Typically this week, all the hot gaming news comes from E3: the Electronic Entertainment Expo. This year though, E3 has a rival: EA Play. Electronic Arts put on its own mini-convention at LA Live, showing off five upcoming triple-A titles. Though I wasn’t allowed to take photos or video of the demo itself, I was able to put in a solid hour playing the multiplayer demo for Titanfall 2, the follow-up to the ground-based, mech-battling XBox-exclusive shooter from 2014. Though the sequel is still in development and subject to change, the rounds I played through made me even more eager for the October 28th release date.
Each of the demo stations was equipped with a headset and a PS4 controller, an important facet considering the last game wasn’t released on any Sony platforms. Players chose between two different model Titans: the large, lumbering Scorch with heavy-hitting fire-based attacks, or the faster, rapid-fire Ion. There were also three different on-foot Pilot classes: the assault rifle-wielding Front Rifleman, the long-range Counter Sniper, and the midrange, energy-weapon firing Hardtracker. For those who felt that the original Titanfall lacked customization, there’s nothing to worry about in this new game: both the pilots and titans have a vast array of alternate fire and mobility skills to set, though all of the skills were pre-configured for the demo.
One of Titanfall 2’s new gameplay modes, Bounty Hunt, sends players to targets zones on the map to kill neutral, AI-controlled enemies. As your team fights to take out grunt troops Spectre robots, you’ll also have to look out for enemy Pilots (players) looking to take you out and gain control of the area as well. After destroying a set number of neutral troops, an AI-controlled Titan drops into the fray, and a massive score boost goes to the team that gets the final hit by either by blowing it up or jumping on top of it and dropping a grenade into the Titan’s core. It might just be my initial impression, but it seems that neutral infantry play smarter and hit harder than they did in the last game. Running headlong into a squad of three or four grunts felt like free points before, but that same tactic got me killed a couple times in this new game and added a bit more strategy to the style.
The demo map, Boomtown, pushes players together in a small city square, with tunnels running under bridges and dilapidated buildings to use for cover. Due to the location-based objectives, Titan combat tended to gravitate towards a couple of set streets, but the spaces were wide open enough to check out the new move sets. The Ion Titan, the only one of the pair with a dash move to use for dodging, used speed to its advantage; using the burst-fire Spitter Rifle on offense and catching enemy fire with a modified Vortex Shield, then finishing them with a super powerful, chest-mounted laser beam. Scorch, on the other hand, deals heavy damage with a mortar launcher that takes a while to reload, but packs a serious punch alongside a shockwave-style ultimate attack. Of course, there’s a ton of new Pilot-based abilities as well, including the now pre-requisite grappling hook: it doesn’t pull quite as fast as most arcade-y grappling hooks, but it adds more verticality to a franchise which did a great job utilizing rooftops and windows in the past. This map felt short compared to older favorites, and the wall-running felt somehow harder to control than in the past, but this seemed more focus on creating quick combat than encouraging exploration and setup.
Though there was no team balancing between matches (and our team got stomped every match), I still enjoyed every match I played, and it looks as if there’s going to be deeper customization and experience building options in the new game. When choosing the Front Rifleman class, a notification popped up saying it was Level 100 and had full accuracy, which seems to imply Call of Duty-style weapon leveling based on usage and performance. Also, I’ll admit that the number of new abilities and skills for both the Titans and Pilots almost felt overwhelming when compared to the last game; I found myself relying so heavily on old tactics that new skills went untouched most matches, likely making me an easy target for opponents. I’m looking forward to getting the chance to master those skills though when the full game releases.
Overall, Titanfall 2 looks like it wants to turn heads the same way the first one did. Graphics in the new game look great, combat feels as tight as the last game, and the inclusion of a full single-player campaign should sate the demands of players like myself who were disappointed in the lack of story in the last game. Also, if this game develops in the same way as its predecessor, Respawn Entertainment has plenty of surprises in store for downloadable content in the game’s first year; tons of new game modes and play enhancements showed up after the initial launch. That said, Titanfall 2’s release date will put it up against some stark first-person shooter competition: Activision’s Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare releases the week after and EA’s own Battlefield 1 drops the week before. We’ll see how everything pans out come Fall, but for now, I’m definitely prepared for Titanfall (2).
Titanfall 2 releases on October 28th for PS4, XBox One, and PC.