It is the future. Humanity has colonised the deepest reaches of space, mostly to suck every exploitable resource out of every planet and then choke what’s left with non-biodegradable plastic packaging on the way over, because that’s kind of our thing. Now out on The Frontier, the eeeeevil Interstellar Manufacturing Corporation and the not totally good but not totally bad either, more like chaotic-neutral, maybe, but definitely not eeeeevil because they’re the protagonists and that would be awkward even though they’re also almost entirely motivated by their own profit margins Militia can’t decide who gets what, so they’ve stopped talking and started shooting.
You’re Jack Cooper, a Militia grunt who’s just blagged a big promotion. It’s not, uh, exactly how you’d dreamed it would happen, but you’ve got your own Titan now so whatever. LET’S GO RO-BROS.
When Titanfall 2 was introduced at E3 in June, I thought “okay, rad, but why are they adding a single-player campaign?”. The first game managed fine without one, so the sequel surely didn’t need one either. I mean, so many single-player campaigns these days are entirely superfluous – obligatory oblations on the altar of “maximum consumer value”, that most people won’t buy without, but probably won’t play anyway. And besides, everybody knows Titanfall is all about the multiplayer.
I was so wrong.
Titanfall 2‘s single-player campaign if one of the best in its class since Call of Duty 4. And, really, I should have guessed that a studio founded by former Infinity Ward guys could do it. Shame on me. SHAME. SHAAAAAME. Okay, that’s enough shame.
So, here’s the thing. It’s not that the story is even that amazing. Basically, the IMC and the Militia are squabbling over a planet called Typhon, and there’s a bunch of mercenaries involved… somehow, and the inevitable megaweapon that’s going to kill everybody and everything, and you know what, I wasn’t actually paying much attention to it besides the one guy’s startlingly impressive South African accent. What’s special about it, though, is the relationship between you and your Titan, BT. Lots of games play the dynamic duo card, but Titanfall 2‘s power coupling is extraordinary – you rely completely on each other to accomplish tasks in a way that never feels contrived or otherwise superficial, and the camaraderie between you two is so real, so sincere that when you’re separated at times, you’ll genuinely miss him.
Moment to moment, and from one mission to the next, the level and environment design is dreamy bliss, and much more reminiscent of the extravagant, xeno-exotic worlds of Halo and Destiny than the crammed brown corridors of so many other FPS games. Vivid colour palettes complement vertiginous scale, and the speedball pacing is so on point, it never loses its momentum. You’re stomping through the craggy waterfalls of a verdant jungle, then you’re jumping between spaceships in low orbit, then you’re performing dizzyingly improbable gymnastics in the world’s spookiest prefab city factory, then you’re power-sliding through time. It’s a relentless, thrilling, and constantly astounding series of increasingly ludicrous scenarios that ends exactly when it should. Phenomenal stuff.
Some of the multiplayer feels almost perfunctory in comparison. The team deathmatch Attrition mode is heaps of adrenaline junkie fun, and the Amped Hardpoint capture mode is crazy chaos, but the other modes aren’t much my sort of thing. With huge mechs in play, the absence of something more like Battlefield‘s Rush mode or even Gears of War’s Guardian mode is incomprehensible, and I’m absolutely gutted that they’ve dropped the superb co-op Frontier Defense mode from the first game. Respawn has promised additional (free!) DLC in future, so let’s hope. With lots of loadout customisation options for both your Pilot and Titan, however, there’s an immense amount of tactical diversity available, at least, and something for everybody.