Titanfall 2 is a game about momentum. It knows when to rush forward at a breakneck pace. It knows when to give us time to breathe. Both in its single player campaign and its multiplayer modes, Titanfall 2 has a more measured pace than its predecessor, making the build-up to its climactic battles just as enticing as the events themselves. It's every bit as kinetic and fluid as the first Titanfall--but in many respects, it's a much better shooter.
As with the first game from Respawn Entertainment, Titanfall 2 revolves around two layers of combat: conventional firefights between human combatants, and clashes between massive bipedal mechs. As a boots-on-the-ground pilot, Titanfall 2 feels more like a traditional shooter--albeit one with pristine controls and a fluid traversal system. The first Titanfall sparked the trend of shooters focused on movement, and with its sequel, the series reestablishes its place at the head of the pack. The loop of sliding, double jumping, vaulting a ledge, and running along a wall to flank an enemy feels invigorating and intuitive.
Then it comes time to call in your mechanical ally from orbit, and everything changes when it hits the ground. Because it's when these two layers engage in a tug-of-war that Titanfall 2 reveals its true brilliance. What was once an even fight becomes a David versus Goliath scenario: a pilot rushes to cover, fires off a rocket, glides along a nearby wall, avoids a missile salvo from her robotic opponent, activates her cloaking device, and enters a nearby ravine to order a Titan of her own.
This sequence is intense, but in Titanfall 2, it's commonplace. Momentum often shifts as one team gains control of the battlefield, only to lose ground when the other notices a weak spot, and attacks it.
This is crucial in Titanfall 2. Now more than ever, combat requires forethought and intelligence. Humans may be careening across the map with grapple hooks, while phase-warping ninja mechs cut through laser-powered robot warriors--but beneath all of this is a hidden nuance. Despite the bombast and spectacle, Titanfall 2 is a thinking person's shooter.
The sequel's new Titans embody this sentiment. In place of the basic light, medium, and heavy variants from the first game, Titanfall 2 employs six distinct walking battle tanks with arsenals of their own. They're almost like superheroes: one attacks with a thermite launcher and flame attacks, while another fires a chest-mounted laser cannon at unlucky opponents.
Each of the Titans' abilities are easy to learn, but difficult to master, as the saying goes. Their loadouts immediately make sense, and it's easy to see that Northstar's low armor and long-range railgun make her an ideal sniper--but new layers reveal themselves the more you play. Take Scorch, for example. His flame shield dissolves incoming projectiles, providing extra protection while he tries to back away from close-quarter engagements. But the flame shield has other uses: at one point, an enemy pilot came flying at me on a grappling hook. By igniting my fiery barrier, I melted him just as he came close to my cockpit.
"There are elements of fighting games or MOBAs here--each Titan has a tell, and a way to counter it."
Learning the intricacies of each Titan is paramount not just for offense, but defense, too. Each mech has a distinct aesthetic, so as you round a corner and see a Ronin approaching you, you know to put distance between your Titan and the shotgun-toting enemy. There are elements of fighting games or MOBAs here--each Titan has a tell, and you only have a few brief moments to counter it to your advantage.
The new Titans lend a very different pace to multiplayer matches. While the first Titanfall was always turned up to 11, so to speak, with smaller maps and cookie-cutter Titans focused on dealing damage, Titanfall 2 understands the value of breathing room. It doesn't burn you out with an onslaught of firefights--its maps are focused on exterior environments, and are often on the larger side, giving you time to plan out your attack with the intricate Titan loadouts. The plan may go awry, but it lends more weight to each enemy encounter. There's a sense of build-up as you approach a capture point, knowing full well which Titans occupy the area, and thinking through each step in your head.
Each multiplayer mode is tailored to facilitate Titanfall 2's interwoven combat systems, but also to twist the formula in creative ways. Bounty Hunt is my favorite--you gain currency by killing the enemy team and AI grunts that litter the map, and at the end of each wave, you're given the option to deposit your loot in one of several banks. But here's the wrinkle: you have to leave your Titan in order to do so. What's more, clever players will camp near banks to pick off unsuspecting Pilots as they approach their goal. It's a frantic game of cat and mouse that increases in tension as the banks open and each team knows exactly what the other is doing, or trying to do.