BY TOM SVALINN: Sometimes I get asked why I like mecha and movies about robots such as Pacific Rim. My response is pretty simple: it’s about giant robots fighting monsters, what’s not to like?
Actually, I’m doing the movie an injustice by being so reductive in my assessment. I recently also played a game which conveyed with equal aplomb, that feeling of formidable scale and might – Titanfall 2. This game explores different themes, but equally important to its narrative is a pilot and his giant mechanical mobile suit (aptly called Titans).
This game differs from Titanfall 1 as it has a dedicated single-player storyline which is brief but enjoyable. Grown gamers with limited time may be pleased to know that I finished the campaign on regular difficulty in approximately 5 hours, spread over two weekends. From my experience the game is about one-third shooting bad guys in the face, one-third solving parkour puzzles (including one pretty cool sideways town situation) and one-third stomping around like a bad-ass in a mech.
The game doesn’t try to make your life hard, indeed it actively provides an optional hint for most puzzles in the form of a holographic ghost to follow. To help not shatter our sense of immersion, a helmet terrain scan feature is provided to justify its lore existence. Note it is optional – go hardcore if you want and don’t use it!
This is refreshing as I interpret the mechanic to mean that Respawn was so confident in the story they had to tell, they didn’t feel the need to put mindless obstacles in the way for the sake of extending play time. I did find the plot engaging and the premise of showing the camaraderie between man and machine AI to be entertaining. However, if I need to highlight a shortcoming, it would be that it did not exactly push the boundaries beyond the basic ‘machine bonds with man’ trope. I would have been interested in seeing how the AI dealt with more human situations such as coping with PTSD, making judgement calls and loss of comrades (I mean come on, the ball was right there with the way your Titan – BT-7274’s last pilot transferred control to the protagonist). My point is, the story seems to create a sense that the robot is more than just a machine and tells an endearing story but it could have been elevated from great to amazing with some moments of true insight.
Moving on, the most unique part of this game is the use of Titans. I absolutely love the way they have been implemented in-game. From the way they planned the mount up sequences to the weaponry used, it all sums up to perfectly capture the feeling of piloting a giant war machine. Light arms fire feels like the buzzing of insects to be swiped away while your Titan hunts for the only other worthy adversary on the field – another Titan. Importantly, even when choosing to fight dismounted, BT-7274 is not inanimate, he actively remains engaged in combat, blasting away at enemies and coving your flanks. It’s awesome.
A note of advice here for those like me who are only now getting into the Titanfall world, don’t do what I did and download the first Titanfall looking to get the full story. In the prequel, they integrated the storyline into the cut-scenes between each multiplayer round. It may have just been my timezone or timing but when I logged in I could complete the tutorial but beyond that, there were maybe 50 people online in total in my region, so not really enough actively doing the campaign missions that I wanted. Instead, I would suggest checking out the helpful content creators that have summarised the story so far:
One thing that my brief foray into Titanfall 1’s tutorial did though, was set me up for that nostalgic nod towards the end of the Titanfall 2 story. I won’t provide spoilers save to say that you get a weapon to use that neatly ties back to the first training sequence of Titanfall 1. Apparently, I’m a sucker that has a sentimental streak.
Hopefully there are more chapters still to come in the Titanfall universe. There’s certainly enough intellectual property being built upon to expand through further narrative. Only time will tell if the world is remembered in the same iconic way as the Halo-verse, but we’ll see.
I will be honest, I didn’t try out the game’s award-winning multiplayer for myself as I was specifically looking to play more of the story following my recent foray into Apex Legends. I also had free access to Titanfall 2 with Origin Premier Access. But I can understand that 5 hours of play time probably doesn’t warrant buying the game outright and the multiplayer is needed to make up the value proposition. But, if you’re looking for a refreshingly brief but engaging story to dive into, Titanfall 2 has you covered.