By Steven Petite
“Is the much vaunted single player worthwhile?”
Harold Goldberg asked me this question the other day in regard to Titanfall 2. The original 2014 shooter, as many know, was an Xbox One exclusive that only featured online multiplayer. There were objective, somewhat story-oriented pieces sandwiched into the multiplayer experience, but there was no campaign.
Titanfall 2’s campaign is the most fun I’ve had with an FPS, single player wise, since Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. And this makes sense considering that the creators of the first two Modern Warfare experiences went on to found Respawn Entertainment (the developer behind Titanfall and its sequel).
Now, if you’re looking for a riveting story, or even a sensical one, Titanfall 2 is not your game. But the game is just so damn engaging that the lack of a decent narrative didn’t matter at all to me. It actually surprised me how much leniency I was willing to give Titanfall when it comes to its plot.
To demonstrate both the narrative faults and the astronomical fun-factor, let me take on the fifth mission, “Effect and Cause.”
I’ll give Respawn credit. The mission title is clever, as it has newly minted Pilot Jack Cooper distorting time in an IMC (big bad corporation that wants to destroy the world) test facility. Cooper comes across this handy wrist gadget that, with the press of the button, changes the scenery from a pristine facility full of armed guards and trip lasers to a fiery post-apocalyptic version with scaled reptiles that are very hungry for his flesh. This isn’t explained too well in terms of back story or relation to the plot progression, and the new mechanic is only implemented in “Effect and Cause.” And this is a prime example of how Titanfall 2 has no idea where it is going narratively.
But the inclusion of this nifty mechanic is also the epitome of what Titanfall 2 does so well. The time-switching allows Cooper to run and jump through the testing facility, with each of the worlds making new points of movement and entry. Titanfall 2 introduced the most interesting time travel element I’ve played within a game—not because it was effective storytelling, but because it further showcased the brilliant level design and gameplay.
As a Pilot, you can sprint at all times in which you are not in the air. When you are in the air, you likely to be catapulting to your next wall-run or chaotic battle on the ground below. Masterful platforming combines with some of the most fluid gunplay you can find in first person shooters, and if that wasn’t enough, the time spent manning your Titan, “BT,” only adds to the diversity of the campaign.
I rarely play video games for more than an hour or two per day, and I beat Titanfall 2 in one, gleeful six-hour marathon. While some may complain that the length is an issue, I would argue that a half-dozen hours of constantly enthralling action is much better than longer games that don’t keep the pedal to the floor the whole way through like Titanfall 2.
And of course after the credits roll there is an addicting multiplayer mode waiting for you. Titanfall 2 might be the first shooter that really teaches you (in a subtle but effective way) how to excel online against human opponents. Everything learned in the uptempo campaign translates over into the multiplayer battlegrounds. I imagine that many will skip over the single player to jump right online, but you’re missing out if you do.
It’s as if the developers sataround the table and said, “Let’s make a six-hour obstacle course.” Run, jump, and shoot your way through a highly entertaining obstacle course fit for a Shooter King.
Steven Petite frequently writes our The Moment column.