We gave it an A-
When Titanfall dropped in 2014, it felt like a fresh step forward for the first-person shooter genre. The dichotomy between controlling lightning-fast, hyper-mobile Pilots and steering lumbering, powerful Titans created a wonderful tension that made for frantic multiplayer matchups. But it was limited in scope — lacking a story-based single-player mode — and limited in impact by being an Xbox console exclusive just months after launch. Respawn Entertainment crafted an intriguing new world but offered little opportunity to actually explore it. With Titanfall 2, out on PS4, Xbox One, and PC today, the developer is living up to its name and confidently addressing these issues with one of the most enjoyable campaigns of the year.
Titanfall 2 tells the story of Jack Cooper, a rookie Frontier Militia rifleman who is unexpectedly thrust into the heat of battle after his mentor is killed in action. He soon links up with the orphaned Titan BT-7274, and they embark on an epic quest to save the day. The story is a fairly typical sci-fi adventure about man bonding with machine that wouldn’t feel out of place in anything airing on Crunchyroll at any given time. But it’s heightened by the personality of BT, an overly literal mech who sounds like Optimus Prime with no understanding of subtlety. There’s a simple conversation system that lets you choose your dialog with the Titan, and though it has no real impact on the game, it’s a charming addition that quickly bonds you to the metal lug.
Where Titanfall 2 really shines is the core gameplay loop of alternating between Pilot and Titan. So well-established in the first game, it’s only now been transferred to a full-scale playground. Playing as a Pilot is fast, frenetic, and full of some of the best first-person platforming this side of Mirror’s Edge (and dare I say substantially more enjoyable than this year’s underwhelming Mirror’s Edge Catalyst). The ability to string together a series of jumps, wall-runs, and double jumps while rushing over a bottomless pit — and somehow always feeling firmly in control — is absolutely exhilarating. Surprisingly for a first-person shooter, Titanfall 2 might be at its best when it’s a platformer, but fortunately the shooting is very good, too.
The Titan segments are exciting thanks in large part to a progression system that sees you finding new loadouts along the way. Each new boss is introduced by an anime-style splash screen that flashes his or her name across the screen, and defeating it unlocks a new loadout of weapons that you can swap on the fly. From shotguns to rockets to sniper rifles and even a giant mech sword (the hilariously named Ronin loadout), Titanfall 2 consistently delivers a varied and increasingly spectacular arsenal with which to dispatch foes.
There’s a standout mission midway through the game that is so fresh and unexpected that I would never want to spoil it in a review, but it’s indicative of what makes this game stand apart in the genre. The entire time I was playing it, I couldn’t help but think of the first time I’d successfully navigated one of Portal’s puzzling challenges, and how satisfying that felt. It’s the kind of thing Respawn never could have delivered in a multiplayer-only game, and the type of experience you wouldn’t expect from a big-budget shooter. And that’s what makes Titanfall 2 one of the best single-player campaigns of the year. A-