving the area, the primary objective is again pursued: rendezvous with the fellow soldiers. This quest has taken me to some odd scientific level, which fluctuates wildly and temporally between both the past and the present. It looks to be, so far, an infantry-heavy area; I am excited and intrigued, to decode this cryptic, peculiar place. Really, the more I play of the game, the more impressed I become; it is abounding in charm and heart, and I am having a spectacular time with the title.          

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