We got our hands on Respawn's mech-dropping shooter sequel, and we didn't want to put it down.
The eagerly awaited follow-up to the flagship Xbox One FPS was playable only on PS4 at the London EA Play event. This, we were assured by an EA representative, was only to hammer home the message that it's coming to Sony's console. It'll be amazing on Xbox and PC too.
And, amazing it surely is - as if there were any reason to doubt. In addition to the blistering fast 60fps presentation there are noticeably more atmospheric effects, and the overall look of the game is smoother too with superior lighting that lends a more realistic effect to maps.
It was only multiplayer that we had chance to get hands-on time with, a new game mode called Bounty. More on that further down, but sadly nobody would even talk to us about single-player additions. No bad thing, however, when so much has been added to PvP.
This is an ad:
There are now six varieties of Titan, one remaining under wraps. Scorch and Ion are the ones we took charge of, the latter an energy based unit with a shield, laser cannon and tripwire. Scorch, meanwhile, can raise a heat shield, lay an incendiary trap, and create a firewall to hurt anyone or anything that crosses the line. There's one other cool new aspect to Titans this time around, they can be recharged/repaired by either collecting a battery pack while piloting yours around, or - as a 'naked' pilot - helpfully boosting your buddy by leaping on-board to insert the thing manually. This makes the mech combat feel like more of a team effort at all times, the newly added engineer role keeping everyone in the fight.
There are also different types of pilot to consider, with unique capabilities that also affect the way they'll appear on the battlefield. For example, you'll know that one type carries a grapple to swiftly reach rooftops instead of free-running creatively around them. Another is equipped with a Pulse Blade that reveals enemy positions to the entire team. Finally, there's hologram, which mimics the actions of the pilot to be used as a decoy. We mainly played as the default Front Rifleman, whose special ability is grapple, to get a sense of how much this expanded the free-running meta. You had to think fast in the original Titanfall, but just wait until you're hurtling around on a wire, tumbling onto rooftops and orienting yourself for the next 100 metre yank. Combined with rocket-jump and wall-running... well, you forget to breathe. There are also a couple of new weapons thrown into the mix: a long-range shotgun called the Mastiff, and a supped-up Titanfall variant of the double-barrelled Nailgun from Quake.
This is an ad:
Back to the Bounty game mode. It's similar to Attrition, in terms of fairly straightforward PvP with AI grunts to score those multi-kills and make you feel better about yourself. The big difference is that there are capture points to consider. Zones are marked on the map, defended by grunts and players. If all the grunts in the zone are eliminated, a Boss Titan drops and is carrying a bounty. Defeat this named boss to claim the bounty, then escape.
The main success with Bounty is that it keeps players focused on certain areas, rather than a free-for-all. It places an emphasis on keeping your buddies' Titans in action too, as they're needed to bring down the boss. Also, it gives players the chance to score some great rodeo assassinations while Pilots are distracted by the boss fight in progress. It's intense.
We played Bounty on the only map at the event, called Boomtown. It's distinctly Titanfall with its derelict buildings and abandoned military hardware to clamber around. It appears as though it was once a suburban area, with roadblocks to use as cover and trees to climb. There are Mega-Turrets in some corners of the map, though we could only shoot these down rather than disable them from a control panel - perhaps owing to the game-mode, they're assigned to keep enemy pilots out of the zone. Otherwise, it's very familiar Titanfall territory: choke points at high-street intersections, labyrinthine interiors contrasting with extremely long lines of sight, the urge to keep moving at all times, and that unique mental adjustment required between scale while in Pilot mode and Titan mode.
Titanfall 2 feels like an evolution, then, which is perfectly fine given that the original was so ground breaking. It says a great deal about the experience that it feels vital and refreshing, even with such diverse alternatives as Overwatch and upcoming Battlefield 1 in the frame.