To say that Titanfall 2’s piss-poor marketing campaign almost murdered the game would be an understatement. I’m sure many people like myself noticed it on shelves back in October of 2016 and thought ‘It’s already out? I thought it wasn’t coming out for a good while’ because of how minuscule the marketing had been. All of that said, however, Titanfall 2 is certainly a brilliant game in its own right. And, as a sequel to the original Titanfall, it is probably the best sequel of the last decade.
The original Titanfall’s biggest weakness was arguably in its plot, in the sense that it was little more than a radio drama that would proceed and conclude the same way, regardless of which side won the firefight in question. The game was also low on content to begin with as a multiplayer-only game selling at full price.
Titanfall 2’s story was on the short side, clocking in at only 6-7 hours, but it was still put together with a clear amount of care and thought. You see this in all the unique levels, such as ‘Into the Abyss,’ set inside an IMC simulation facility. There’s also the time manipulation level, the parkour segments, and of course the bosses — a lot of memorable moments for only a few hours. The dialogue choices, while usually a binary choice which had little effect on plot, was still another nice little touch that brought some life to the main character, Cooper.
Respawn Entertainment wanted to be even more expansive, but lots of content ended up not making it into the game’s release. Planned content would allow the player to choose their gender in the single player and make the parkour segments change depending on the game’s difficulty setting. These ideas were scrapped because of time constraints, but they show that a lot of thought and passion went into this aspect of the game.
Respawn thoroughly fleshed out the Frontier with returning characters, such as Blisk and others, having set up their own factions. This weaves the story and multiplayer together in the same spirit of the first game. Players are sent into multiplayer matches by the leader of said faction, be it Blisk, Sarah Briggs, Marvin the robot, or one of a few others. Within each faction, players can gain experience to unlock unique cosmetics. This used the multiplayer gameplay to build on the Titanfall world, helping the player visualize themselves in a raid against another fraction out of the lawless expanses of the Frontier.
Including an ancient alien race also helped flesh out the Frontier and add a layer of mystery to Titanfall’s world. Who were these aliens, and are they connected to the ancient civilization discovered in the DLC of the first game? Perhaps we may never know. The generation-pilot aspect in multiplayer was another way of building lore through multiplayer: when you max out at level 50 you can chose to regenerate as a generation II pilot. Titanfall was always meant to be blending of narrative and multiplayer from the start, and, in Titanfall 2, Respawn managed to merge them in a way no other game has done before.
Gameplay was also revamped in a nice way, too. Respawn scrapped the burn card system in favor of new, permanent abilities, such as the grapple hook and phase shift. The open-ended model for titans was replaced with something more akin to hero classes, helping players size up a titan before it acts. All 6 of the new titans the player fights in the story campaign are available in the base game. Additionally, Titanfall 2 has a much more vibrant art style than its predecessor: while keeping its grounded and industrial look, it manages to bring a much livelier color palette to its design.
Though the first game reminded many of an EA-tier rip-off, Respawn adopted their now well-known pro-consumer stance in the sequel, and released loads of free content. New maps, an entirely new titan called ‘the Monarch’ (which was based on BT-7274 from the story campaign), the new ‘Live Fire’ multiplayer mode (which would pit players against each other without the support of their titans), as well as the PvE ‘Frontier Defence’ mode (where 4 players must work to defend a mining harvester from waves of IMC forces): all free. The only microtransactions are for cosmetics, such as remodeled versions of the various titans.
I think it is quite clear than Titanfall 2 pushed the envelope in almost every manner which it could. Despite its poor marketing and being several years old, Titanfall 2 still has a surprisingly large active player base, this being partially boosted by its previous availability as a free PlayStation plus game. With the recent success of Apex Legends, which shares the same universe, and Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order (both Respawn Entertainment games), hopefully we will get to see a Titanfall 3 someday. It would be nice to see a Titanfall game where Respawn can finally bring all of their ambitions and desires into reality.