I need to step back already, and say that the game does not blow. The overall gameplay is satisfying on a moment to moment level. The mechanical enjoyment (of the shooting) was good enough, but everything else did not meet expectations.
The original Titanfall we can ignore, other than say that it has no story mode and was xbox exclusive. The sequel came out to good reviews, but not great sales due to competition. I only ever heard good details about it so the PlayStation + chance to play it seemed perfect, and by the title and preamble you know where this is going.
It was a letdown.
Multiplayer driven first person shooter campaigns are limiting. They have been since going back to the original Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. You follow people, get into shootouts, and have a mechanical mixup for a level where the controls change a little, but the acts you’re doing stay the same. This story was supposed to be a big change. A good story. It just did not hit its mark. It doesn’t start that way. It has a good setup and potential.
Okay, for context let’s just go through the basic plot. We play as Rifleman Jack Cooper (a very memorable name for sure). We get some basic training in a VR system before being forced onto the battlefield and knocked out when an enemy Titan arrives. We awake just in time to see our mentor getting killed. He survives long enough to entrust his Titan BT to us. With BT in hand we must complete the mission. There are of course larger details to the story (which we will get into), but aside from the sides fighting, the villains and their plot it really is that simple. Fight through these different locations to accomplish the mission and be friends with a robot tank.
The first few levels: a stint in this mountainous region to repair BT, to a couple different factories; a water treatment centers, and then end in a terrain assembly facility is all solid. The cap off with the terrain assembly facility is killer. It feels like a real test of all your skills outside of BT that the game does not have after this moment. It also feels like it has a flow. You go from the mountains to the factories and facilities in an order like their next to each other. The story repeats a lot. You and BT enter an area, get separated, fight to get back to him, beat some Titans and move to the next base down the road. It’s a strong formula.
It’s next move makes sense on paper. You go to a meetup point that was supposed to be the end of the mission, only you find the person you’re supposed to meet dead, and lab destroyed and in ruins. Through some investigation you discover there are time anomalies that send you back in time. You’re able to get a time shifting device to go between the ruins and the old lab whenever you want. It is supposed to be THE level everyone loved and talked about. I was having none of it.
The shooting was still good, the movement was fine. The controller doesn’t feel like the way to play it. The sticks did not always connect when doing a wall run so I had many unnecessary deaths. With all that out of the way, you spend a lot of time killing animals in the present. The animals are the worst enemy type. They’re the same model repeated, they take way more bullets to kill (which makes world building sense, but it’s the first enemy and you empty a clip into it to kill it. Seems like a bad idea, like all enemies are that hard. Their not), and hit for more damage. It’s a pain that I had no patience for them. The soldiers and robots in the past are fun normal enemies, but the end conflict with that is just the same mech and shooting galleries as before, nothing special with the time distortions or anything. It was fine. Not that special, or build the world out in an interesting (oh, I’ve never seen that,) way like the terrain assembly station.
At the end of the level you get a new mission, the villains got a larger time phase device that can destroy planets. The next mission is to send a message to the rest of your group to stop them and save their home world. This takes you into a generator room, and satellite tower to eventually send the message, test your maneuvering via adjustable walls, and join up with a surviving group of your army.
That feels like an end. We got our final tests, but we see that BT still has a couple more combat types left so you know we got a couple missions, so we join the main unit of our army to try and bring down the ship with the time device. It’s cool to fight alongside other soldiers and take a ship, but it is not building onto what we learned… until we try to board the final ship and are attacked by a jetpack Titan, and the final test of the Titan fights. It’s hard, but not hard in a way that’s enjoyable. You take on some side Titans while fighting the jetpack Titan. Once it turns one on one there is really only one solution. None of the other fights with the boss Titans felt that way. Every other one could be done using any load out. The jetpack seemed to want you to use the sniper. It packs the biggest hit, the pilot gives you time to build up and stop to take the shot and is what he uses. You could try to use other weapons but none of them hit hard enough to take him out before he takes you out. The cluttered ship deck also feels difficult to maneuver around in. Has too many flaps you can run into (even as they’re helpful to hide). It felt good to beat him, but also unfair in a way none of the others were.
The battle ends with the ship crashing and getting taken hostage. The villain destroys BT and leaves you for dead. From this point on the tests are over. It just is a coast to the end. BT is not dead, he has a brain and a gun that locks onto all enemies for an immediate kill and no bullets. You rush through with ease to get to a new Titan, that using the brain type face you took from your old Titan takes over as the same BT in a new shell. It’s thrilling to do, but also no challenge to any of it.
