I finally got around to playing the Titanfall 2 campaign recently. The game has been out for almost two years now (October 28th will be its two year anniversary), and I have heard nothing but good things about the campaign. A majority of the feedback that I have heard is people calling it one of the best campaigns in any recent shooter but also being quite short. I have had two different copies of the game for a while now waiting for me to load up and try out (one for PC and one for PS4; I went with PC). I feel that maybe I put off the game because it felt over hyped, but I am glad that I got around to finally playing the campaign. I agree with the majority where this is a game that has a great campaign but feels short, but I also have a couple small complaints that I haven’t heard any mention of before which makes me think that maybe the game has been slightly overhyped. But this is just my opinion and may be something that only I have experienced.
SPOILER WARNING for sections of gameplay from the first hour of Titanfall 2 as well as for sections of gameplay from the first thirty minutes of The Last of Us, Call of Duty 4’s campaign, and Battlefield 4’s campaign.
Titanfall 1 was a great game and a strong foundation for the sequel. My favorite part about the prequel game was the fluidity of the movement and gunplay on both consoles and PC. But, it did not feature a dedicated single player experience. It did have a training mode with some dialogue in it as well as a multiplayer mode which allowed you to play a somewhat disjointed story (and I use the term “story” lightly) as you fight with and against other players. Depending on the outcome of the match, the story would change. It was an interesting concept, but there was no way to play this mode starting from the beginning and going all the way through to the ending (unless you were really lucky with how you joined a match). The idea was sound, but the execution...not so much.
With Titanfall 2, the strong foundation from Titanfall 1 was included, but a campaign was added on. And, I have to say, it is one of the best campaigns that I have played on this console generation. Keep in mind that I am talking about campaigns added to games where the primary game type is multiplayer such as the Battlefield or Call of Duty games. Since Titanfall 1 did not have a single player option at all, I think it is safe to assume that the secondary focus for Titanfall 2 was on single player. For games like Uncharted, The Last of Us, and maybe even Gears of War (although there may be some debate there depending on who you ask), the focus seems to be more on single player then on multiplayer. Not to say that both can not be equally great, but there is a higher focus on one over the other in some cases. When Uncharted or The Last of Us is shown off, the trailers showcase the story and single player levels, not the multiplayer portions. There are most likely those out there who didn’t even know that The Last of Us had a multiplayer mode. And we can go even further and look at games such as Fallout 4 or the new Wolfenstein games which only include a single player mode and no multiplayer whatsoever.
As a campaign added onto a primarily multiplayer focused game, Titanfall 2 definitely stands above the competition and with great reason. Some of the developers behind Call of Duty 4 (which had possibly the best campaign of any multiplayer focused shooter, in my opinion) created the Titanfall series. They definitely know what they are doing and know how to balance great gameplay with great story telling. With Titanfall 2, you feel that you are in control of the action and are not simply watching scripted events or cutscenes playing out the entire time. You can not let go of your gamepad and reach over for your popcorn and forty ounce drink. You are directly controlling the game for most of the time which is how a game should be, in my opinion. I love cutscenes when they are done well (Titanfall 2 opens with a really cool cutscene), but they should not dominate the game or disconnect you from the experience. They are there to add to the gameplay or to push the story forward; not to try to make you take a step back and admire the pretty colors when you should be experiencing the game firsthand.
Titanfall 2 balances gameplay and story very well. The game chooses to not throw out a story heavy story (if that makes sense). The story instead opts to focus on the bond between you and your Titan. It is an interesting choice. Whereas most shooters would try to focus on the big bad thing that is currently happening that you will eventually stop while throwing in boring or stereotypical characters to fill up the time with expositional dialogue; Titanfall 2 manages to push the events back to a secondary position as your interactions with your Titan and those around you seem to rise to the top. This isn’t to say that the story feels thrown away; it just feels more compact and streamlined. I had a similar experience with the campaign in Call of Duty 4. There were cool moments and an overarching story, but the characters and the events that transpire with them are what stand out to me. I have a hard time recalling all of the exact details of Call of Duty 4’s story (although a majority of the game does manage to stick with me).
This is why Battlefield 4 failed to deliver a solid campaign. Not only was there a boringly simple story with your average ”There’s a big bad thing, and we need to stop it!” setting (at least I think that is what happened as I can barely remember it), but it also managed to have incredibly unlikable and unappealing characters who spent their time talking about a lot of nothing. Titanfall 2 is the complete opposite of this by managing to lay out an interesting backdrop of a world that allows for the characters to breathe and feel like real people.
