The original Titanfall arrived amid a blaze of hype which was impressive even by games industry standards – and which came about due mainly to the game's provenance. It was the first effort made by Respawn Entertainment, a developer formed by the founders of Infinity Ward, the originator of Call of Duty, after a much-publicised falling out with publisher Activision. But Titanfall failed to live up to the hype, as it proved to be only half a game – it didn't have a single-player campaign.
Happily, Titanfall 2 redresses that glaring omission with aplomb. It has a single-player campaign which, while short (speed-runners could complete it in six hours or so) proves to be absolutely top-notch. It also acts as a great primer for the multiplayer – still the more substantial element of the game – but it also holds up surprisingly well as an entity on its own.
Titanfall 2 review: Much needed campaign
In the game you play Jack Cooper, a rifleman who dreams of becoming a Pilot – the pinnacle of troops in Titanfall 2's alternate future reality, whose on-foot combat skills are second to none and, more importantly, who are trained and authorised to control Titans, the giant, sentient battle-mechs.
Dropped onto the surface of a planet where the dastardly private military company, IMC, augmented by a bunch of unscrupulous mercenaries (with South African and British accents to the fore, in true Hollywood style), have been up to some skulduggery. The result is an energy blast into the surrounding area of space, meaning things quickly go pear-shaped.
Cooper and his commanding officer, Captain Lastimosa, are isolated from the rest of their squad. On his deathbed Lastimosa reassigns his Titan, the prosaically named BT-7274, to Cooper.
Initially, Cooper must undertake a couple of solo missions to power up BT-7274, which gently teach you the joys of being a Pilot, chief among which are outrageous wall-run and double-jump abilities, plus some handy toys like a cloaking device which renders you briefly invisible. Then acting-Pilot and Titan set out to complete their mission, which involves fighting their way all the way through a secret IMC facility. Which proves to be fantastically good fun and surprisingly varied.
Titanfall 2 review: Run and jump tactics
The level-design you encounter is particularly stunning, leading to some sequences which are surprisingly reminiscent of the best platform games. In one giant facility where, bizarrely, houses are assembled in a modular manner, the level reassembles itself, forcing you to make perilous wall-run/double-jump combos, often while shooting.
Another sequence has an extremely cool time-travel mechanic, allowing you to switch between a ravaged version of a building and its pristine predecessor, although the latter has locked parts and enemies galore, so you can switch for a bit of respite if you're near death, but still have to switch back in order to progress to your objective.
There are some great boss-battles involving new types of Titans, too, and the single-player campaign takes you through the entire Titan-weapon loadout. So once you've finished the solo game you're perfectly prepared for the multiplayer.
Titanfall 2 review: Multiplayer core
Respawn Entertainment has also added impressively to the solid foundations of the original game's multiplayer. Again, the level-design impresses: the new maps are incredibly convoluted and detailed, and thereby cater for all play-styles; even when camping out with a sniper and anti-Titan rocket - although that runs counter to the game's fast-paced spirit as the Pilots are among the most mobile characters ever witnessed in a videogame, especially when equipped with grappling hooks (one of the core new elements found in the sequel).
There's a new game-mode called Bounty Hunter, too, which feels a bit odd at first: Pilots and Titans arrive in the level with bounties attached to them. It's up to you to take them out, grab the bounty, then during designated periods deposit into banks which open. The twist is that every time you die half your current bounty is removed, which shakes things up. The first team to deposit a set amount wins. Which sounds contrived, but soon develops a sort of logic of its own.
All the favourite game-modes from the original game are present, as are many of the original maps (with graphical tweaks), and the new weapons and Titan chassis add to the fun. Like its predecessor, Titanfall 2's multiplayer keeps things simpler than most – it isn't overburdened with a confusing array of modes. But it provides great, visceral enjoyment which is ridiculously fast-paced and really gets the adrenalin going.
We did, however, get a bit bored with the original Titanfall after a few months; hopefully Respawn will keep things fresh with some judicious downloadable content.
Titanfall 2 is an infinitely better game than its predecessor. The presence of a genuinely original and distinctive single-player campaign is a real surprise and, this time around, the game is available on PS4 rather than just Xbox One and PC.
Overall, Titanfall 2 is right up there with the best first-person shooters you can get your hands on. If you like things high-tech, futuristic and centred on mechs, then it's a must-buy.