Developed by: Respawn Entertainment
Published by: Electronic Arts
Available on: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
A man hopping onto a seat nested within the chest of a gigantic robot, and that same man being thrown by his neurologically-linked companion to an otherwise impossible-to-reach location — these are a couple of animation sequences that sum up “Titanfall 2.” This is a game about the interdependence of man and machine. It’s a straightforward video game in the sense that its mechanics lord over everything else. Titanfall’s characters and their reasons for battling their enemies are an afterthought at best. The priority lies in the rhythm of combat rather than its rationale or repercussions. As with countless video games before it, “Titanfall 2” capitalizes on the soothing aspects of violence.
“Titanfall 2’s” single player campaign follows Jack Cooper. An infantryman, Cooper is a member of The Militia, which is at war with the domineering Interstellar Manufacturing Corporation (IMC). At the start of the game, we find Cooper in training to become a pilot — a super soldier — in charge of a Titan, one of the game’s mechs or bipedal, robot fighting units. Cooper’s reverence for the pilots, which is articulated in the campaign’s opening cutscene, is the clearest emotion expressed in the game. What the developers want players to care about is the game’s technology.
I tested “Titanfall 2” on the PC and the Xbox One. I found it immediately apparent that the game has been well optimized across different platforms. Using a last-generation Titan X graphics card I was able to run the game in 4K at 60 frames per second (fps) on my PC. But given the high-end nature of that card, I found it almost as impressive that the developers were able to achieve a near flawless frame rate on the Xbox One via the game’s dynamic resolution scaling, which didn’t impact my visual enjoyment of the game all that much.
Before they founded Respawn Entertainment, Vince Zampella and Jason West (West is no longer with the company) worked at Infinity Ward where they helped create the first “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare” games. These games hooked a generation of console players on shooters boasting 60fps gameplay. So you might think I’d be less surprised than I was at how well the game handles on the Xbox One. However, given the game’s plentiful use of explosions and special effects, which come to the fore particularly in multiplayer, I was impressed in spite of myself. “Titanfall’s 2’s” environments, from its waterfalls to its industrial settings, won’t set one’s imagination on fire. But they provide a fine backdrop for watching soldiers zip about the environment in and around the Titans.
The game’s first-person controls make life as soldier a parade of sprinting along walls, double jumping, and twisting in the air to hit other moving targets. Being in Titan offers a sharp change in tactics since it is more powerful but less agile. Such tradeoffs are baked into the multiplayer and single player experience. In multiplayer, I learned to constantly move and stick to building interiors when on foot whereas in a Titan I’d look to gang up with my fellow mechs to go after our enemy counterparts. The single-player campaign does a solid job of alternating between Titan and on-foot missions. Although one is likely to feel more empowered in a multi-story robot the harder parts of the campaign are built around Titan vs. Titan fights which makes carrying on as a super soldier feel more relaxed.
If you go into “Titanfall 2” looking for nothing other than sensory-stirring action and pitch-perfect controls, you won’t be disappointed.
Christopher Byrd is a Brooklyn-based writer who has been playing video games since the days of the Atari 2600. His writing has appeared in the New York Times Book Review, the Barnes & Noble Review, Al Jazeera America, the Guardian and elsewhere. Follow him on Twitter @Chris_Byrd.
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