XBF Game of the year 2016
By most measures 2016 hasn’t been the greatest year with the political turmoil and 0a general sense of unease. We’ve seen the majority vote to leave the European Union, a complete, dangerous lunatic take over at the White house and a deplorable excuse for a human being stroll into Number 10.
As I write this news of the sad passing of Carrie Fisher a much-loved figure within the Sci-Fi community and a genuinely decent feminist, activist, human being and role model for young Women everywhere. Whilst I’m far from the biggest Star Wars fan out there the outpouring of grief and sadness in the wake of her death speaks volumes for how she was regarded.
Back to the games
2016 hasn’t been a vintage year for our little hobby with sequel upon sequel making up for the lack of new IP. We’ve been lucky with the traditional end of year car wreck that featured the brilliant Gears of War 4, the lovingly remastered Modern Warfare and the spectacular Battlefield 1. You can throw in Dishonoured 2 and amazingly I really enjoyed this year’s entry in the COD franchise but only 1 game has really stood out from the crowd.
The Sequel to arguably the best new FPS in recent years was always on the cards but what surprised the most was how utterly brilliant the Single Player campaign was. Titanfall was completely without the traditional Single Player Campaign making its inclusion this time around even more of a surprise but it’s the stunning level design, simple, cohesive character driven plot elements and consistently brilliant narrative that elevates TITANFALL 2 above not only its predecessor but over its competition.
The best shooter since Modern Warfare, it’s that brilliant.
Key to the Single Player Campaign is the relationship between Pilot and BT your badass Titan. When BT’s Pilot is killed early in the game you are promoted from Grunt to Acting Pilot and start the bonding process. The link between you and BT deepens as the story unfolds pitting you and BT against overwhelming odds and you come to rely on your Titan.
You’re frequently separated from BT and whilst the on foot sections are immensely fun and make great use of the free running aspects and Pilot combat skills I often found myself wanting more time with my Titan. Nothing beats wading through scores of grunts and enemy Titans on route to the next objective or protecting friendly troops. Respawn have done a great job of really differentiating the Pilots from the general soldiers. You’re treated almost like a god at times as your legend grows with your Titan.
The first Titanfall was stripped back due to necessity and that created a really streamlined, balanced gameplay experience. You weren’t buried under millions of guns, load-outs and attachments. There is always the temptation to overdo it in a similar manner to Call of Duty but again this is where Respawn have done a great job of just adding enough to add variety but not at the expense of balance. The new Titan classes are a perfect example of this and by swapping between them on the fly you can leverage the best load-out for each encounter
Titans have seen a large amount of work and they are heavily customisable with various load-outs available each with their own weapons and skill sets. Ronin for example is a close quarters, in your face kind of Titan who wields a powerful Shotgun but his Core ability is a Ninja like sword that deals massive damage. The other end of the spectrum is Legion a more powerful offensive Titan who specialises in death by mini-gun. He’s a slow moving, slow firing tank best used in a group flanked by faster Titans like my personal favourite Northstar.
Northstar is a glimpse into the more tactical aspects of Titanfall and shows that sometimes escape is the better part of valor. Northstar is the games female Titan designed with speed and maneuverability in mind. What she lacks in defensive capabilities she more than makes up for with her Hover ability, Flight Core, Tether Trap and devastating Cluster missiles. Combining the Hover, Tether and Cluster Missiles it’s possible to deal massive damage to enemy Titans whilst keeping out of the firing line.
There is an added sense of depth in Titanfall 2 underpinned by its excellent core mechanics. Set pieces are wisely side-lined through the game in favor of smaller scale boss battles against various powerful Titans and enemy pilots. The boss fights on the higher difficulties are really spectacular battles that can take several attempts to clear. Each one is distinct and different from the last by virtue of the varied Titan types but they never feel cheap or unfair. It’s almost like chess, move followed by a block or strafe and counter move. Whilst most games simply go for more explosions Titanfall again excels in the tactical possibilities found at it’s core.
Titanfall is never going to win any awards for best visuals but on PC at least the Art Direction is functional and the Titans are really well detailed. Environments are relatively sparse, colours are muted and up close textures are somewhat muddy and blurry which isn’t something you expect on a high end PC but Titanfall was never about the visuals. Even at resolutions above 1080p which Titanfall supports up to 4k it never blows you away.
The priority was always keeping latency as low as possible to keep those controls feeling super smooth and precise. Fluidity is a key component in the overall Titanfall Experience and if you thought it was good first time around you haven’t seen anything yet. Titanfall 2 nails that sense of speed, movement and progress through the environments making levels a playing field of challenges jumps, sprints and combinations that when nailed see you blowing through enemy encounters like a fucking bad mother fucker. You can play straight up and that’s fun the mechanics are enjoyable but you’re missing out on the real magic. Wall running, sprinting, sliding and jumping into combat chaining moves together to wipe out entire enemy squads without slowing down is challenging, highly rewarding and when you get it right it is so cool.
The only negative aspect is the poor commercial performance of the franchise so far despite being on the 3 main platforms it has sold less than its predecessor. Clearly the timing of release has had a negative impact putting it right in the middle of Battlefield 1 and Call of Duty was a pretty stupid thing to do. Those two games alone are more than enough to empty the wallets of most gamers but when you add Gears of War 4, FiFA 17 and The Elders Scrolls V the decision to launch when it did makes even less sense. Titanfall on launch was Number 1 for five weeks despite only being on the Xbox One but its launch windows was less congested.
Does this impact the game at all? No not really but it does raise concerns for the future of the series. Some might say EA have a moral duty to ensure a 3rd game in the series gets the green light and the fantastic critical reception can hopefully grow and spread and maybe in the New Year sales will pick up because we need more franchises like Titanfall. It takes the solid foundations of its predecessor avoids the temptation of simply throwing the kitchen sink at it and intelligently improves every single aspect and adds a hugely satisfying single player campaign on top.
You can see the likes of Call of Duty clamoring for a piece of the action adding ridiculous parkour elements to its recent releases but they are simply added on not built in from the ground up and that is what lies at the heart of Titanfall. Unparalleled freedom to run, jump, slide and fucking murder everything that moves in the slickest way possible. It really is like ballet at times, but with guns, lots of guns.
EA do the right thing and green light a Titanfall 3 please, you know it makes sense.