Titanfall 2 in the test - Almost nothing to mech-ern
So much in advance: Titanfall 2 turns out to be an amazingly fun (multiplayer) shooter after several hours. In addition, the servers were consistently stable from the first minute, and we didn't notice any failures or disconnections. We rarely experience such a smooth start with online shooters, which is also due to the low number of players in Titanfall 2 - but more on that later.
What about the balance?
One of the biggest concerns of our preliminary test was whether Respawn Entertainment would manage the balance properly, after all, in Titanfall 2, several systems interlock: pilot classes, titanium chassis, weapons, boosts, grenade types and additional skills - if only in this gameplay mill a single cog is stuck, this can endanger the entire gaming experience.
However, the developers have done an excellent balancing job, every pilot class and also every Titan variant has its advantages and disadvantages. Admittedly, beginners in particular will suspect that a heavily armored and heavily armed Legion titan can mow everything down without getting a scratch, but even a whole group of Legions cannot do anything against a coordinated attacking team.
For example, even the unspectacular and rarely played Scorch Titan has its raison d'etre. He doesn't endure much and doesn't see the sun in long-range combat with his flamethrower, but he can sprinkle the battlefield with caustic liquid and thus drive the enemy into a corner or at least on the defensive. And: Pilots can use batteries they have collected (or stolen from enemy mechs) to supply their teammates with additional energy. So when weak titans crumble too quickly, it's often because of the players who don't take advantage of that opportunity, and not because of the balance.
The initial stomach ache regarding the frequent use of titans by dominant players was also unfounded. Although the titanium bar fills up faster when we score kills, even less skilled players can request a mech sufficiently often. Actually, we never had the feeling of being inferior because as flies we fight bumblebees.
The pilot classes also fit in well with the game. The camouflage coat is ideal for surprise attacks in building battles as well as for snipers on roofs. Those who like flexibility are more likely to use grapple hooks, stim packs or the phase walk. Even the protective shield that can be set up, which at first glance seems out of place in such a fast-paced shooter like Titanfall 2, can be useful in trench warfare or in the "Amped Hardpoint" mode. The same applies to the eleven different boosts. By the way: We can activate almost all weapons, boosts, pilots and titans with merits (game currency) or with the corresponding rank.
Only the matchmaking system occasionally goes wrong because too often it pits newbies against level 30 veterans. In the end, it is true that skill still decides whether to win or lose, but high-level players still have more loadout options - and of course more experience. However, this shortcoming could also be due to the small number of players (during our test matches sometimes less than 50 on the server), so that matchmaking has no other choice.
Great maps and modes throughout
The varied maps are nicely designed across the board and offer numerous sensible routes for both titans and pilots. As a result, there are no dead ends, the agile people almost always have the opportunity to escape a fat grunt or hop on his head. The titans also have enough freedom of movement.
From the total of eleven game modes, we were now able to try out “Colosseum” - an entertaining arena mode for 1-vs-1 battles that yields rewards in the form of merits credits or cosmetic items. Not as original as the "Bounty Hunter" mode, but a nice addition. The bottom line is that Titanfall 2 offers a thick multiplayer package and one of the best shooter campaigns of the year. Anyone who likes mech battles should not miss this (pilot) ride.
The developers repeatedly emphasized the strong emotional bond between us and our mech companion BT, how much Half-Life shaped the shooter - and that Titanfall 2 would tell a gripping story without any cutscenes. After almost 15 hours that we spent with a finished version at the event, we know: Respawn delivers a successful shooter package, but cannot keep all its promises.
Not the best script
To anticipate one thing: the single player campaign was surprisingly successful - but only if you don't set high standards. This is especially true of the actual story, which was pulled from the drawer for "generic stories with even more generic main characters." The industrial conglomerate IMC and the resistance group Militia are fighting a bitter war for the resources on the planet Typhon.
As the budding Militia pilot Jack Cooper, it is up to us to put the masterminds behind the IMC and end the war. Unfortunately, the game only draws the hero and the opponent with diluted water color. For us, Jack Cooper remains a faceless phantom in a soldier's armor until the end, and even with the villains we can only remember their names, if at all - only the German villain Richter stayed with us with his distinctive accent. That alone shows how much potential there is in the story.
The scriptwriters put a lot more effort into the dialogues between Cooper and BT. The sometimes funny conversations loosen up the action pleasantly and establish a bond of friendship between the two protagonists. In fact, the chattering tin can grows really dear to our hearts over time, which the developers also take advantage of - without wanting to reveal too much now.
Fast-paced jump & gun action
After all: where the campaign fails with the story, it does almost everything right in a playful way and surprises us with varied environments that creatively incorporate wallruns and jump inserts into the level design. We rush in the air over the wings of combat ships, scramble through a spaceship wreck, hop in a zigzag through a laboratory corridor, while the floor is burning below us, and slide on our knees through half-closed shutters.
Occasionally there are even small puzzle inserts where we place components with cranes in order to then integrate them into our parkour skills. Elsewhere in a factory, we jump and climb over moving platforms that are gradually tinkered together on an assembly line to form a miniature dioarama.
The highlights, however, include those missions in which we activate the so-called arc device switch from a distance to turn turbines or extend platforms - and all of this while whizzing along sloping walls. Titanfall 2 lives from this flow, at the same time the moves spice up the typical shooter boom.
We can hide behind cover, smoke out enemy groups with grenades and carefully fight our way through the fairly linear, but often spacious, levels. But we can also make use of the many branches, walls and rocks to take full advantage of the verticality.
