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Titanfall 2 review

Titanfall 2's brilliance comes as a surprise, and I say that as somebody who loved the original despite its flaws. In its first attempt, Respawn created a set of traversal, gunplay and mech combat systems that were served well by the multiplayer framework placed around them. I firmly believe that if Titanfall had been released in the late nineties, we'd be talking about its wallrunning, titan-hopping, knee-sliding combat in the same hushed terms reserved for Tribes' skiiing, or Quake's rocket jumping.

Instead, Titanfall was released in 2014. That meant it was burdened by community-sundering season passes and grinding unlock systems, bad practices that drove players away—and that have been fortunately abandoned for this sequel.

Titanfall 2 is a very different game to its predecessor, but it has led me along a similar line of thought. If this were a game from the late nineties or early noughties, we'd likely look back at the mission 'Effect and Cause' as one of the greats of the genre, the sort of one-off statement of imagination and execution that you think of when you consider BioShock's Fort Frolic, Thief 3's Cradle, or—and I can't believe I'm about to make this comparison—Half-Life 2's We Don't Go To Ravenholm. It's that good. I know—I'm surprised too.

That one act really is a spectacular jewel in the game's crown, and it's remarkable because it's a self-contained experience. Titanfall 2 takes notes from the way that Valve structured the Half-Life series: each section introduces a set of ideas, escalates them quickly, and then moves on from them just as fast. As a result there's a lot packed into the 6-7 hours it will take you to finish the campaign, with each section finding its own way to surprise you.

You'll engage in a running firefight through a massive factory that is throwing prefab colony buildings together around you as you go. You'll perform a beachhead landing alongside a phalanx of allied titans. You'll engage in mech duels against a cast of mercenary titan pilots pulled straight from an eighties action movie. And in Effect and Cause you'll... well, I won't spoil it.

If there's anything holding Titanfall 2 back, it's that not all of its chapters are created equal. It has some good ideas, some great ideas, and one brilliant idea. And because of Respawn's (otherwise laudable) willingness to drop an idea when they've used it up, you might find yourself wishing that some of these high concepts stuck around longer than others. Even during its less-inspired moments, however, the worst it gets is 'very good shooter with very big robots'.