Sometimes a game will come along and blow away any expectations you held for it. DOOM is a prime example from earlier in the year, with a sublime single player campaign and a decent multiplayer offering to boot. Now, Titanfall 2 is another game that can be added to our list of best surprises. We assumed that the title would be good but after a lengthy break from creating experiences for the sole individual, we were unsure whether Vince Zampella and his team of Infinity Ward veterans would still deliver. We never should have worried. As well as a comprehensive multiplayer serving, Titanfall 2's single-player outing is one of the very best that we've played this year.
You take up the role of John Cooper, a Militia fighter who becomes stranded on the planet Typhon following an ambush from an evil corporation known as the IMC. After gathering his bearings, Cooper comes across the Vanguard-class titan BT 7274, whose pilot is believed to be KIA. The two decide to team up and carry out the deceased pilot's initial mission: to stop the IMC from getting their hands on a power source that would fuel a planet destroying weapon called The Ark.
The plot itself is paper-thin and rather uninspiring, but it's the characters of Cooper and BT and the relationship they share that manages to lift the story out of the realms of mediocrity. As the game progresses, the two develop a friendship that you begin to care about as they tell jokes and discuss previous missions. It's a partnership that single-handedly saves the storyline from being completely throwaway because it in itself is no more than a vehicle to get you from set piece to set piece.
It's a good job, then, that these select sequences, with there often being multiple per level, are some of the most intense and exciting moments we've experienced in a game in a long, long time. Titanfall 2's campaign does things you aren't expecting, takes you to places unimaginable for the first-time player, and introduces mechanics that we never would have guessed would pop up in a game like this. We lost count of the times we finished a level and were left awestruck by what we had just done, particularly in the final two hours which move at a breakneck pace and never let up until the credits roll. This is so, so much more than just a pilot, his mech, and some enemies to shoot.
But even if that was all there is to it, you'd still have a heap of fun throughout the single player adventure. Both Cooper and BT control flawlessly, with a straightforward control scheme that is easy to pick up and relatively simple to master. A pilot's two main abilities are the double jump and wall running, and Cooper can execute these manoeuvres with great precision thanks to tight inputs on the DualShock 4 that become second nature after ten minutes. Navigating a giant chasm via wall running across three separate surfaces, all while taking out enemies and destroying robotic foes, has never felt better.
But BT gets just as much love too with a couple of base skills such as the dash and then a whole host of others which are customisable through his loadouts. There are eight in total and these give you access to new weapons such as a grenade launcher or a shotgun, and new talents which include a barrage of missiles, a shield, and a wall of flame that travels across the ground. Finally, there's the custom cores which act as BT's superpower once it has been charged up by dealing damage to enemy titans. Examples include a laser cannon shot from the chest, a sword that leaves any enemy in a wreckage, and a minigun that locks onto a target and deals a huge amount of damage. The amount of weapons and abilities on offer mean that you'll rarely be left without something new to try out.
To add to this, the campaign strikes a great balance between the time you spend as a pilot and then in a titan. And when you're given the option of using both, even more ways of tacking a situation become apparent. Coming across a large field filled with foes could give you the chance to leave BT and set him to auto-pilot so that he can draw all enemy fire while you silently cross the battlefield using your cloak ability and then take out an enemy up close with the devastating melee attacks. Dealing with encounters is key to the role of a pilot, but Respawn Entertainment has done a fantastic job of balancing this out with platforming sections that feel like they've been taken out of the golden platforming era of the PSone and Nintendo 64. The stages in the latter half of the game are particularly impressive as these harken back to the element of surprise the campaign has. Rest assured, though, you're going to have a wonderful time traversing these sections.
Once you're done with the electrifying single player, an extensive multiplayer offering can be found. The game ships with eight multiplayer modes: Attrition is your typical Team Deathmatch; Armed Hardpoint is Domination; Capture the Flag is self-explanatory; Pilots vs. Pilots pits two teams of pilots against each other without their mechs; Last Titan Standing is a race to take out all the opposing team's titans first, and finally; Skirmish comes with a variety of objectives.
But the main attraction here is Bounty Hunt, a mode split into three waves that tasks you with obtaining cash and then depositing it at a bank in order to earn points for your team. Cash is earned by killing the opposition, or taking out bounties spread across the map for large monetary bonuses. If you're killed, your total amount of cash at that time is halved, and this is what gives the mode its strategy. Banks are only available at certain times so if you've accrued a large sum of cash, you're going to become a big target for the enemy. Add titans into this mix, and Bounty Hunt becomes an intense, exciting, and satisfying mode that you'll be coming back to in the months ahead.
As well as the variety of modes on offer, the amount of customisation in your loadouts and more cosmetic items are on the same level as what you'd expect from a first-person shooter in 2016. You've got your basic loadout options for both the pilot and the titan, with different weapons, perks, attachments, and superpowers, and cosmetic options include an interchangeable banner and patch. Naturally, more loadout options and cosmetic pieces unlock as you rank up.
Titanfall 2 is what the first-person genre so desperately needed: an injection of originality. The divine single player campaign is something truly special, and we won't be forgetting any of its standout moments in a hurry. Couple this with a deep multiplayer serving that offers a variety of modes and unique gameplay mechanics and you've got one of the best FPS games of the generation so far.