Nice thing about it: Titanfall 2 shows the stupid grouse interludes of a Call of Duty the middle finger and instead shines with well-dosed combat interludes and gripping me ch fights . Occasionally we are allowed to slip into BT's cockpit and take out the big guns. In the course of the total of nine missions, we find eight different loadouts for our combat robot - including target-seeking rocket swarms, crackling Gatling cannons and cutting laser rifles.
Experienced players shoot their way through to the end in just six hours , but the six hours are extremely varied, full of highlights and consistently motivating, which leave little to be desired in terms of play. Okay, the lame boss fights belong to the brand »hold it up« without tactical finesse, but if you want really demanding combat, you should play hard anyway - or switch to multiplayer mode right away.
Everyone just wants the money
Most of the time, the players will sink into the multiplayer mode anyway, which the developers have revised and expanded significantly compared to its predecessor. There are no fewer than twelve multiplayer modes to choose from, including the fun new addition "Bounty Hunt" for a total of ten players (5vs5).
In it we collect money by performing forays, for example by doing AI-controlled grunts or mechs. We then have to deposit the coal in a bank deposit. Whoever has the most counters in the end wins.
Nasty about it: The bank deposits disappear again after a while, and on top of that, other players lick us off 50 percent of the money we have pocketed in a kill. This often leads to adrenaline-fueled struggles for survival, because nobody wants to give their valuable money to the enemy team.
Accordingly, the single-payment terminals are also highly competitive: Titans are thundering out of orbit, invisible snipers lurk on roofs. This forces us to play more cautiously than usual, which gives the otherwise short-lived pilot's life an interesting facet.
Another new feature is the “Coliseum” mode, which promises tough one-on-one matches in a cage. At our test event, however, we weren't able to try out the arena fights - nor were we able to try out private matches, which is why we refrain from making a final judgment here.
The remaining modes such as “Attrition”, “Capture the Flag” and “Last Titan Standing” are already known from the predecessor, but in some cases only variants of other modes. “Amped Hardpoint”, for example, is an adapted version from the first part, only that there are now certain Amped card points that drop twice as many points when taken. "Variety Pack" and "T-Day" simply combine most of the game variants in a playlist. Respawn is a bit tricky with the number of modes, but there should still be something for every taste.
Nice battlefields, diverse loadouts
Diversity is also the keyword for the nicely designed maps: We really liked every single map. Whether rocky gorges, destroyed buildings, a branched factory complex or a military outpost in the forest: there is enough variety here visually and playfully, the map size is almost always perfect for the corresponding modes.
In addition, we discover alternative routes for different play styles on almost every battlefield. We balance on cranes and uprooted trees, abuse billboards for wallruns and sprint through aisles in the ground - as in the campaign there is a wonderful flow. Nevertheless, we have only seen a handful of maps so far - too few to be able to conclusively assess the scope and balance.
We are also still unsure about the balance assessment of the weapon repertoire and the total of seven soldier classes (loadouts). The latter give us special abilities such as a camouflage coat, a speed boost, a grappling hook and a stationary protective shield. The Pulse is also extremely useful, with which we can uncover all enemies in an area for a short time and even observe them through walls. The possibilities are diverse and invite you to experiment.
As if that weren't enough, there are also so-called boosts , which in a way replace the Titanfall Burncard system. We are allowed to ignite these bonuses after a certain number of kills and thus set explosive beetle drones on our opponents, increase the damage of our firearms, activate a temporary wallhack or place a titan defense gun. Useful, but in our experience never overpowering, although there was not enough time at the test event to try out all eleven boosts.
The titans: the salt in the soup
Sure, the titans are an integral part of multiplayer matches. So it's not surprising that the developers have made numerous changes here.
Instead of equipping our Mech with any weapons and extras, we are now using six different titan chassis , all of which have predefined attack and defense systems - similar to the campaign. Whether we go into battle with a Gatling gun, laser rifle, flame or rocket launcher, depends largely on the titan loadout.
However, we didn't get the impression that the game was limiting us here, on the contrary. Because we are still allowed to define paintwork or operational bonuses (protective shield, quick landing) ourselves. In addition, the Brummers steer themselves a little differently depending on the class, a fat Legion, for example, is clumsy but thickly armored, a Northstar is more agile, but is less durable. If the energy display slips into the critical range, we as the pilot can collect batteries to repair the tin can . A great innovation.
On the other hand, the design decision that we can use Titans again and again after a kill series gives us a little stomach ache, there is no longer a cooldown. Particularly good players should therefore constantly dominate the maps with their 'Mechs.
The bottom line is that Titanfall 2 offers hundreds of customization options with loadouts, boosts, character and weapon skins, which we unlock with increasing pilot rank and then buy with merits (game currency). It goes without saying that we were only able to try out a fraction of all weapons and gadgets during our stay in London.
We will only find out after the release whether they are motivating in the long term and how they affect the balance. With the well-known combination of lightning-fast pilot movement, satisfying gunplay and spectacular titan skirmishes, Respawn proves a golden hand again.
Old engine under a new hood
Graphically it looks a little different, because here Titanfall 2 plays in a lower league compared to the shooter competition. On the one hand, battles look impressively good thanks to the great special effects: dense desert dust, sizzling wreckage and glaring gunfire - we can't get enough of them.
On closer inspection, however, we unmask the now mummified source engine , which is missing details in some surrounding objects and (ground) textures.
When it comes to the sound, however, the Mech shooting doesn't show any nakedness. Shots and explosions rattle like boxing blows on our eardrums, while the restrained but always harmonious background music underlines the battle atmosphere. A successful overall package.