Titanfall 2 is everything that the original Titanfall was not. While the latter made its 2013 debut to much fanfare and genuinely thrilling multiplayer, a lack of substantial offline play and no meaningful progression soon had players looking elsewhere for their FPS fix. Gratifyingly, developer Respawn Entertainment has paid close attention to the criticism levelled at the first game and taken steps to address it. The result is a follow-up that easily measures up to Call of Duty and Battlefield‘s recent instalments and, in some aspects, surpasses them.
The largest addition to Titanfall 2 is a single-player campaign, giving some welcome context and texture to the battle between the Frontier Militia and the Interstellar Manufacturing Corporation (IMC). You play as Frontier Militia Rifleman 3rd Class Jack Cooper, who takes part in an attack on the IMC world of Typhon. Your fleet is quickly overwhelmed and after an intense firefight, you’re rescued by a Titan pilot who promptly dies but not before transferring command of his Vanguard-class Titan, BT-7274 — or BT for short. His mission, to regroup with a Militia Special Operations force, swiftly becomes your mission.
The relationship between Jack and BT is a major theme of the campaign, with different segments finding you inside and outside the cockpit, stomping enemies into the ground as a metal killing machine or leaping from wall-to-wall like a (well-armed) human flea. The wrenching feeling of having to leave the safety of your Titan adds to the nervous pace of the campaign, lending the urge to accomplish pilot tasks with speed, so you can return to the relative safety of BT’s armoured shell. To do so would miss some of the campaign’s best moments, though, as the inspired map design is based largely around the extreme manoeuvrability of the pilot suit, which can combine double-jumps and wall-runs to magnificent effect. As the story progresses, you’ll find yourself having to traverse more and more complex environments, not only breaking up the firefights but preparing you for the kind of speed and precision you’ll need to be competitive in the game’s multiplayer.
Multiplayer in Titanfall 2 has also been significantly revamped as well. Although the fundamental gameplay is similar to the original, the level progression is deeper and more rewarding with better pacing of the weapon and upgrade unlocks as well as dozens of decals, camos and colours with which to customise your avatar. The vast arsenal of weapons (a significant boost over the first game’s limited range) feels surprisingly well-balanced, too, with no obvious single loadout emerging to dominate match-ups. Titan versus Pilot combat is similarly well-tuned, and never feels one-sided: one Titan trumps a single pilot, but multiple Pilots working together with their superior manoeuvrability, can bring a Titan down with relative ease.
For anyone disappointed by the first Titanfall falling short of its potential — or PS4 owners who smarted at the original’s XBox exclusivity — Titanfall 2 makes up for its predecessor’s shortcomings in almost every way. The nuanced relationship between Pilot and Titan gives Titanfall 2 a feel all its own, and the rounded single player campaign makes the sequel feel complete in a way that its predecessor never did. With some of the most frantic, spatially varied multiplayer available and Respawn’s continued commitment to free DLC in lieu of the now standard season pass system, Titanfall 2 is not just the game we all pined for in 2013 but among the very best of 2016 as well.