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REVIEW: Titanfall 2 Open Beta (Video Game)

On October 24 2016, Titanfall 2 will be released and Andrew Higgins is back again to give us a taste of what we can expect.

 

Full Disclaimer: I am war game junkie. I appreciate the realism in games from the Battlefield and Call of Duty series and I like accurate gun physics and the simulated fog of war that tries to mimic the intensity of what is real combat.

What is Titanfall 2?

Well it’s like the original Titanfall but with better graphics, physics, game play and balance.  Basically all of the good things from Titanfall were improved on. While mech games are always a good thing, they’re often executed terribly (with a few notable exceptions like MechWarrior 2 and Armored Core). But from the initial launch of the XBOX One console, Titanfall has been running on all cylinders and has delivered great Mech gameplay within a polished first person shooter package. The original game focused on a multi-player experience that keyed on quick match-making, perfect battle maps and frantic action. And while it did not have a campaign mode, Titanfall did weave together the initial missions into a “story mode lite” that allowed for a decent amount of world building and connection to the universe, so that the multi-player matches felt connected to a greater purpose other than just shooting the other guy. Titanfall 2 looks to up the ante with a newly introduced story mode (which was not part of the beta), enhanced match-making capabilities and a souped-up game engine.

 

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The Network

The most innovative thing about Titanfall 2 is not improved graphics or the enhanced game engine. Instead, the most ground-breaking improvement is without a doubt the network feature. Respawn (the creators of the Titanfall series) has made a conscious decision to focus on the game experience before and after the match and optimize player-to-player interactions. This is likely to be a game changer for multiple reasons. Often times, connecting with friends on-line is a real challenge for gamers. But with Titanfall 2‘s new network feature, Respawn has made connecting with friends and teammates dead simple. There still need to be a few tweaks, but I am sure this can get worked out long before the launch. The network feature is comprised of three sub features: Chat, Matchmaking and Management as well as one super cool sub-sub feature, Happy Hour, which we’ll get into in a moment.

The network features are available in game mode and online play. Depending upon how competitive you are, this may take your Titanfall 2 experience to new heights, as players will be able to discuss new strategies and gameplay techniques, as well as recount battles and brag about victories past, ad nauseam, while you are away from the game. I can also see the additional integration of social network APIs to allow for sharing via, Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat, and Twitter. With this feature, you can add players to your network and you can join multiple networks. And if someone is trolling or doesn’t participate at the rate that you want them to, you can kick them out of your network. You can make teams from your network on the fly, you can keep tabs on how your network is performing and finally you can schedule Happy Hour.

 

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Happy Hour

So what is Happy Hour? It is one of the more pioneering features of Titanfall 2 that I think will be copied by other games of all genres in the future. The idea is simple: your network will designate a time during which it will have a high volume of members available to participate in campaigns. This is essentially what was done by guilds in Everquest and by raiding parties in World of WarCraft. However, the benefit is that EA (and Respawn) is taking care of all the logistics for you. It is a brilliant way of managing volume and making sure that competitive play is available. I can easily see Respawn offering additional experience points or rare weapons during Happy Hour to encourage participation.


Graphics and Sound

The tone of Titanfall 2 perfectly set. The graphics are cement grays, dulled greens and browns, along with a dystopic rust that covers just about everything on the three maps that were presented in the beta. The Titans look awesome and insurmountable and they are noticeably larger than they were in the original game. Additionally, they all look war weary and used, which adds a sense of combat fatigue to the entire environment. The weapon models are flawless and show trigger action, shell ejection and a laborious reloading animation that fits within the narrative of the game perfectly. The explosions are blinding and the arcs of the electrified weapons are amazing. The sound is equally impressive and there are differentiated sounds for different weapons, which allow you to take cover from a sniper simply by the crack of a passing round, even though they have not put the cross hairs on your avatar yet. Overall the game has a gritty feel to it, which might change in the full release, but all three maps in the beta look like this. And if you don’t like gritty, at least the explosions are nice.

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Gameplay

Titanfall 2 is fast and furious just like its predecessor, but everything is improved: shooting, wall walking, vertical environments, the sound and force feedback – it’s just a solid evolutionary update in game play in every way. So, if you liked the original Titanfall, which I think most people did, I’m confident that you will like Titanfall 2.

That being said, I have already been asked the million-dollar question: How does this game compare to Overwatch, the new 800lb gorilla of first person shooters? To me, Overwatch is more enjoyable. Now I know there is a whole heap of opinion laced in that statement, but the beauty of Overwatch is that it knows what it is and does not portend that it will be anything else. In fact, it eschews everything else at the expense of even alienating potential players.

 

So there you have it, the beta shows that Titanfall 2 is going to be an amazing game. Not only does it have top notch, butter smooth graphics, movie studio quality sound and a networking feature that will put it miles ahead of the competition, but now the addition of a story mode which will make it viable for non-competitive first person shooter lovers. And even though it’s not the best first person shooter on the market, it is still very good and if you are Titanfall fan I guarantee you will love it. However, the itch that must be scratched still belongs to Overwatch.