‘Titanfall 2’ (Xbox One) review: Hitting its (giant, robotic) mark

‘Titanfall’ sequel shines with frenetic, enjoyable action — and a solid story campaign

I’m not sure you ever stop moving in “Titanfall 2.” Not during the single-player campaign, where you embark on a frenetic quest in surprisingly open arenas against human and robot foe alike. Especially not in the multiplayer modes, in which destructive chaos reigns supreme, with massive robots wreaking carnage and opposing players picking you off from across the map. It’s a glorious realization.

But not as glorious as the fact that’s there actually a single-player campaign this time around. I, along with the majority of the gaming community, couldn’t express our disappointment loud enough with developer Respawn’s decision to release the original “Titanfall” in 2014 without single-player content. It’s not that the multiplayer, online components weren’t fun, because they were. How could they not be when you get to control massive robots with equally impressive weaponry? It was basically the Rock ’em Sock ’em video game I’ve always wanted.

But, as I’ve made clear in multiple reviews, I crave some sort of reasoning to stitch together why I’m launching rockets at other people. I don’t need much (I’ve been let down by too much first-person-shooter games and their terrible plots to much care anymore), but I need something more than “Shoot that guy because he called you names.”

Hence my glee as my robot pal and I kicked butt across a nearly 10-hour-long campaign that kept me constantly engaged both physically (like I said, I’m pretty sure I was in constant motion from start to finish) and mentally (the bonding between A.I. and human was unexpectedly endearing). Oh, and the multiplayer is still fantastic. It’s funny how players will enjoy a game when it’s clear that the developer takes to the time to address previous complaints.

The sequel to the Game That Should Have Been So Much More, “Titanfall 2’s” story missions aren’t out-of-this-world plot-wise. We control Cooper, who’s training to become a Pilot, an elite specialist capable of controlling giant mechs called Titans. (Pilots also happen to be quite capable without robotic assistance, a necessary skill when brute force isn’t always called for.) But before we can properly complete his training, Cooper and his regiment are stranded on a mysterious planet. The fully fledged Pilot he looks up to and who is training him is dying after saving him. The Pilot’s parting gift: his Titan, B.T., which he gives control of to Cooper. Their goal is to complete a secret mission involving the Ark. (To say much more would be to ruin the rest.)

Similar to “Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare,” the robotic character with a quick wit proves invaluable in a game style that generally revolves around “less talking, more shooting.” Unlike “Infinite’s” Ethan, B.T. is more straight-laced, preferring to stick to numbers and facts. Cooper, on the other hand, is the more gung-ho of the two, always willing to dive in head first. It’s a well-used formula, and Respawn does a serviceable job sparking my interest in both characters as the story moved forward.

The campaign’s progression should feel familiar to FPS players. You generally go from one section to next in a linear fashion, completing objectives and then moving on to the next mission. However, missions normally allow for different playstyles: If you want to sneak around without shooting anyone, have fun. If you’re a bit more destructive (don’t look at me that way!), you can rain bullets from multiple directions and levels. Or you can merge the two, using stealth to let you get behind enemy lines and then begin assassinating. (I don’t think you can complete the game as a pacifist, but you can get close.)

Other missions make better use of B.T., the most exciting of which allow you to fight other Titans. There’s even puzzle-based missions that require brainpower rather than brawn (or a quick trigger finger, if you will). Basically the levels force you to use your knowledge of how both Cooper and B.T. operate within the game’s confines to progress.

But back to why most people enjoy “Titanfall 2”: its fantastic multiplayer aspects. For the most part, the game play much the same way the first one did, which was a wise decision. There’s enough changes for fans to feel like they got something new without messing up what made the first game so much fun to play online.

The main additions this time around tend to be tactical in nature, with the perks offering an edge while you’re engaged in combat. New abilities affect how you interact, such as grappling hooks that prove deadly if they catch you or sonar blades that can detect your location. There’s also new Titan classes for players to use (either standard or with custom loadouts). If you’re better from afar, the Ion Titan grants you the ability to snipe your opponents. If you prefer to be up close and personal, perhaps the Scorcher and its fire bombs are more your style.

The game possesses a variety of standard modes, such as death-match-style Attrition and the typical Capture the Flag. In the new Bounty Hunt mode, you gain money after you take down an opponent. But you need to deposit it or you may you lose it if you die. (Think Horde Mode from “Gears of War 4.”) For each mode, though, you’re going to want to work with your teammates. That may seem obvious, but matches tend to be decided by slim margins, and going off by yourself tends to cause more harm than good.

As for progression in multiplayer, you’re able to purchase a variety of weapon parts and skins with points you earn from matches. Your level will eventually be capped, at which point you’re allowed to “regenerate” and start over at level one if you choose. Doing so grants you skins you can’t get otherwise. This will entice some, but like “Destiny,” once you hit the cap, it will inevitably feel like a grind to continue.

In “Titanfall 2,” Respawn builds upon what it got right in the first game (its multiplayer aspects) and strengthens what proved to be a poor decision (by actually adding a well-thought-out single-player campaign). It’s a well-executed package from start to finish, clearly designed with polish and skill. With all the FPS titles on the market right now, you might not think you need another. But if you have to choose, “Titanfall 2” should be mark.

Four “Talk about a fastball special” stars out of five.

“Titanfall” review

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