The single-player campaign in Titanfall 2 breaks away from the precedent set by the first game, which was multiplayer only. While I enjoyed the first Titanfall, the addition of a story mode made Titanfall 2 more appealing to folks like me, who prefer the narrative structure of single player—and a good amount of mechanical practice before delving into the high stakes of multiplayer.
The Highlights of Single Player
The tutorial mode in single-player was one of the best I’ve ever experienced. The graphics are crisp and beautiful, the course engaging, and the skills themselves fun. You get a feel for maneuvering, how the controls work, and can familiarize yourself with the game’s arsenal of weapons. The momentum physics—especially the wall gliding, which involves a careful consideration of where momentum will lead you as you navigate terrain—reminded me distantly of the Portal games, which is never a bad comparison in my book. If I can parkour my way through a game, I’m happy.
The star of single-player is definitely your Titan, BT, who I felt an almost immediate kinship with.
As the protagonist, Jack Cooper, you’re dropped into combat as a rookie pilot and passed the mantle of piloting BT after its pilot, your superior, dies. Jack is thrown into the thick of things, so it’s a good thing we spent time in the tutorial mode. I enjoyed the out-of-Titan play enough to deal with annoying fetch quests that dominate the earliest missions, but once we got into BT, I went from mild enjoyment to full-blown excitement.
As the symbiotic relationship with BT grows, so does your—as Jack—sense of BT’s personality and quirks. When you’re separated (and thrust into some cool puzzle levels that harken back to my love of Portal, and more out-of-Titan combat), it shakes things up and raises the stakes as you quest to get BT back.
If you’re a stealth-heavy player, you can complete objectives by relying on your cloaking abilities and general sneakiness. If you’re more aggressive, like me, you can use a combination of your combat skills and your maneuverability to progress.
On a slightly more spoilery note, I liked the ending’s implication regarding BT’s fate. I’m saying no more: play it yourself, or if you already have, feel content with getting my reference.
What Single Player Lacks
The puzzles and the relationship with BT were definitely the most enjoyable parts of the single-player mode for me. The story is decent but not terribly memorable, and Jack Cooper is so generally benign that he pretty much lacks personality. There are some conversational options available to us, but all roads lead in the same direction. I would have preferred my dialog to have more impact on the plot.
I did wonder why Jack Cooper was our sole protagonist when he’s so undynamic. We could have had a customizable protagonist—like, for example, a female one. I’m not asking for in-depth character creation, but choosing your gender or name would have been nice. The multiplayer mode has male and female Titan pilots available, and decent animation for both, so it would have been entirely feasible to give players that choice for the single-player mode as well. The bright side of Cooper’s genericness is that BT is the star of the show and eminently more likable for it.
But that’s just single-player mode. Multiplayer is an entirely different beast.
The Highlights of Multiplayer
I tried every one of the many, many modes (and mixtapes), but I preferred the simplicity of Attrition. Killing without extra objectives is usually the best for my single-minded brain. I did appreciate the variety, and Bounty Hunt is probably the best mode to combine killing with additional objectives. Capture the Flag was about as standard as it sounds.
It was good I’d had the practice I did with single-player (and with playing the first Titanfall), because the wall running/gliding and Titan maneuvering would be frustrating to get the hang of in addition to everything else.
Your specout as pilot is highly customizable. It isn’t so much about character design as it is weapon type, skills (you initially choose from two Kit options with more to unlock), and play style. The three classes available initially are Tactical, Pulse Blade, and Grapple, and I preferred Grapple for the ability to get out of sticky situations quickly, but new players may want something easier to use at first.
Your Titan options are also varied, with six models (my favorite is Tone, because of her personality, and her Tracker Cannon) and moderately customizable. You have to earn enough credits to unlock Titans beyond the base three, which I did as soon as I could afford to. Credits also unlock skins for Titans that are so varied and adorable that I went even deeper into my Titan-loving spiral.
As an aside, the Ion Titan is a great starter for those new to multiplayer. But you can select a Titan depending on your strengths and weaknesses as a player, which I appreciate.
The multiplayer gameplay really depends on your FPS comfort and your team in any given match. I leveled fairly quickly and enjoyed the merit system, which serves to level your equipment, pilot, Titan, and your player level all at once—and gains you credits with which to unlock things. There’s a happy hour where players earn five extra merits in said hour, which I urge players to take advantage of.
Matchmaking was quick for me, and I appreciated that my stats were enhanced regardless of a match win or loss. I never joined a Network, which is supposed to function much like a league, but I imagine going in with Network members would make the matchmaking process even faster. And more fun, if you’re a social gamer.
The Drawback of Multiplayer
While learning how to handle my Titan in single player was useful, as was mastering the wall gliding, the differences between the two modes were so much that I don’t know how prepared I was to switch. It’s a plus and a minus: both modes are fun and engaging, variously challenging, but they are dissimilar enough in terms of maps, objectives, and stuff that they felt like different games. I doubt players would have similar problems switching from multiplayer to single, but there is definitely more platform-style maneuvering in single player.
What it comes down to is that either mode can be played independent of the other. Those who prefer narrative never have to crack the seal on multiplayer, and vice versa. But that won’t get you the most out of your game—and your wallet.
Play Both Modes for the Best Experience
Because of Titanfall 2’s price point, people who play both modes are getting their money’s worth. If I had to pay for just one mode, I would be disappointed in my experience. My advice is to train in single player, especially if you’re new to FPS or the Titanfall series, and explore multiplayer when you’re comfortable.
I think EA and Respawn figured out that a AAA release needs to have more than just a multiplayer mode to warrant its price. If Titanfall 2 had followed in the footsteps of the first game, I doubt I’d be so enthusiastic about it.
In my opinion, multiplayer buffs should give the narrative arc a try, and FPS newbies should step outside of their comfort zones and at least give multiplayer a spin. Titanfall 2 is great, but playing both modes is the only way to truly get your money’s worth.