Taking Titanfall 2’s Tech Test to Task
If you’ve been following Respawn Entertainment and EA’s buzz on the sequel to the critically acclaimed and pulse-pounding soldier and mech warfare shooter, Titanfall, then you’re probably aware of the Tech Test in which Respawn asked players to “break” its game. Many players took to the challenge to get a look at few of the new modes, tools and, of course, massive machines we’d be handling in the upcoming game. However, if you managed to miss out or have been on the fence about Titanfall 2, have no fear. We played both weekends of the Tech Test and have prepared an in-depth breakdown on what we saw during our time with the game.
Titanfall 2 features a grand host of new options for pilots fighting on the ground. The big focus this time was mobility, making the game more fluid and faster paced than ever. To this end, in addition to the sprinting and wall running we’ve seen in the previous entry, Respawn added a couple of distinctly new options to the game: sliding and grappling hooks. Sliding can be done by any player. It can be used in conjunction with jetpack double jumps to move the player rapidly through the landscape. In addition, players can slide into another player to stagger them and set up a stylish kill. The slide gives new dynamic to a lot of other functions in the game and the most agile players will learn to employ it skillfully alongside their other options in both offense and evasion.
Grappling hooks are a pilot ability, which come in along quite a few other more familiar ones, such as the stim, cloaking, and sonar abilities. The grappling hook can grab onto any surface and propel the player towards it. The most common application is grabbing hold of Titans from range and propelling into a rodeo, riding the Titan and doing damage to it. The most important factor behind the physics of the grappling hook is that it takes player momentum into account. Sprinting in one direction while grappling in another can along players to propel themselves rapidly around corners or catapult themselves high into the air, as just a couple applications among many. On one occasion we ejected out of an exploding Titan, grabbed hold of a tower and yanked ourselves around the tower to the other side of the map and out of harm’s way. The possibilities for experimentation here are tremendous.
Speaking of maps, we’ve seen three so far --- not including a training mode meant to quickly get players up to speed --- and each features pretty stellar design. Homestead is a field outpost centered around a massive tower, featuring a mixture of forest and rocky outskirts and an industrious center. Boomtown is a small city featuring small factories, narrow gaps, large shacks and a plethora of underground and connecting infrastructure between buildings. Finally, Forwardbase Kodai is a fortress featuring a shelled structure with tons of catwalks and lower corridors underneath the accessible shell roof that serves as a high ground battlefield. Each map had distinct hotspots and structure that allowed for the tactics of every type of player, though they don’t quite feature as much verticality as we would like for the mobile availability that the new mechanics allow.
There were three different modes available in the Tech Test to take advantage of these maps. Standard Pilot vs. Pilot is a Team Deathmatch mode without Titan availability. All well and good, but we’re hoping to see a similar mode that will allow Titans as well. Amped Hardpoint is a new take on Hardpoint, which is essentially a control point mode. Three points are scattered around the map and players gain points for holding them down. Amped Hardpoint changes the game slightly by allowing players to score extra points per zone by staying in the active point and “amping” it up. It’s a unique take on a classic style and most certainly a little more engaging and strategic than the standard control point gameplay.
The standout mode was easily Bounty Hunt, which tasks two opposing teams of pilots with taking on waves that alternate between drop pods of soldiers and Titans. Players score set amounts of money by killing soldiers and damaging Titans. Killing the most NPCs racks up your team score, but you also accrue a bonus from killing these NPCs, as well as players on the enemy team. At the end of each wave, a bank opens and you can deposit your bonus to bump your team’s score substantially. Get killed with bonus in hand and it gets cut in half. This makes an engaging risk/reward system of hanging around long enough to build your bonus while attempting to stay alive long enough to bank it. Killing a player holding onto a big bonus can also net you a hefty reward based on their amount of hard earned cash. We loved this mode most as it’s an awesome blend of NPC and player competition with numerous ways to win out in the end.
Finally, we’ve got to talk about the massive change to the Titans. Titanfall 2 forgoes the standard small and agile Stryder, medium and balanced Atlas and heavily armed and slow Ogre in place of new Titans with unique armaments and abilities that fall into each category. In the Tech Test, we had time with the Atlas-type Ion and the Ogre-type Scorch. Ion uses a slew of energy weapons to wreak havoc on enemies from afar with precision. Its rapid-fire energy rifle is good for trades at medium to short range and its shoulder mounted laser cannon is good for targeted damage to Titan weak points as well as frying foolish soldiers in an instant. It features a Vortex Shield that can catch any ordinance fired at it and launch back in a directed strike. For additional defense, the Ion can deploy a laser tripwire attached to explosives that will heavily damage advancing enemies. Finally, its special ability makes use of its Laser Core which, once prepared, fires a directed super beam of energy that can take a wary Titan from 100% to scrap if it catches the full brunt of the attack.
The second Titan, Scorch, is reliant upon fire-based weaponry as its name implies. It uses a Thermite grenade launcher that fires arcing explosives for area of effect damage as its primary weapon. In addition, it has a Firewall ability that sends out a wave of fire in a direct line along the ground. Taking advantage of both of these is the Incendiary Trap, which fires a gas grenade that will fill an area with an ignitable area of smoke that will flash fry anything caught within if set aflame. For defense, the Scorch features a Thermal shield that melts enemy ordinance and will burn anything too close to it, which is great for melting pilots attempting to grapple onto the hull. For its super weapon, the Scorch features the Flame Core that allows it to slam both its fists down, creating a massive advancing and explosive wall of fire in front of it across a wide area. Where the Ion is built for precision combat, the Scorch is made for multi-target area of effect engagement, presenting two very interesting and different playstyles among the eventual six different Titans that will be coming to Titanfall 2.
Though this was an alpha build and we can certainly expect to see a great deal of changes between now and the final release, there were a lot of interesting new elements on display in Titanfall 2. We’d certainly like to see more variety in the maps and modes of the multiplayer game, but the mobility options were quite enjoyable in ground combat. Most notably, our experience with Ion and Scorch made us extremely anxious to play with the other four Titans that will be coming to the game. Of course, with a single-player campaign on the way as well, Titanfall 2 is set to deliver a very expanded experience on top of the goodwill of the original game.
Titanfall 2 will be available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC on Oct. 28.