After spending time with the open technical test for Titanfall 2‘s multiplayer this weekend, I’m baffled by design decisions that seem targeted at obliterating everything that made the first game unique.
The entire feel of the game is off from the moment you first step into a match. Movement is sluggish and uresponsive in comparison to the smooth free-running across the first game’s environments. Your character seems to move slower overall and at varying speeds depending on whether you’re moving on the ground, wall-running, or boost jumping. It’s a herky-jerky experience when climbing around the maps as your character speed constantly changes depending on what you’re doing.
Weapons also feel much more inaccurate than in the series’ first entry, with seemingly random bullet spread that confounds your efforts to effectively manage weapon recoil. Players also die incredibly fast from two or three shots, making every gun battle feel like a frantic, unpredictable mess to spray as many rounds as quickly as possible in your opponent’s general direction, hoping that Titanfall 2’s fickle gods of hit detection smile upon you rather than your enemy.
The map design isn’t helping things. Although only two arenas were on display for this test, both were severely lacking in the level design from the first Titanfall that focused on creating a sense of continuous flow for free-running across the environment. The game exhibits an unhealthy reliance on the new grappling hook to make the most of your surroundings. This becomes a problem since you have to equip it as a loadout item in lieu of other equipment, instead of making it a default tool for every player.
In fact, there are a number of gameplay features that used to be the default experience for all players which are now only accessible by selecting them as pilot and Titan perks. The number of guns you can carry has also been reduced, only allowing you to carry a primary weapon and having to choose between a sidearm or anti-Titan power weapon.
Also reportedly gone is the fan-favorite game mode from Titanfall, Attrition, a team deathmatch mode with human players accompanied by friendly bots. The only confirmed mode with bots is the new Bounty Hunt game type, a MOBA-esque mode that spawns AI bots hostile to both teams to be killed for points.
Of course, with the name of the game being Titanfall 2, you would expect the biggest focus of the game to be on the giant bipedal machines your character pilots, but Respawn Entertainment seems determined to limit their impact on the game as much as possible. While the introduction of unique Titans with their own specialized weapons and abilities is an interesting change, these new machines are slower, less lethal, and much more fragile. Recharging shields for your mech have been removed, their movement speed has been reduced, the number of evasive dashes they can perform reduced, and their damage output feels woefully inadequate. The generic map design once again rears its head when piloting a Titan, as there are a wealth of areas from which enemy infantry can safely hunker down and fire long-range anti-Titan weapons with no real threat of retaliation.
The most unforgivable change, however, is to how players earn their Titans. In the first game, your Titan meter would gradually fill up over time regardless of how well you were doing, meaning eventually every player in a match would have an opportunity to pilot a Titan at some point. Scoring points would build up the meter faster, allowing players to gain their mechs quicker the better they played. Still, even the least skilled player had a chance to experience the game’s namesake robot warfare.
In Titanfall 2, Titans are only earned by scoring points. Your meter no longer builds up over time, resulting in fewer Titans falling from orbit to the map overall and a complete imbalance in play. In the first game, Titans were a game-changer that could swing a match in a losing team’s favor with effective use of their mechs. Now, teams that are winning early on tend to build up momentum and absolutely bulldoze opponents for the rest of the match as they start earning their Titans faster and more frequently.
It’s a complete departure from the design philosophy behind the original Titanfall, with “pilots always working towards a new Titan. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing, your Titan timer is always happening.” Respawn Entertainment’s Justin Hendry stressed that “everyone gets a Titan, no compromises. It doesn’t matter how good you are, it’s not going to be ‘I killed three people,’ or ‘I killed six people, so I get a Titan and the lesser-skilled players don’t.” Titanfall 2 does exactly the opposite.
Even if you disregard the balance issues this choice presents, the bottom line is that there are fewer Titans overall on the field during matches and appear with less frequency. It reduces the game to a poor man’s Call of Duty infantry shooter, with worse controls and weapon tuning.
My first taste of Titanfall 2 has extremely soured me on the game. I had been eagerly looking forward to its debut, but Respawn Entertainment seems to have jettisoned almost everything that made the original game unique and fun for a stripped-down experience that’s closer to competitors like Call of Duty or Battlefield but plays worse than both of them. Maybe the developer can turn things around, but with Titanfall 2’s October 28 release date looming, I’m not holding out much hope for a dramatic comeback.
Noah Dulis is the Deputy Managing Editor of Breitbart News and co-editor of Breitbart Tech. Follow him on Twitter @.