C’mon, let’s be honest; if you had to tread the dark path back in 2014, Titanfall was pretty much the only reason for owning an Xbox One. Somewhat predictably, the reaction from PlayStation 4 owners that the game wouldn’t be arriving on the platform bordered on incredulity and rightfully so. Well, fast forward two and half years and Titanfall 2 is now set to drop on PS4, and if this pre-alpha, technical test is any sort of indication we should be in for some solid multiplayer thrills when the game releases this October.
From the off, players can either get stuck into training, or, they can hop straight into the thick of things and hit up the test’s two multiplayer modes, Bounty Hunt and a regular take on 8 vs 8 team deathmatch called Pilots vs Pilots. Before you even get a gun shoved in your hand or strapped into your first Titan, the first thing you notice is the new ‘Networks’ feature. Essentially a streamlined way of facilitating in-game clan groupings, it serves as a handy way to link up with friends and foster all new connections with players that you might not know and, in this early incarnation at least, would seem to be a no-brainer feature for just about every FPS going forward.
As far as the two game types go, Pilots vs Pilots is pretty self-explanatory while Bounty Hunt provides a nice wrinkle to the traditional FPS multiplayer formula. In the case of the latter, you gain cash for killing foes and at the end of each round that money can be deposited into a bank, with the team that has the most money being declared the winner. The kicker to this mode though, is that each time you die your credit total is halved and so it impresses a real sense of tactical engagement and the need to pick your battles upon the player. Spicing things up further, are the addition of AI soldiers who not only act as an additional force to contend with, but help to artificially inflate the number of bodies in any one given match.
Once we’re into the midst of battle, Titanfall 2 effectively splits combat between being an on-foot soldier and stomping about in one of the two different Titan mechs that the demo offers. Speaking of which, Titan combat actually turns out to be hugely enjoyable; there’s a real feeling of weight and physicality when you’re manoeuvring one of these hulking, steel monstrosities about the place and firefights against enemy Titans rarely prove to be anything less than thrilling affairs.
Each of the Titans that players can choose from also possesses a raft of unique special abilities and characteristics, too. The Ion Titan for example, has a massive Iron-Man style chest mounted laser blast in addition to a tripwire utility, while the aptly named Scorch Titan can create a white hot wall of fire and deploy incendiary traps to reduce the enemy to cinders. In possessing such diversification, each Titan broadly caters to different playstyles, with the Ion Titan being more suited to an aggressive playstyle, and the Scorch Titan instead catering to the contrary. It’ll be interesting to see what the other Titans bring to the table when Titanfall 2 finally releases.
From the perspective of a fleshy, six-foot tall foot soldier, things feel a little less revelatory. Notably, the speed and verticality that the original Titanfall traded on so effectively over two years ago returns here and quite honestly it doesn’t feel as revolutionary as it once did. In no small part this is owed to Activision’s two previous Call of Duty titles effectively ripping off the system for better or worse, and thus robbing Titanfall 2’s jet-boosting shenanigans of its freshness as a result.
When you’re not double boosting and wall-running in Titanfall 2, you’ll be plugging fools with a number of different firearms and this is one element of the on-foot side of the equation that remains wonderfully on-point. Simply put, the guns sound meaty in a way that we just haven’t been accustomed to lately; with each shot from an automatic rifle creating a palpable feel of heft and recoil as the round snaps and fires through the chamber and soars toward its mark. Simply put, the guns in Titanfall 2 look good, sound good and more importantly, they feel good too.
Of course, attempting to judge both on-foot and Titan portions of the game separately is folly, least of all because Titanfall 2, like its predecessor, prides itself on melding the two together in a face-melting marriage of hyper-kinectivity; the thrill that comes from wall-running across the side of a building before leaping down onto Titan and taking control of it as you wade into an intense firefight being one that isn’t forgotten easily.
And this is the thing; whenever Titanfall 2 is operating at the peak of its impressive powers (as it so often does), these moments are effectively daisy chained into one long sequence of violent, breathless spectacle. Here’s hoping that this sort of momentum is carried through and maintained in the final game when it releases just two months from now.
Developed on a massively-roided version of Valve’s Source engine (the very same one that powered Half-Life 2 over twelve years ago), Titanfall 2 nonetheless looks visually impressive on PS4; a buttery smooth frame rate deftly accompanies a wide range of on-screen special effects that at times, can almost seem *too* busy at times. Still, frame rate drops occur here and there (most notably during aiming down the iron-sights during busy battles), but given that this is a pre-alpha tech test from an early build code, I’d expect optimisations to be put in place to remedy this.
Obviously there are still a great many unknowns with Titanfall 2. There are many more maps, modes, Titans, gear and of course, that single-player campaign that we have yet to get our hands-on, but on the strength of the evidence here, Titanfall 2 looks to be in robust form as it heads into what will surely be a thoroughly competitive fourth quarter for FPS titles on PS4, as it comes up against the likes of Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare and of course, EA’s own Battlefield 1.
It’s worth noting that this preview only covers the first weekend of the Titanfall 2 open multiplayer test; the second week will boast not only a different map for folks to get their teeth into, but a new game mode as well. Before then though, you lot can find out for yourself how it fares when the Titanfall 2 multiplayer tech test arrives for everyone this weekend.
Titanfall 2 is set to release for PS4, PC, and Xbox One on October 28, 2016.