Fun feels like a strangely undervalued commodity in modern gaming. The industry has become this huge and serious thing, with emotional stories, a blitzkrieg of features and an avalanche of technological wonders.
But where’s the fun?
Titanfall 2, that’s where.
Now I’ll be honest and admit that the story is a load of nonsense and I rarely had any real idea about where I was going or why I was butting heads with the totally forgettable baddie stereotypes but that didn’t matter a jot.
That’s because the gameplay is instantly and consistently engaging. Just running around in Titanfall 2 as a gravity-defying, enemy-decimating Pilot is a joy. You’ll bound in high leaps, run along walls, sucker punch fist-fodder and generally careen around like a puppy on a sugar high.
Developers Respawn Entertainment didn’t have time for a singleplayer in the first game and they’re making up for that lost opportunity. While the wider story isn’t at all interesting, the central relationship between your new Pilot and Titan is simply wonderful.
BT (that’s the Titan) is like a mixture between your best mate, a totally loyal dog and a huge mechanised war machine capable of crushing, killing and destroying anything in its path. He (I’m going to choose a gender, so sue me) is just great, with touches of humour and an awesome moment when he gives you his first thumbs up.
And that central connection is a pretty rare thing in games, the idea that your chosen vehicle is actually a brilliant companion and pal. And there’s lots more to enjoy too, with Respawn throwing up a fair few environmental puzzles which are perfectly pitched to make you feel smart without ever being really all that challenging.
There’s even some time jumping stuff for a single level, seemingly just because it's kind of cool. Remember fun? That’s the primary aim of pretty much everything which is being thrown at you here.
It’s not a long campaign but it hits numerous highs while keeping up a breathless pace, while the mix of play styles between Pilot and Titan keeps things interesting. It’s also impressive how the level design and some careful choices help you to feel powerful whether on foot or in the warm embrace of BT’s innards.
Did we mention how awesome BT is?
Beyond the singleplayer there’s plenty of multi-mech action to be found. The original Titanfall was pretty much an entirely online experience so Respawn has had plenty of practise here.
Again it all starts with making the experience as slick and worry-free as possible. Finding a match is a cinch and the different modes are laid out in a very accessible way, far from the menu-digging which some games still insist on dragging around.
There are already plenty of players online and the modes have been strengthened and refined from those which appeared in the original game. It’s still fast and unrelentingly arcadey, and once again an absolute blast to play.
The way you move in Titanfall gives it a totally unique aspect in multiplayer, changing the way you navigate but also retraining your brain in targeting enemies. A few hits will generally do the trick but it’s landing those strikes on a wall-running, grappling enemy that’s the real challenge.
Then it all changes when you get that voice in your ear - ‘Your Titan is Ready.’ Seeing your own mechanised death-warrior belch forth from the sky and land in a plume of dust is a rush each and every time, as your brain is already plotting the quickest route into its belly.
A few lumbering mecha and a team of pilots make for an incredibly strong attacking force and Respawn has done amazing work to make it all feel balanced. Even as a lone survivor, there’s still a chance to run and dodge and spring high enough to take out an enemy Titan.
Even if you don’t kill it, you can pop out a Titan’s battery, reducing its overall health. That battery can be used on one of our own machines for a boost or retrieved for the original owner - if you’re feeling confident enough to step out of the cockpit.
That’s a great addition, and just a hint of the ingenuity in every aspect of Titanfall 2. There are six different Titan types now to add an extra layer of choice, and their particular strengths are also cannily introduced through your loadouts in the singleplayer game.
Bounty Hunt is a great new mode which guarantees frantic action by giving you cash for every kill and dangling a bonus if you manage to bank the bills. Naturally you’re likely to die trying.
There are familiar modes too which make this very accessible for any first person shooter fan and even one called Coliseum which is a one on one match between pilots. It has a very different feel and almost twitch style gameplay, though you’ll have to unlock it before you can play.
Respawn has also confirmed that they’re not going to be offering any kind of season pass for Titanfall 2. Instead we’re going to get new content like multiplayer maps for free, just because we’re nice people.
Titanfall 2 is an unexpected blast with tight gameplay, brilliant design and an overwhelming sense of fun in particle of its being. It’s one of the best games of the year and a must play for action fans.