Within the last year, there has been a trend among primarily-multiplayer games to have ‘test weekends’ wherein the game is available free for a limited time, often months before release. In a world where the ‘demo disc’ has faded into antiquity, and even games of the biggest budgets don’t release public demos, this trend has been a breath of fresh air. This idea works double duty in a way beneficial to the developer and prospective purchaser alike. The developer can glean important data from players reactions, popularity, and technical findings related to the large audience; tests that would never be possible internally. The players themselves, especially those on the fence, get the opportunity to have a taste of what’s to come to help make purchasing decisions, or even just a free opportunity just to try something new and tasty. Over the past two weekends, the long-awaited sequel to 2014’s Titanfall has been available as a limited multiplayer-only test open to all console owners wanting to give it a ‘shot.’ I approached it with tempered expectations considering experience playing Titanfall, and outside of some matchmaking issues, I came out of the ‘technical pre-alpha’ with a positive experience and even more excitement to get my hands on Titanfall 2 later this year.
One of the things that set Titanfall apart from other modern shooters was its mix of combat between both other human players and computer-controlled soldiers. As someone who enjoys first-person shooters a great deal, but doesn't have the most impressive skills with them, I thought this was a smart play. The novice player has some easier targets to take out to provide personal satisfaction and contribute points towards the team’s impending victory, while the expert player will still appreciate the “line ‘em up, knock ‘em down” ego stroke.
The primarily featured mode in the Titanfall 2 test, Bounty Hunt, continues this mechanic with a new variant. Bounty Hunt features two teams of human-controlled ‘pilots’ fighting over neutral drop zone areas where AI controller enemies spawn in rounds. Killing these enemies gives the player money, and at the end of every round, players can return to bank locations on the map to confirm their respective contributions to the war effort. Pilot combat is where it gets interesting: when defeating another pilot in combat, you steal half of their accumulated cash. In execution, I found this mode to be fun and challenging. The nerve-wracking excitement of racing to a bank with a large sum of money is tense. The situation creates a balancing act of speed and awareness as you’re on the lookout for pilots trying to poach your hard-earned dollars. This strikes a fun balance, and gives the player more choice in the moment-to-moment play outside of the genre staples. As a whole, I think the bounty hunt mode is well-designed and fun addition to the game. If it is in fact the primary mode for online play, consider me far from disappointed.
|Titans can wall run. That. Is. All.|
The other available modes contrasted bounty hunt in that neither of them contained the computer controlled opponents. Players of the Call of Duty or Battlefield series’ can get experiences similar to what they are used to in both a point-control mode, and the return of the traditional shooter mode that excludes titans, appropriately named ‘Pilot-vs-Pilot.’ There is not much to say here, the modes play out as you would expect if you played Titanfall or games of the genre, but it’s worth noting that the lack of AI Soldiers in the point control mode where they had been in the past was a disappointment to me personally. The inclusion of the computer-controlled enemies was a defining characteristic of the game that I really appreciated. As the other competitors in the genre move to more futuristic themes, I think this point of differentiation is important, and I hope there are more modes featuring it in the full release.
A complaint of mine during Titanfall’s time in the gaming forefront was the lack of variety and progression during multiplayer play. At times, the unending masses of minor upgrades unlockable in multiplayer shooters feels tedious, but Titanfall took the seemingly opposite approach having very few upgrades, especially for the titans themselves. While the tech test did not give the full scope of what will be available at launch, a variety of new weapons, upgrades, and titan options were available, with many more promised. Available weapons had more individual upgrades, and the grappling hook was an excellent addition to the pilot arsenal, meshing perfectly with the telltale mobility and fast pace of the combat.
The Titan system also has had its changes, from my perspective, for the better. In lieu of the flavorless delimiters of just chassis size, the titans have assumed more of a super-hero persona, complete with unique names and earnable core abilities. On top of that, new and unique abilities were added, and alternates to favorites from the series’ past. Streamlining was also done to the ‘rodeo’ system that allows pilots to disable enemy titans by risking their lives and jumping on their backs. The new rodeo functionality allows you to remove the battery from a titan on the first go to limit their abilities, and subsequent rides damages the titan with grenades. Functionally, it is not all that much different, but a fixed animation makes it more timely and approachable, and the grappling hook will be your best friend if you have a propensity towards taking titans down on foot.
|He didn't make it to the bank in time! The dollars are mine!!!|
There is more to come, some things have been revealed in the trailers but not playable -can you say titan with a sword?- and I’m sure that there is plenty in store we won't see until launch, but I left the test wanting more. There were a few issues with matchmaking, which would not be excusable in full release, but I didn't find it as experience-ruining as some other games pundits that might not appreciate its necessity for the ‘tech testing’ portion of the event. There is not a reliable way from a demo to know exactly what’s in store in the full game, and there is none of the highly-anticipated proper single player mode here, but nevertheless, this test confirmed that I definitely will be playing more Titanfall 2 this October.
-Sir Justin Wicker