Titanfall 2 is a game where you shoot at people with futuristic guns, then climb into giant robots and shoot at people with even larger futuristic guns. If you don’t even occasionally enjoy shooting at things in video games, there will be zero fun in this game for you.
If you do, however, enjoy the infrequent indulgence of virtual violence, Titanfall 2 wants to be your best pal. In the spirit of everyone’s awkward friend who tries too hard, Mr. 2 throws it all at you and hopes that something sticks.
Want to be a tiny robot that then climbs into a big robot? Sure. How about throwing ninja stars that burst into lava stuff? OK, yeah. How about turning invisible and travelling through time and dimensions and a giant robot samurai sword? Yep. How about a hundred different game modes to satisfy whatever murderous mood you’re in? Got you covered.
Titanfall 2 is worth playing for how it feels. While playing as a “pilot” (i.e. human, or tiny robot), you have tremendous mobility and can do all sorts of absurd, unrealistic parkour, running along walls and double-jumping your way through the geography. The movement often feels great, although the game occasionally misunderstands what you were trying to do and sends you running backwards along a wall or dropping where you should have been running. When you climb into your giant robot “titan”, the world is portrayed as though you’re looking at it on multiple screens; suddenly the other pilots look like ants and your mech footsteps make you feel huge and invincible. Weapons feel satisfying, mobility feels good, and the flow of the game between pilot and titan manages to stay fresh longer than most shooters.
But there’s something half-baked about every aspect of the game. Take the campaign for example. It’s the perfect length (4-6 hours) and tries out many different game mechanics, some of which are only present for a single level and then discarded, which is great. But the main story, about a man and his AI giant robot buddy, is a skeleton. Our protagonist, the archetypal bland white dude, is so devoid of personality that it’s hard to feel any developing bond between him and the robot. Kudos to the voice actor who gave the robot some personality, though, because he does great work wherever he can, and the ending is only earned because of that work. Ultimately, the campaign is pretty enjoyable to play but acts as an introduction to a lot of different factions (the rebels, the mercenaries, the military bro’s, etc.) instead of an actual narrative. It’s a shame, because a bond between human and AI is an inherently interesting concept that begs a good story.
The game’s bread and butter mode is its multiplayer, in which you and up to eleven other players blow each other up in various arrangements while points are accrued. Even if you’re generally abysmal at shooting games, like me, you can still be a valuable member of your team in some game modes, which reward smarts as well as your reflexes. One mode requires you to capture and hold specific points on the map, prioritizing your strategies instead of your aim. And when you call your titan (in which the voiceovers all gleefully declare, “STAND BY FOR TITANFALL”) you can set it to auto-pilot, thereby giving yourself two sets of guns with a better shot of… well, better shots. Many of the game’s best moments are in using your brain: as a pilot, taking down a titan requires good use of the geography and buildings, the right weapon, and predicting what some dummy on the internet is going to do next. It’s satisfying, even when you’re being slaughtered in most open fights.
Titanfall 2 takes the same tack as most modern multiplayer shooters, with new guns and camouflage and other knick knacks unlocking as you blow things up across many sessions. Ultimately, I found that almost every game mode plays the same, the same strategies work every time, and the unlocks are more or less pointless since the game gives you some decent gear right off the top. I played a few nights of the multiplayer after I finished the campaign and had fun, but after that it felt like a poor use of my time. The matches just aren’t long enough or varied enough to require much bigger-picture strategy or give you a deep sensation of satisfaction.
All in all, there’s probably a few nights’ worth of decent entertainment in the game, provided you like shooting at things and you don’t mind squandered potential. Titanfall 2 seems as though it were made quickly and prioritized mechanics and moment-to-moment fun over any long-term or artistic satisfaction; it’s a choice I fully understand but it does seem like they could have had it all with a little more time in the oven. At full retail price ($80 Canadian these days) that’s not necessarily good value, but if, in this shittiest of recent years (culturally speaking) you need somewhere to vent that aggression, Titanfall 2 might be the game for you.