Once you have BT it’s a full invasion to the enemy base with a turret. You work your way through the base until the final boss battle against one of the easiest bosses so just had a laser beam in a tiny lab building. It’s really easy, and not very climactic. BT sacrifices himself to destroy the time device, you escape in a simple maneuvering puzzle, and jump into an ending where you become a full pilot and join the team.
Before I continue I’ll just say it’s fine. I’m hard on it and will be hard on it in a minute, but it’s fine. If you like good shooters with no game industry BS this is it. The story isn’t great and has a weird difficulty curve, but it’s fine. Most people will not notice. You will have a good time. It’s fine.
It’s not fine, it copies a lot of Star Wars. Now, yeah Star Wars changed everything so much it is hard not to see comparisons in other films and stories, but boy does it copy Star Wars. Some of it is just a hero’s journey thing that everything does. You have a mentor (who gives you something and dies), go on a journey, return home different. All the steps. But also you are a member of the rebel group the Militia (the least memorable name for a group of that kind). The villains scheme uses a planet killer weapon in the shape of a sphere. There is a run on the planet killer, you invade the ship to try and stop it, and one of the villains you face is a masked man. There is a mastermind we only see in hologram. I joke, this is fine, but also really noticeable.
What is not noticeable, not like Star Wars (the movie’s at least), and not fun. Your main villains are a group of mercenaries. That’s cool if you’ve heard scary tales about them, then in a game had to face them all. Making them all the villains in this game, and them doing the bidding of a bigger bad guy of the army you should be fighting is not great for a first outing (I know it’s the second game, but first story that everyone could play). In this we don’t really fight the opposing army (this could be a commentary on mercenary groups in real life, and how fighting them is pointless against real armies, but that isn’t pronounced enough). BT sacrificing himself in the end also feels wrong because his old body just died a level ago. He has a new body and is supposed to be a new character with the same brain (ghost in the shell and all that). But we mourned him just to do it an hour or so later. This all makes the final battle feels more hollow than if we’d met the captain at the lab in the first third and done what was originally planned.
The reason for that hollowness is built into how the game progression/difficulty curve is laid out. So, say it with me, it starts out fine enough. The training sequence at the beginning works well. It feels wrong you can’t go back later once the plot starts to see if you get better. It works in the moment. The mountains and facilities work out to help you with your mobility skills and enemies (you do fight the beasts first, which feels wrong for the reasons above). When you get into BT you get a good tutorial for him, and fight against enemy pilots. The difficulty increases gradually until it climaxes at the terrain assembly plant.
The terrain assembly plant is the best level because it forces you to use all the mobility moves, then put you through a gauntlet of a shooting gallery in one of the terrains, and end in a battle with a rival pilot while the plant explodes. It’s action packed, forces you to make lots of decisions, cinematic in terms of narrative, really forces you to test what you know. It’s great, then the game keeps going.
None of the combat ground combat challenges really get harder than the terrain facility. The time warp is hard because of the beasts, and some platforming problems control had (I know it’s easy to say that as an excuse but it was true. I probably didn’t hit it in time, but felt like I did). The only Titan challenge comes near the end when we battle the jetpack Titan on the ship. This is due to his increased mobility and dodging as compared to the actual final boss. The actual final boss is just fought in some cramped lab and shoots a laser that is easy to dodge. It makes the ending not as satisfying as when you beat the jetpack Titan.
All of this makes the curve be a steady increase only to drop down below and only pick up once before rushing to the end. It just does not live up to the expectations I had based on how everyone talked about it.
Most FPS players don’t care about the contents of the plot. Based on the outcry the previous game in this series, Star War Battlefront 2015, and Call of Duty Black Ops 4, this game needed one and I would not have played it if it didn’t. This game’s story is also leagues better than most. The good Call of Duty games had a barely understandable narrative. This has one you can follow and critique at all.
Respawn and the other teams that worked on it did do a good job that I would play a 3rd game in the series. I want them to be better. It has potential, just didn’t capitalize on it. It’s cool that Apex Legends came from this universe, that’s fun. I won’t play it, but that’s fun. Jedi: Fallen Order came out. It got good reviews so we will see what I think of it once I play it. It does have a lot to live up to since Star Wars Force Unleashed was way better than it had any right to be.
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