Titanfall 2 – Tech Test Final Thoughts

Titanfall 2 LogoThis past weekend was the second and final time to play the Open Tech Test for Titanfall 2, and compared with the first weekend there were a few changes that Respawn put in place to hopefully get the hype back on track. Did it work though? That’s a trickier question to answer.

I came out of the first weekend really unimpressed by the state of Titanfall 2. It felt a lot like what made the original game special was either missing or diluted through changes. One of the bigger spots there was how the Titans worked. Going into the second weekend that was one of the highlights that Respawn tweaked – hopefully making it so palyers were able to earn Titans more often. Sure there were a couple other changes, including the addition of a third map, but for me, most of what I was focused on was based around the Titan earn rate. The problem is that even with the change to earn rate, the core issue I have with the Titans is still there – they just don’t feel worth it anymore. In the first game, earning a Titan and piloting it was a major increase in power. You could easily clear Hardpoints, chase down a flag runner, or escort your own; in Marked for Death, having my 40mm cannon Ogre was how I took down most of my targets. Titan combat felt different from pilot combat, but not overpowering to deal with – you had multiple options, from anti-titan weapons, counter-Titanfalls, or good rodeo attacks. Based on the Tech Test, which again, was based on a build from back in June, Titans just don’t feel special anymore. Part of that is the switch in how Titan customization works – gone are the base frames and instead you have preset builds with limited options to tweak. When you factor in that you have to choose between anti-titan or sidearm in your Pilot loadout now too, it makes fighting Titans on foot a less fun proposition.

There were lots of posts over on the subreddit talking about the changes to rodeo and the lack of logic that it has. If my Titan doesn’t have a shield when I call it down, and then I get rodeoed and lose my battery, how does it make sense that when that battery is put into a different Titan, they gain a shield? I don’t necessarily think that just keeping the rodeo mechanic the same as the first game would be the right way to go, but I don’t think the battery mechanic was either. Instead, I would have preferred to see more options for countering a rodeoing Pilot. The changes to Titan combat, combined with the new maps and game modes, really all work together to create a weird situation. I think if you hadn’t played the first game at all, you wouldn’t have any problem with how the Tech Test played. It would feel different from the other shooters out on the market right now – certainly worlds away from Destiny, Halo, or Battlefield and Overwatch, and does have some similarity to Call of Duty. It’s the fans of the first game who have been vocal in their (our) displeasure.

There’s a lot going on with why I think Titanfall 2 might end up being in for a hard season. The first game was so different and fresh, and really was the only game in town during the early days of this console generation. Years of development, a really fantastic time for FPS games, and a loaded launch window now all are working against the sequel. For me the feeling of the first game, which was a huge selling point moving into the sequel, has been lost a little. I was certainly excited to get my hands on it going into the Tech Test, especially a few months ahead of launch. And while I won’t go as far as to say that the full game will be bad or anything like that, I am thinking that I may pass on it, at least during the early days. My college buddies that I play games with were talking about it – is it worth picking up? For me, I’m leaning more toward grabbing Infinite Warfare/Modern Warfare Remastered along with Rise of Iron. There are lots of games coming out, and I think the FPS genre in particular is pretty stacked – Titanfall 2 really needed to keep its identity to stand out, and I worry that isn’t happening. There’s still time until launch, a lot of these issues can certainly be ironed and could recapture the feel of the first game. We just have to wait and see.

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Titanfall 2 Tech Demo Impressions

Titanfall 2 LogoThis past weekend Respawn had the first of two multiplayer Tech Demo tests for October’s Titanfall 2. I was and still am a huge fan of the first game – it was the first game on the current-gen consoles that actually felt “next-gen” to me. It also managed to beat the other FPS games to the punch with regards to the focus on increased mobility, which we’ve since seen in heavy hitters like Destiny, Call of Duty and even in Halo. So I went in to this weekend pretty excited to see what Respawn has been up to with the sequel – I thought the E3 footage was definitely exciting after all. Unfortunately, I came out of the first weekend with a lot more unsure about the direction the game is headed.Yes, I know it was a build from June, but that doesn’t excuse some of the issues I have with it. Let’s talk through this little mess.

We have to start with my biggest complaint, by a pretty large margin, which is the UI. The first game didn’t have a particularly easy UI to use to begin with, but this time around it’s even worse. The multiplayer lobby is cluttered, thanks to the new Network system taking up the lower third of the screen. Your whole screen feels like it’s being used and it’s hard to tell what’s important – you’ll be bombarded with Network invites dead center in the screen, but if you’re just trying to play a game or two, that’s not at all important. I also had a hell of a time trying to get my friend into my party/lobby to play with. We played one game of Bounty Hunt last night – then after the game finished, it put us into different lobbies and we couldn’t get back together. After about 15 minutes or so, we just called it quits because it’s just wasn’t worth the frustration. Some of the menus are fine – the game selection is nice and clear, explaining the objective, whether or not it has Titans or AI involved and player count. Others are a little clunky – I wasn’t a huge fan of the loadout customization system, not necessarily because it was bad, but I think it was better in the first game.