So the story gets a big ole’ thumbs up from me. And, frankly, I don’t think that I really need to touch on gameplay that much. Titanfall has had very solid gameplay since the original game. Like I mentioned before, 2 manages to maintain that fluidity of movement and solid gunplay. What the game excels at and takes to the next level, though, is that it offers great level design by including locations which greatly complement the movement of the character. There are multiple areas which feel really thought out as they allow you to do really cool things with wall running, jumping, sprinting, etc. It doesn’t feel like hallway after hallway. It even manages to feel like a puzzle parkour game in some areas. There are, however, some areas which are a bit more boring than others, though. The areas for the Titans feel like big open fields or narrow, smaller fields, for the most part, but I think that this was intentional so that the movement and gameplay for the Titans was more streamlined. These are massive machines that you are piloting; I’m not really sure what an incredibly detailed and exciting playground for these Titans would look like, honestly. It’s kind of like calling an ocean level for a naval game “boring with too much water”. You can add some rock formations or structures here and there, but there is only so much you can do when designing levels around massive vehicles.
The final thing that I think is important to discuss is the length of the campaign. There is the argument of “Can a game or campaign be too long or too short?”. I usually do not feel like there is such a thing as a game that is too short, but Titanfall 2 feels like it falls closer toward the too short category. In most cases, I would say that I am fine with a shorter game. I would much rather a game be fun and short (thus leaving me wanting more) rather than fun and long (thus leaving me wanting to never play the game again because of exhaustion with the game). I felt that I would find Titanfall 2’s time (which is around five or six hours) perfectly adequate and fine, but, now that I have finished the campaign, I feel that it is actually too short. I never thought I would say that, but I honestly feel that the campaign may be too short.
This isn’t because I want more story (which I would be completely fine with) or because I feel cheated because 5 hours is less than 500 hours, but mainly because I feel like I still haven’t fully learned the game and its mechanics. There are multiple Titan loadouts and Pilot weapons that I either barely used or never got around to even touching. When I finished the campaign, I felt like I was still learning how to play the game, but now there was nowhere to go. And, sure, I could restart the campaign, and the factor of replayability may come into play, but I would much rather feel satisfied after I finish the campaign rather than feeling like I still had an itch that needed scratching because I still needed time in the world.
This may seem like a small complaint, but this really feels like my biggest problem with the campaign. It was a great time, but I felt as if it ended a bit too early. To put this in perspective, there are around twenty or thirty weapons, but I used maybe ten. There are also eight Titan loadouts, but I only felt that I fully understood one of them. I would use others, but by the time I started to sort of understand them I would either find a new loadout to use, the level would be over, or I would use a different loadout because the one I was using didn’t work that well in the current situation. I understand that the point of the campaign isn’t to necessarily walk you through every single weapon and Titan, but I couldn’t help but miss those traditional shooter levels which have you using a sniper rifle for one level than a silenced weapon for another level in order to help you sink your teeth into the variety of weapons. There were moments where you could switch to a sniper that was placed in an obvious spot for you to grab, but I would often pick up a weapon, then walk past a new weapon I had never used, then four minutes later I would find another weapon, and so on. It felt a little confusing at times where I never really knew what weapons I actually enjoyed or didn’t enjoy. Even now I can only recall maybe three weapons that I remember liking and felt comfortable with and one that I wasn’t a huge fan of. The other twenty or so I have no clue on how they function, their fire rates, or any other basic features (and I definitely tried to use a majority of them). I do like how the game does not force you into using any weapon for the majority of the game, but when I would have to switch it up, I felt a bit lost and hesitant especially considering how fast paced the game can be. Even in the final moments of the campaign, I still felt a little shaky with the controls and unsure of how certain abilities worked.
This also points to the campaign mainly being there to get your feet wet as you are intended to take off your floaties and go into multiplayer where you can spend as much time as you want messing with loadouts and weapon configurations. But this is not my main concern. I personally feel that the campaign suffers from being too short because I am too focused on sorting through all of these confusing, different gameplay elements which distracts me from what is happening in the story and world. I am thinking of “Okay, so my primary weapon will work here and here, and my secondary weapon will do this thing...or at least I think that is how it works…” rather than feeling comfortable in the game. I feel a little disconnected from the game as I am trying to work out all of these different weapons or I have to pause the game every thirty minutes or so so that I can check to see what my Titan loadout even does. This may be a problem that only I have, but I wanted to mention it since it may be a common distraction for some people. This is definitely not a problem to get in the way of enjoying the game, but is a problem that I faced and wanted to touch on.
And this problem may simply be that I tried to use multiple weapons. I could have just stuck to a few and felt comfortable, but what is the fun in that? Titanfall 2 has so many awesome weapons to use that it feels like a waste to simply ignore them because I felt a bit awkward with them. I would have preferred longer levels which allowed me more time with the weapons and abilities that I used.
And, honestly, that is about it. It is a short game; so I will keep my thoughts on the game somewhat short. Overall I enjoyed the game, and I feel that it is definitely one of the top shooter campaigns that is out there. It would be a lot better if it were longer, but I can definitely live with a great, shorter experience rather than a bloated mess of a game. If you have the game, make sure to not pass on the single player campaign. It is definitely not your typical shooter campaign for all of the right reasons.