When the team at Infinity Ward disassembled and a good chunk reassembled over at the newly-formed Respawn Entertainment, very few knew what would eventually come out of the studio, if anything. In current conditions most new gaming companies go under, never getting a game out the door. Luckily for Respawn, EA and Microsoft took some interest and from that backing we got one of the most unique new shooters for the new console generation, Titanfall. Titanfall was a very solid product, but lacked a single player campaign as well as depth in its multiplayer modes. Because of this most people enjoyed the game, but moved on rather quickly. With newly launched Titanfall 2, Respawn has fixed a lot of the issues with the first game, and brought the series to a whole new set of eyes, launching on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC.

The first major change with Titanfall 2 is that it is now on more platforms. Microsoft helped finish the first game, thus its exclusivity to Xbox One/PC. Now that EA is primarily backing the sequel, it is out on PlayStation 4 as well. This opens the community up to be much more broad in scope, hopefully lending longevity to it at the same time. Respawn has also announced that there will be no season pass, and all DLC will be free. This is a great model that I wish other EA entities (Battlefield 1) would follow going forward. So, with that housekeeping out of the way, how is the game? Good. Not the kind of good that the first game was, good with caveats, Titanfall 2 is legitimately one of the best (if not the best) shooters of the year, and maybe even the past few years. It’s clear to see where the core of Infinity Ward went, given how tepid the reception to the newest (IW-developed) Call of Duty has been. That could also just be because the market is wanting a change, as well, and Titanfall delivers it.

The biggest overall addition from game one to two is the single player campaign. Titanfall 2 has you starting its story as a fairly new recruit name Jack Cooper, who is just learning the ropes. As most stories go, something dramatic happens and all of the sudden you are given the rank of pilot and assigned to Titan BT-7274 (or just BT for short). The overall struggle in the world that the game builds is between Jack’s side, the Frontier Militia, and the Interstellar Manufacturing Corporation (IMC, for short). Both sides feel that they have the right to control the frontier planets, and this conflict kicks the story into gear very early on. Once accustomed to BT, you are tasked to regroup with your regiment, where you find that the ranking officer has been killed and that the IMC are on their way to building a super weapon capable of destroying all militia-operated planets. I’ll be scarce from here, as to not spoil the story, but it does take quite a few twists and turns before the end. The story itself is serviceable, and does a great job of building the relationship between Jack and BT, through struggle, action, and even very basic Mass Effect-style dialogue selection. Titanfall 2’s greatest achievement in the campaign is doing something that games like Half-Life 2 did so well, making you care about a non-human counterpart.

The gameplay in the campaign is just as good, if not better than the story. I keep going back to DOOM as a reference, not in style, but in the way the studio took a campaign that could have been a run-of-the-mill shooter and turned it into something fantastic and memorable. Titanfall 2’s campaign does a great job of utilizing the game’s extremely fluid controls, double jumps, wall runs and more, and integrates them into actual gameplay requiring timing and skill to work through. Wall-running and jump paths litter the campaign, and timed set pieces make you get good at the mechanics, which goes on to help you as you play the multiplayer modes. The campaign also features boss fights, which, while sometimes a bit long and with some odd AI, are overall very fun and cause you to learn all the titans on the fly. During titan segments you can hit a d-pad button and immediately switch to another titan loadout (after you unlock them). This lets you really judge each battle and choose the best loadout for that fight. It’s things like this that keep Titanfall 2’s campaign from being ‘just another shooter campaign’ and make it into something actually worth playing BEFORE you jump into the multiplayer action. So, yeah, go play the campaign. You will enjoy yourself.

Now, multiplayer. Coming off of Titanfall 1, most players wanted to see more depth added to the options going forward. Respawn has done this with the addition of more titans, more weapons, more customization, and more maps. You can now choose from one of six titans, and customize colors, skins, and abilities on each. For pilot customization you can change everything down to the pilot’s suit skin. Gun skins, perks, weapon choice, sidearm, etc, etc. Adding this level of customization lets you get a bit more personality into each of the pilots, even if their base look is locked to their class. Classes (called “Tacticals” here” are the base item you choose that determines how your pilot looks and what their main ability is. There are seven tacticals, the most well-known of them being the grappling hook shown in most of the game’s marketing. Aside from the hook you have Pulse Blade (reveals enemies), Holo Pilot (hologram), STIM (health and speed boost), Cloak (invisibility), Phase Shift (teleport), and A-Wall (shield wall). Choosing one of the tacticals sets your base player model look, and then you can customize and utilize any weapon, sidearm, perk, and colors. This system seems to work well, even if I wish the grappling hook was just a default item for every class. As far as weapons go, there are a lot more than Titanfall 1. Each class of weapon has 4-6 options and each of them have unlockable sights, colors, and perks. Plenty to keep you motivated to play more multiplayer.

The map design is similar to the first game, but also features an emphasis on a bit more open environments for titan battles. The titans each have their own advantages and disadvantages, coming in the form of mobility (small titans move faster, but have less health) or weapon/skill-set. You really want to keep an eye on what titans your team or party are using, and choose one that compliments them. Not everyone should be Northstar, the sniper titan, nor everyone be Ronin, the titan with a sword and focus on melee. Choosing the best group of titans can quickly turn the tide of a battle. This is what makes Titanfall 2 so much fun, and an improvement on the first game. There is so much more strategy now that multiple titan classes are viable options.

Overall Titanfall 2 is one of the best shooters this year, easily. When players yelled for a single player campaign, Respawn could have just tacked one on hoping it would be enough to satisfy those users. Instead they noted down exactly what made Titanfall fun and unique and built a campaign with those concepts in mind. It may be a bit of dumb fun given the plot, but it is fun, and that’s more than a lot of recent shooter campaigns can say. The multiplayer has been tweaked to add a lot of depth and a layer of strategy that was not present in the first game. Choosing your loadout and titan combo can be the deciding factor in winning and losing. Seeing the first five minutes of a match where it’s just pilots killing each other quickly escalate to five plus titans roaming the maps really shows why Titanfall has been able to find a new niche in the old shooter genre, it brings a dichotomy not seen in most one-note first person shooters. If you loved Titanfall you’ll love 2 for sure, but even if you didn’t like the first game I implore you to give this one a go. It’s simple enough in concept for basic users to have fun, but deep enough in practice that you can really work hard to get your pilot up to skill and to bring together a group of good pilots with titans that effectively compliment one another to win matches. Titanfall 2 is one hell of a shooter that should not be overlooked.