The original Titanfall debuted to high praise, ranking among the best Xbox One games upon release. But in the weeks and months after its launch, the multiplayer focused shooter waned from the spotlight. Though it had strong core community, the title's short progression loop and lack of content outside of the core competitive play didn't compel many who enjoyed it to work Titanfall into their regular play rotation. For the sequel, developer Respawn is going bigger, with a dedicated story campaign, renewed focus on deepening its multiplayer, and plans to expand beyond the Microsoft platforms and onto PS4.
We sat down with lead multiplayer designer Todd Alderman to ask the Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare vet how he plans to re-energize the competitive play.
Speed Is Still At The Core
The quickness with which you could move as a pilot in Titanfall was one of its standout attributes. Respawn knows it, and doesn't plan to tie anchors to players any time soon. "The strong value I wanted to retain was definitely the speed of the game," Alderman says. "I think Titanfall and speed are sort of synonymous, and just that feeling of complete freedom in mobility. What I wanted to get more of is a better overall structure so the game is more predictable and less reactive. So tightening maps, designing abilities that encourage teamwork, and systems to get players to stick together and help each other while they are helping themselves."
For instance, pilots movement is now balanced around keeping the speed but tweaking things so movement feels better. Gravity affects pilots differently now, so it makes it a little easier to target them while they are flying through the air. Respawn also added a slide move that allows pilots to keep their momentum while moving with haste. Players can chain double jumps, wall runs, slides, and grappling together to move quickly around the maps.
Pilot Tacticals And Titans Are Much More Varied
The toys at players' disposal bring new gameplay elements to play in Titanfall 2. The sequel ushers in seven new tacticals, three of which were on hand at E3. The grapple mechanic gives pilots an extra option for maneuverability, while the pulse blade is throwing knife that sends a sonar pulse through walls for several seconds. If a teammate kills someone you highlighted, you get an assist and points go toward securing your next Titan. The third tactical, a holo pilot, is a decoy that when activated mimics whatever you are doing.
Titans have been completely overhauled as well, ditching the models from the last game in favor of six brand new ones. "The way we looked at Titans in this game is sort of like Street Fighter characters," Alderman says. "They are packages that play the same way with limited customization on their combat, but a lot of customization on how they look, sound, and stuff like that."
Three models made their debut at E3. Scorch is the fire Titan, so all his abilities (thermite launcher, fire wall, incendiary traps) are about fire damage. These attacks all stack for increased damage and are great for crowd control or pinning an enemy Titan back. Ion, on the other hand, is armed with a powerful laser beam, tripwire, and the vortex from the original game. The third revealed Titan, Ronin, is much like the Strider class from the first game armed with the giant sword showcased in the first teaser.
New Map/Mode Philosophy
The original Titanfall followed the standard EA gameplan of offering new maps as paid expansions. Not Titanfall 2. All new maps and modes released post-launch will be accessible to anyone who buys the base game, keeping the player pool whole. Respawn aims to deliver a good variety maps, from big, open spaces with long sightlines to more lane-based maps like Boomtown, where your vision is limited to the immediate area around you. This changes the way the modes play in each map.
Respawn hopes to deliver a collection of distinct types that appeal to players with different favored playing styles. Some have A.I., some don't. Some are 5v5, some are 8v8 without Titans. The new mode we saw, Bounty Hunt, is feels like a variation of Attrition, with both A.I. and players battling in a tight space. The objective morphs as the match carries on; at one point we were tasked with taking down a Titan by removing its battery core, which we can then use to heal one of the Titans on our team.
"I'm excited about some of our new modes, and I'm really interested to see how the community embraces them or not. We've got some stuff we've been working on that we're really excited about and can't wait to show people." New factions will join the fray as well.
Networks Bring Players Together Quickly
When looking around the first-person shooter landscape, Respawn thinks there is a lot of room for improvement with how a game brings players together. "I think there are shortcomings all around," Alderman says. "I don't think there are any good systems right now that make it really easy to jump online with your friends without any hassles or red tape. I want to just start the game and it's all done for me, and I'm with my friends, and if we want to play together we can just press a button."
Respawn hopes to refine and streamline with a new technology it calls "Networks." More details are promised soon.
As we mentioned earlier, Titanfall's progression system didn't effectively keep players engaged over the long haul. Respawn is aware of this shortcoming, so it plans to drastically expand its plans with more weapons and attachment customizations. Don't expect a huge collection of weapons with similar effectiveness, however. Alderman says the weapons they are going for have distinct personalities almost like the Titans. This includes new weapon categories designed for players who aren't great at precision shooting.
"There's a lot of different stuff you can do and we expect it to last a long time," Alderman says.
Say Goodbye To Burn Cards
Titanfall's system for gameplay bonuses won't be back in the same form. "Burn cards aren't back in their official form this time," Alderman says. "There's a new mechanic in the game that we'll talk about soon that was inspired by burn cards. In spirit they're back, but they're not exactly the same kind of thing so we're not calling them that."
Titanfall 2 is coming to PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC on October 28.