Once you get past all the UI clunkiness and into an actual game, that’s where I think your opinion of the game really is dependent on what you’re expecting. Coming in as a big fan of the first game, I had some expectations – AI combatants on big maps, Pilots zipping all around and Titans being called down and becoming pretty important targets. And to be fair, those elements are there – sort of. AI only is present in Bounty Hunt, at least for now; and it’s in a much more limited role than it used to be. Pilots still have a great degree of mobility – in fact I think that may be the best improvement from the first game to this one; your movements have more weight to them, they feel like you actually have momentum and mass. The new grappling hook Pilot ability really helps with that feeling, as well as being a really fun way to move around the maps. Titans still play a pretty big role in the game too, but it’s a very different feeling, this time in a way that I think takes a lot more getting used to. Depending on the game mode, you can get a Titan pretty quickly, or at least until they hot fixed it, maybe only once in a Hardpoint game. The biggest change to the Titans though is that they’ve decided to make them all individual classes. Gone are the old chassis that you could customize however you want – take a heavy Ogre chassis and give it the heavy weapon, or give the heavy hitter to the light chassis. Now you have different profiles for the Titan – Ion or Scorch in the tech demo – and they have a couple options to mess with, but their weapons or abilities aren’t those options. Each frame has its own weapon and abilities, and you have to learn how they work. The Titans do feel a little less powerful overall, but that might just be because the maps both felt a little small. One of the real strengths of the first game was that the maps actually felt like big battlefields. Whether you were a Pilot or a Titan, you never felt out of place – the scale worked both ways. This weekend’s maps felt a lot more built around the Pilot to me – playing as a Titan, even on Homestead, felt a little cramped.

Titanfall

All of that may sound like I really disliked my time playing, there’s a lot of nitpicking and criticism in there for sure. But that’s only because I really loved the first game and I really do think that this can become a franchise along the lines of Call of Duty/Battlefield/Halo. What worries me is that it feels like Titanfall has lost its identity a little bit. When I play it, I can’t help but feel the echoes of Call of Duty becoming louder – I don’t get that with Destiny and its lineage with Halo as Destiny has evolved. I worry that the pressure to deliver on this sequel is maybe a little overwhelming – there’s a lot different this time around, especially on the single-player front. I’m not quite as down on it as some of the posts I saw on the Titanfall subreddit were – nor am I as naive as to think that a six month delay would be enough time to completely retool the multiplayer, which was an actual post I saw. I actually had a good number of moments while playing that put me right back in that Titanfall frame of mind – goosing ejecting Pilots, Titan punching Pilots trying to rodeo me, parkouring all over a map without touching the ground, all while fighting the whole time. There’s still enough character in there where when it works, there’s nothing like it right now; even at its fastest, Black Ops III doesn’t quite do parkour as well.

What I would love to see is Respawn take these two weekends feedback seriously, and make this game as good as it can be. I don’t think it needs a big delay, but I do think that pushing it back to Christmas would be a huge help. Two months to use that feedback, polish up the UI and networking; and maybe most importantly, get it out of the crowded launch season – especially with FPS games. The first game didn’t really have a lot of competition to worry about – Call of Duty: Ghosts and Battlefield 4 were really it, and both had been out for months by then. Titanfall 2 doesn’t have that luxury – Destiny: Rise of Iron, Battlefield 1, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare and Modern Warfare Remastered all hit within a month either way of TF2‘s launch. Add in some other heavy hitters and I don’t think it’s too tough to see how a short delay might really help. Maybe after this second weekend coming up we’ll have a better idea of what’s happening moving forward.

Titanfall Alpha Makes Me More Excited For It

TitanfallOver this past weekend, Respawn Entertainment held a closed beta/alpha for Titanfall, and because the internet exists, some footage of course leaked online. While the quality for the footage isn’t the greatest, it does show off a bit more of the gameplay than we had seen previously. There also isn’t much from the Alpha in general, since players were made to sign an NDA before playing, to the point where most clips have already been pulled, but they did exist long enough to get me a bit more excited for the game than I already was.

First off, the game looks pretty good running on the Xbox One/PS4. I was a little skeptical when they announced that it would be 6V6, with a number of AI bots filling out the rest of the lobby, but seeing it in action, it works out pretty well. It reminded me of how the AI works in games like League of Legends, acting more like fodder and filler, but still filling a role in the context of a match. While the actual AI looked a little rough, there is still a little time before release to tighten up the AI.

To me, the real meat of the footage is the actual way the game plays. Based on the info that they had already shown, I saw Titanfall as sort of an amalgamation of Tribes and Call of Duty, with maybe a hint of Battlefield 2142. After seeing it in action, it certainly plays like a more agile version of CoD. The way that the pilots are able to move around the map allows Respawn to make maps that take advantage of the wall running abilities and include more verticallity than the typical Call of Duty map. The real kicker is the addition of the Titans. They really change the game to a more asymmetrical style, with the on foot pilots taking down the Titans, as the Titans cause some serious damage.

The other really cool thing about how Titanfall approaches the multiplayer is that from all accounts it looks like the story of the game will be taking place through the actual multiplayer. I like how it looks like it ties in through little gameplay mechanics like when a team loses, the players have to rush back to their dropship in order to escape, which I think is a neat little touch. All said, the little footage that leaked really got me more excited for March 11th.