Forget all the hubbub around the presence of a real, honest-to-goodness campaign in Titanfall 2. That wasn't on display when I went to battle against other attendees at Electronic Arts' EA Play event. Instead, the same mechanics that comprised the cornerstone of the first game, with plenty of refinements rolled in for good measure, served as a reminder that frantic multiplayer action is still the primary draw in Respawn Entertainment's shooter.
My fellow Titan pilots and I squared off in a game of Bounty, one of Titanfall 2's new multiplayer modes. Certain Titans get bounties put on them, and players collect by either rodeo-ing them as a pilot or blasting them into submission from the cockpit of a mech. The catch is that rappelling up a Titan doesn't earn you an instant kill. Instead, you clamber up top, drop a grenade down a hatch, and yank out a battery that you can use to either heal a wounded mech, or power a disabled one.
This approach to wrangling Titans solves two issues. In the original game, many players opted to forego operating giant robots in favor of utilizing their pilot avatars' parkour-like maneuvers. Prioritizing batteries places a greater significance on Titans, while at the same time introducing more tactical options--namely, prioritizing which mechs should be healed or powered up once you've got your hands on a battery.
Different Titans boast different abilities. Scorch Titan lives up to its name by unleashing a bevy of fire-based attacks. You can launch a mortar shell that explodes and covers wide areas in flames, aim a flame cannon that comes with a cooldown to force you to direct your wrath carefully, and a fire shield that melts rather than absorbs or deflects projectiles. Each mech has an ultimate attack, and Scorch Titan takes the simple yet effective tack of canvassing a wide area in fire.
Ion Titan is the yin to Scorch's yang. Where Scorch calls upon direct, high-damage attacks, Ion favors those players who prefer to a more calculated approach. Dealing critical hits repairs injured spots on Ion, and the Splitter Rifle fires multiple shots to wipe out several targets. Ion's ultimate attack is a bright red beam meant to obliterate single targets. I've taken to calling it the Titan toppler: get a rival 'bot in your sights, power up the beam, and that bounty is as good as yours.
Pilots are even more fleet of foot. One of the game's classes, Front Rifleman, carries a new-and-improved grappling hook able to latch onto any surface. In tandem with the pilot's smooth movements like running along walls and flitting about using a jetpack, the hook's stickiness lets you dictate how to navigate terrain.
The Counter Sniper and Hard Tracker classes also tout unique abilities, such as the Tracker's gravity bombs that open a vortex and suck nearby pilots into a tidy clump, like bowling pins ready and waiting to be knocked over.
These and other design decisions seem intended to foster longevity. In a recent announcement, Respawn confirmed that all maps released for Titanfall 2 will be free. Making it easy and cheap for all players to invest time in learning new maps, combined with the wider range of gameplay options and the inclusion of a single-player campaign, are poised to give Titanfall 2 a shelf life its predecessor will envy.
Titanfall 2 will release on October 28 for Xbox One, PS4, and PC.