The original Titanfall was a game that made having an Xbox One worthwhile. It was a game so magnificently polished, that really proved just how effective a first-person shooter could be with an added dose of acrobatics and verticality. And gigantic earth-shattering mechs that could even the playing field in a crunch.
It’s honestly one of my favourite FPS games of all time, even if it happens to be a multiplayer-only title. And that’s because Titanfall has always managed to feed that power fantasy that I live with. It’s like waking up on Christmas morning as Ebeneezer Scrooge and paying hoodlums to go break Bob Cratchit’s legs in front of his family because have you ever tried going mad without power? Nobody listens to you.
Point is, Titanfall was the closest that I’d ever get to a Pacific Rim game. When you’re in a Titan, you’re a walking act of god, standing against a hurricane of grenades and fighting back. It’s honestly the best way to describe Respawn Entertainment’s benchmark debut title, which manages to pull all manner of positive emotions out of me every time I boot it up. Feelings which I’m not experiencing with this sequel so far.
Now first off, the caveats. First and foremost, this wasn’t an Alpha or a Beta test, but rather a technical test (or pre-Alpha), meant to assess how much stress the servers could handle rather than gauge the actual gameplay, so we might see a variety of changes before the game actually releases.. Remember, the Titanfall 2 technical test has only a sparse selection of content: Two maps, three modes and a starter pack of gear to kill around with. That needs to be made clear off the bat. But it’s not the size of your gun that counts unless you happen to be cornered by a titan, but how you use it. And that’s where my biggest gripe comes into play.
Because I just don’t feel so super anymore.
There’s a heightened sense of reality at play here in Titanfall 2, that gives soldiers more heft, more weight to their actions. And there’s nothing wrong with that, to a particular market. But at the same time, I think that by giving its players a proper sense of gravity, Respawn has lost some of the soul of Titanfall. Look up matches between the two games.
Notice how players operate in the first title, like a gun-obsessed Spider-Man. You’re not going to see that in Titanfall 2. Titanfall 1 gave you a bullet ballet, a chance to leave gravity with a bloody lip and wall-run on impossible surfaces while calling in a Titan and peppering the field with bullets. It was monumental in how it managed to somehow balance being on foot or in a titan. You were equally deadly in either role.
But that balance feels uneven here. You handle like a whale with an eating disorder with any weapon that isn’t an SMG. That lightning-quick action feels bogged down, with too much emphasis placed on the grappling hook system, effectively cutting your tactical options in half in case you were an acrobatic fan of the original. The harmonic groove of bullet to body is missing.
Juggle in how earning a Titan feels more like the kind of bonus that you’d earn in a Call of Duty Killstreak that rewards only a handful of players instead of everyone, and the soul of the original feels truly gutted. I’m also not a big fan of boosts over Burn Cards. I always liked how Burn Cards created variety in how you played Titanfall original flavour, controversy be damned. Boosts, while helpful in a pinch, just lack that punch.
Look, I’m not saying Titanfall 2 feels like a bad game. Far from it. I think it’s going to find a very dedicated audience when it releases, but at the same time I’m finding myself less and less excited for a sequel that wants to be both Battlefield and Call of Duty, sandwiched between releases for those actual games. And with release a mere pair of months away, this is very much already indicative of the path that Titanfall 2 is taking if we are to believe that the technical test used gameplay we expect in the final product.
I was genuinely expecting Titanfall 2 to be a prime example of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” thinking with a new splash of paint on top of it. That’s just how far ahead the original game was and still is compared to the rest of the market. But at this rate, I’m going to feel better off sticking to the guns of that first sublime title and hoping that Respawn Entertainment pays heed to some valid criticism about fixing the feel of this sequel.
The power fantasy needs to be restored.