Titanfall 2 Tech Test Impressions

By Kevin Tavore, 3 months ago
Titanfall will go down in video game history as being perhaps the most hyped shooter ever made. After a myriad of E3 and other game show awards, almost universally positive impressions, and the birth of the "Have you SEEN Titanfall?" meme, the game had some big shoes to fill. When it finally launched in March 2014, the game was everything anyone could have hoped for. The gameplay was smooth, the maps were amazing, and the gametypes were fun. Respawn had done an amazing job balancing the ebb and flow of pilot movement against the power of the Titans.

The response was so great, and so favorable, that only one complaint really stood out - there wasn't enough content and players wanted more of everything. The game was multiplayer-only and players had grown accustomed to the Call of Duty-level of content in these types of games. A new franchise like Titanfall couldn't match it. But for what it was, it was loved. It was actually amazing. When the inevitable sequel was announced, Respawn had set the bar very high. The past two weeks, we've finally had a chance to see whether that high bar could be met. With the only complaint being "give me more," it seemed like a sure bet.

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Titanfall 2 catastrophically missed the bar. In fact, it didn't even get close. If you've been reading impressions around the internet, the basic synopsis of every comment about the game is "WHY?" I'll be clear right now: Titanfall 2 is a good game. It might even be a great game. But it is not the Titanfall we know and love. It's not what I wanted, and I don't know if it ever will be.

The Issues

I couldn't possibly go over all the issues in depth. It would demand a 30 page article. What I'm going to do is list three major issues that I think have not, and possibly will not, be resolved unless the game gets delayed. And let me be clear, I truly hope this game gets delayed. The tech test did receive a patch in between the two weeks, so my impressions are based primarily on that second week, with those changes in mind.

1. Titans

The Titans in Titanfall played like a natural extension of the Pilot gameplay, which was extremely fast and smooth. Titans were big and powerful, but they were not slow and clunky. The felt a bit like playing Halo, actually. You'd engage in combat against enemy Titans using a customized arsenal to fit your playstyle. If things were looking grim, you could retreat and recharge your shields. It was still fast, but it was different enough to feel interesting and fun when you got into a Titan.

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In Titanfall 2, Respawn is taking a different approach. Titans are no longer customizable (that's not entirely true, but you can no longer change major pieces so the impact of your customization is minimal). Instead, you pick a Titan personality, which will come with unique weapons and abilities that play off each other. The different personalities are actually a good idea. They're one of the few things I liked about this Tech Test. It's an interesting approach. They are not the issue with the Titans.

The issue is that they are no longer an extension of the Pilot gameplay. They're slow and clunky now. Scorch doesn't even have a boost unless you give up a perk to get it. Not only are the slower, but they now no longer have shields. If you take damage, it's not going to heal up. This simply doesn't work. It creates an environment where you need to go all in during every single battle. If you try to run, you'll just take a ton of damage and likely die. And yes, you can get pickups on the battlefield called batteries that will heal you a bit and give you an overshield, but it's basically just a health boost since the shield doesn't recharge.

It simply feels like the tactical gameplay with Titans is gone. If you get in a fight, you're finishing it. And yes, the different personalities add a different type of tactics, but it just changes the way every fight feels. It doesn't change how you fight. It's all in, all the time, and that's not as fun. That's not the Titan gameplay I loved in the first game.

2. The Gametypes Don't Fit the Gameplay

The tech test had three gametypes for us to play: Bounty Hunt, Pilot vs. Pilot, and Amped Hardpoint. All three of these modes failed to capture the speed that makes Titanfall so fun. In fact, they are a fundamental contradiction of what made Titanfall what it was.

Bounty Hunt is supposedly a replacement for Attrition. You kill AI and other players to get money. Dying causes you to lose half of what you've saved. To score, you take the money to dropoffs that periodically open and deposit the money. Attrition worked because you were encouraged to get out and explore the map, searching for targets to kill. In Bounty Hunt, you do do that, but once you build up a few $100 the cost of dying becomes way too high and the optimal strategy becomes standing still camping while you wait for the dropoff to open.

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Pilot vs. Pilot, of course, removes Titans and AI from the game so it's only pilots. This mode was added to Titanfall later in its life and it quickly became the least-played game mode in the entire game. The game is about the balance between Pilot and Titan. If you remove that, all you have left is Call of Duty.

Amped Hardpoint is the same Hardpoint from the first game with an added twist: staying in the point to defend increases the amount of points it gives you. This effectively creates the same issue as Bounty Hunt - you are rewarded for sitting still and not playing. Hardpoint always had some incentive to defend, but the games tended to be a cycle from point to point for each time, and it was great fun for it. Now it's all about convincing your team to sit back at the home base to score amped points, which is basically a requirement to win.

3. The Maps Do Not Work

This is by far the gravest issue because it cannot be fixed. The maps are obviously designed to prevent movement. Titanfall was lauded for its map design where skilled Pilots could cross and entire maps without touching the ground. Later in life, Respawn even added a game mode called Deadly Ground where you'd die if you hit the ground - the map design was so good that mode actually worked.

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Now, you have large open spaces with hardly any cover and certainly nowhere to wall run. Instead of being able to attack from any angle, players are funneled down specific lanes in each level. Instead of cleverly-placed walls to allow endless wall running, objects are placed in the way that force you to lose your momentum and stick to the ground. It all comes together to make a severe change that fundamentally alters the gameplay.

Moving Forward...

Some of these issues can be fixed. Considering the negative reception of the game, I imagine Respawn is working overtime to resolve as many of the complaints as possible. But the game is coming out in less than two months - Respawn could not fix all of these issues in so short a time.

As I said at first, this is a good game. It might even be a great game. I don't think that can be disputed. If you've never played Titanfall, there's a lot to love here. The problem is that the bar was set so astronomically high that the game simply didn't meet it.

I, for one, will still be there on Day 1 on October 28th. I owe the franchise that much and I'm sure I'll have a great time with it. I'm just worried it won't be what I wanted. It won't be what I loved. What do you think? Sound off in the comments below. I'd love to hear why I'm wrong.
Kevin Tavore
Written by Kevin Tavore
Purveyor of news articles and the occasional walkthrough or op-ed. The American equivalent of Aristotle. Likes almost all genres but has an unhealthy aversion to exploration and puzzles. Nicest place he'd never want to go? Japan.