Ti­tan­fall 2

De­vel­oper Res­pawn En­ter­tain­ment Pub­lisher EA For­mat PC, PS4 (tested), Xbox One Re­lease Out now

EDGE - - GAMES -

PC, PS4, Xbox One

The first Ti­tan­fall gave us the Smart Pis­tol, a gun that au­to­mat­i­cally locked onto mul­ti­ple tar­gets be­fore emp­ty­ing its clip into the lot of them. It was a beau­ti­ful piece of de­sign, sub­vert­ing decades’ worth of shooter tropes by mak­ing the hum­ble sidearm among the most pow­er­ful weapons in the game, and cer­tainly its most sat­is­fy­ing. While it re­turns in

Ti­tan­fall 2, it’s an endgame pur­suit, both in sin­gle- and mul­ti­player. By mov­ing it, if not into the back­ground then at least far off in the dis­tance, Res­pawn is in the­ory leav­ing a gap­ing hole in Ti­tan­fall 2’ s ar­se­nal. Need­less to say, it fills it, and with gusto.

Per­haps the clos­est in spirit to the Smart Pis­tol is the Dou­ble Take. It’s a dual-mode ri­fle, a shot­gun up close and a sniper ri­fle from range, its vari­able zoom se­lectable with a click of the left thumb­stick. Shoot­ers aren’t sup­posed to let you do stuff like this; you pick your load­out and take your choice, the sniper know­ing they’ll be vul­ner­a­ble to close-range weapons, the shot­gun­ner a weak­ling from dis­tance. Well, Res­pawn says, sod that. The Ti­tan­fall games’ great­est trick is they seem so un­in­ter­ested in be­ing shoot­ers, while at the same time qui­etly re­defin­ing what the word means.

Fre­quently it feels as if guns are the last thing on Res­pawn’s mind. It’s es­pe­cially true in the cam­paign, a mode con­spic­u­ous by its ab­sence from the first game and, by a stretch, the high­light of the se­quel. Rather than look at how its ar­se­nal could be used in cre­ative ways, Res­pawn looks at ev­ery­thing else Ti­tan­fall 2 can of­fer both the player and the de­signer that a tra­di­tional shooter – the Call Of Du­tys that made this team’s name in par­tic­u­lar – never could. The re­sult is a six-hour pro­ces­sion of slicky pol­ished craft and re­lent­less in­ven­tion that com­bine to form one of the most re­fresh­ing, for­ward-think­ing FPS cam­paigns in an age.

The base Ti­tan­fall Pi­lot moveset – dou­ble jump, wall run, man­tle – al­ways felt like a level de­signer’s fan­tasy. While there were cer­tainly flashes of ge­nius in the el­e­gant wall­side paths and rooftop rac­ing lines that corkscrewed around the orig­i­nal game’s mul­ti­player maps, Ti­tan­fall’s move­ment al­ways seemed to need a lit­tle more room to breathe; for the player to be able to stop, take in their sur­round­ings and think about their ap­proach with­out be­ing blown up by a 16-ton mech pi­loted by a hy­per­ac­tive teenager work­ing on their K/D ra­tio. Even in sin­gle­player, Ti­tan­fall 2 is a game best played at sear­ing, hy­per­ki­netic pace – the open­ing level’s time-trial train­ing course makes that abun­dantly clear, and re­peat playthroughs of the cam­paign will be played with a stop­watch on your cof­fee ta­ble. But it’s equally a game of del­i­cate pace, of brains, of puz­zles.

New ideas ar­rive ev­ery level, and feel so rev­e­la­tory that you ex­pect them to be­come part of an ex­pand­ing moveset. But they’re cast aside as soon as Res­pawn’s de­sign­ers have had enough to make way for the next. There are bum notes, in­evitably – if there should be a Ti­tan­fall 3 we hope that who­ever came up with the ex­plod­ing spi­der ro­bots is fired, silently and sud­denly from be­hind, while he’s in the mid­dle of some­thing im­por­tant. But on the whole Ti­tan­fall 2’ s cam­paign is a work of daz­zling in­ven­tion, in which ideas strong enough to power en­tire games are in­tro­duced and then tossed away ca­su­ally. It’s hard to be­lieve it was green­lit by a pub­lisher whose love of the for­mu­laic is le­gendary. EA just put out the best Nin­tendo game of the year.

You would for­give Res­pawn for fo­cus­ing its ef­forts on Ti­tan­fall 2’ s sin­gle­player com­po­nent, since the first game’s mul­ti­player felt solid enough to need only the most care­ful of guid­ing hands. But much has changed, and not al­ways for the bet­ter. Ti­tans now have fixed class load­outs, a de­ci­sion in­tended to make the fight fairer (the idea be­ing you can tell a Ti­tan’s ar­se­nal from its sil­hou­ette) that suf­fers for its lack of flex­i­bil­ity. While map lay­outs re­tain the level-de­sign flair of the first game, they feel more like are­nas than the­atres of war; while Res­pawn’s at­tempt to add a story cam­paign to mul­ti­player com­bat in the first game was as mud­dled in ex­e­cu­tion as it sounded in the­ory, those nar­ra­tive ele­ments helped put each map into a plau­si­ble mil­i­tary con­text. You knew what was be­ing fought for, and why.

In the ab­sence of that, Ti­tan­fall 2’ s mul­ti­player feels more like a sport than a war, as if a mil­i­tary del­e­ga­tion landed in a di­lap­i­dated city and thought it seemed like a good place for a ruck. Mean­while, the AI-pow­ered mobs that pre­vi­ously roamed the map now ap­pear from drop­ships in fixed po­si­tions at fixed times, and don’t stray far from their spawn. They’ve al­ways been can­non fod­der, but rarely this lit­er­ally: in flag­ship mode Bounty Hunt, you kill them to build up a cash score you must bank at sta­tions that only open be­tween waves. As­sum­ing, of course, you don’t get shot in the back on the way, los­ing half your wal­let to a cloaked fel­low with a shot­gun who’s spent the past few min­utes ig­nor­ing the rag­ing bat­tle while hunt­ing for the op­ti­mal, most prof­itable hid­ing place. It seems rather against the spirit of a game that’s at its best when you’re mov­ing at pace. You can see us wall-run­ning, but can you shoot us?

Per­haps we’re over­think­ing it. The core Ti­tan­fall moveset is a joy, and it has been thought­fully ex­panded with a de­light­ful grap­pling hook. Its big stompy mech suits are, as ever, a pun­chily de­struc­tive, finely bal­anced thrill, and now there are more of them. And its weaponry, even be­fore you un­lock the Smart Pis­tol, is var­ied, dis­tinct and thrilling. Res­pawn is com­mit­ted to

Ti­tan­fall 2’ s fu­ture, with a host of maps and modes on the way, all of which will be free. No doubt the mul­ti­player side of the game will im­prove over time. If it ends up any­where near the cam­paign in terms of qual­ity, it’ll be some achieve­ment.

Ideas strong enough to power en­tire games are in­tro­duced and then tossed away ca­su­ally

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