Preview: Titanfall 2's multiplayer is more versatile and intense than ever

This year at E3 2016, for the first time in what felt like an eternity, Electronic Arts did not have a booth on the show floor. However, a common misconception is that “not having a booth” is the same as “not attending” the show itself. EA was in fact at E3 just as much as ever, even if that meant all of their content was featured in a building other than the Los Angeles Convention Center.

Instead, they rented out another building and redecorated the exterior and interior to resemble what can only be described as a bright, red shrine to the EA logo. One entire floor was full of stage presentations, swag, booth attendees, and demo kiosks for the latest iterations of Madden, FIFA, and Battlefield. But all the way up on the roof of the building was a military-themed canopy overlooking a multi-level Gwent advertisement where I found a series of Titanfall 2 demo stations.

A New Game with New Titans

The demo that I got my hands on at E3 consisted only of the upcoming game’s multiplayer offering, as the Titanfall 2 single player campaign wasn’t available. The biggest difference this time around was immediately apparent from the loadout screen: instead of intricately customizing my titans as before, I could instead pick from a handful of different classes. In this way, they’ve made titan selection similar to pilot selection.

In the original Titanfall, you could spend time customizing each of your titan’s guns, abilities, and more, which resulted in a unique sense of attachment to the hulking chunk of metal you’re lumbering around the battlefield in. But what often ended up happening is that everyone would settle on what the “best” loadout for titans was, and eventually every player was using essentially identical options. That led to player drop-off and the game’s online servers died within just a few months. In Titanfall 2, there should be more variety and, as a result, more room for experimentation and retention.

In this demo I had two different titans to pick from, one that felt relatively traditional with a standard machine gun, some missiles, and a shield, and one that seemed more focused on doing large damage in small bursts. But of course, equally as important as which titan I picked, there was also the choice of pilot as well. After all, the majority of my time would likely be spent outside of my titan.

Since the team at Respawn didn’t walk us through the controls or what our options were, this was more of a “trial by fire” approach to an E3 demo with zero hand-holding. Once I spawned into the match, PlayStation 4 controller in hand, one of the first things I noticed was just how good and fast the game felt. This was true back when the original Titanfall released on the Xbox 360, Xbox One, and PC, but it’s worth mentioning again. Titanfall 2 just feels good to play.

Grappling Hooks and Mech Fights

Previously, you could run on walls and boost across gaps using an agile jetpack, but now your options are expanded dramatically via a new grappling hook mechanic. I can attach the hook to any building, object, or ledge and it slowly starts pulling my character towards that point. When you combine it with the jetpack and wall running, the freedom of movement is liberating. One of the best ways to use it, I found, involved jumping off of a ledge, then attaching the grappling hook while I was boosting through the air rather than just waiting on it to pull me forward, so the tether served as a sort of course-correction device.

Since the pilots and titans all feel like more definitive classes with prescribed abilities and designs this time around, I noticed within a few minutes I was able to visually identify my enemies and what to expect from them. At once, I could tell whether that titan was going to keep its distance and shoot at my mech from afar, or if I should expect it to charge forward launching a barrage of flame-fueled attacks.

In the latter portion of my match, my favorite moment occurred when I rounded a corner only to find two mechs from the enemy team taking on a single mech from my team. We grouped at the far end of the street and charged forward for an epic 2v2 mechanized duel.

After trading a few punches, I raised my shield and finished off one of the enemies with a point blank blast and stepped on the ejected pilot before he could escape, just as my remaining opponent did the same to my partner. Before I could finish him off, he ejected from the mech and used his grappling hook to land on my mech’s back in an attempt to take me out. But I quickly ejected from my own suit instead, killed him while floating in mid air, then used my own grappling hook to land back inside my titan all in one fluid action.

That sort of intense, non-scripted “action hero” event isn’t possible in more traditional shooting games - EA’s very own Battlefield franchise included. It’s the sort of action we’ve come accustomed to expecting in hero shooters like Overwatch, and Titanfall 2 seems poised to attempt a marriage of single player set piece moments and large-scale multiplayer battles full of high-intensity action and fluidity of movement.

Iteration Over Innovation

Titanfall 2 isn’t a revolutionary game, and I don’t think it really needs to be. The original foundation is still a strong proof-of-concept for designing a first-person shooter and there was a ton of untapped potential. With a few small tweaks to the formula, some new additions to make it even more fun than before, and the inclusion of a bonafide single player campaign, should all help to round out a package that aims to be bigger, better, and more intense than ever.

Titanfall 2 will be available on October 28 for the PS4, Xbox One and PC.