First Impressions of Titanfall 2’s Network Test
Titanfall 2 has a lot on its plate. The first game was a Frankenstein’s monster of a world-building, single-player campaign full of flashy spectacle and explosions bolted on to an exciting multiplayer experience with killer ideas. It’s a shooter where you have jetpacks, laser guns and your own giant robot, what’s not to like? Other than the ankle deep puddle of interesting variety or the fact the game had no real replay value? This sequel has to not only deliver a solid single-player campaign but also overhaul and refine its online components. After spending a few hours testing things, I can definitely say Titanfall 2 is on the right track.
First impressions with the tutorial were positive. Not much has changed with the game’s controls and mechanics. You’re still able to wall run, rocket jump and get into acrobatic gun fights on foot. Calling in your giant robot still feels powerful and exhilarating. But what helps elevate the tutorial is an obstacle course similar to Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. You are tested on how fast you can move and how many targets you can hit without slowing down. The only glaring flaw is the lack of a Titan gameplay tutorial. This might be due to there only being two Titans available during the online test instead of any of the standard familiar models but its absence does lead to everyone playing to only being familiar with half the game.
Once that hurdle is clear, the nuts and bolts of Titanfall 2 reveal something a lot more comfortable yet unique. You are able to customize the loadout of your character in between matches with various weapons and abilities that range between something more agile like being able to sprint and shoot, more defense focused like regenerating health faster, more long-range like a laser weapon and a sniper rifle, or anything in between. In addition to the game’s jump packs and holographic decoys, you can also equip a grappling hook, which can latch onto any surface, or if you’re particularly aggressive, any enemy Titan or another player. It takes some getting used to, but once you figure it out, you can swing as you are grappling towards a location and even jet boost yourself for extra speed, it can lead to some very creative strategies. There are only two Titans available to select between, the defense and support focused Ion and the flame-spewing Scorch, but both bring key roles to the battlefield and can be modified as well in their own dedicated loadout screen.
The network test covered two maps and three gameplay modes. The first one I tried was Pilot vs Pilot, a straightforward Team Deathmatch mode with teams eight jumping, wall-running and fighting it out for supremacy. It’s the most accessible of the three game modes since no Titans can be called in, but when your game’s unique selling point is calling in a personal giant mech to mow down your enemies, it sends an odd first message.
Next is Amped Hardpoint, which I enjoyed a bit more. It’s a basic Control Point map where the teams battle over control of three distinct locations, with points awarded for defending the points or killing enemies with more than one point captured for your team. The twist is that your team gets points for capturing these points, but it is possible to “amp” them by holding them down even longer, which gives your team more points. It’s an interesting mode since it helps make not only moving but defending inherently rewarding, but it’s also a mode that allows Titans, which help keeps gameplay exciting each match.
The most popular mode above all is the brand new Bounty Hunt. In the broadest terms, the game is a competitive version of the once popular Horde Mode. Three waves of enemies enter the game’s map and the players are encouraged to rack up kills, both AI and each other. Each kill or assist gains you money that your character keeps on them, with higher and higher payouts for more consecutive kills, but your current total cash getting halved if you die. Between each wave, two banks open on the map which both teams have to visit and deposit their bounty, whoever has the highest sum of money at the very end wins. It’s a simple idea but it’s lead to some of the most thrilling matches, especially when the AI-controlled enemy waves throw in their own Titans that pay out hundreds of dollars once destroyed.
Overall the matches of Titanfall 2 feel a lot more rewarding. This is thanks to a lot of notable design changes. In addition to customization being more in-line with more modern shooters, getting to call in your Titan feels more like a mark of skill than an obligation. Whereas Titanfall just had your mech eventually show up after a certain amount of time, complete with a bombastic musical swell and visual effects fanfare, the sequel has you slowly build up a gauge by either completing objectives or killing enemies. At the same time, the Titans aren’t exactly as big of a game-changer anymore thanks to their diverse weapons and gear having more clear and distinct counters. It must also be noted that being able to sabotage an enemy’s Titan is a bit easier this time around, just grab on and your character will perform a devastating pre-animated attack on the mech doing a lot of damage.
If there are complaints, they are minor and will most likely be fixed in the retail release. Aim assist can feel off on certain matches, minor texture pop and odd audio glitches happen, the UI for the Titan’s HUD could be a bit clearer when it comes to the cooldown of certain abilities, and the capture points for Amped Hardpoint could use a few more visual cues for how close or far away you have to be to start actively capturing it.
I was cautiously skeptical of Titanfall 2 since its announcement, afraid that focusing on a single-player campaign would make them overlook the problems with the multiplayer, but if this test is any indication of what’s awaiting us in October, Respawn Entertainment knows exactly what they’re doing and it looks like this will be one game to keep an eye on.