The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games, academia and life dare to converge

Titanfall 2: Puzzles and time travel at the campaign’s halfway point

“I have concluded we should take no further shortcuts.” –BT-7274

After defeating Kane, Cooper and BT make their way further towards Major Anderson’s last known position, electing to take a shortcut that BT has scouted out. However, when they enter a vast subterranean facility, BT is separated from Cooper. Making his way through the manufacturing plant alone, Cooper finds himself taunted by the mercenary Ash, who begrudgingly comes to respect his skill and is genuinely surprised when Cooper survives everything she can throw at him. Blisk orders her to scuttle the facility, and Cooper manages to reunite with BT. Heading off for the exit, they are stopped by Ash: she faces with him in battle with a Ronin-class Titan, and in a short battle, Cooper executes Ash, exploding her into a pulp. They then continue to the IMC research facility, and locate Major Anderson, who is dead as a result of a time travel mishap. Cooper locates a special device for manipulating time, makes his way through the facility and learns of the Fold Weapon, which can destroy entire worlds by means of a time-displacement mechanic. However, the weapon is dependent on the power supply known as the Ark. With this information, Cooper and BT must relay their information to the Militia forces, surmising that the IMC plan to destroy the world of Harmony in their campaign against the Militia. Further into Titanfall 2‘s campaign, the puzzle-platformer mechanic of the game is becoming increasingly prevalent, adding a unique dimension to the game’s storyline: on top of smooth shooting and being able to pilot a mecha, Titanfall 2 adds new mechanics into the game in order to keep things fresh; the game has been full of surprises so far, and no two levels have ever felt derivative or repetitive in any way.

In fact, the inclusion of platforming, a vast underground complex, a female antagonist insulting the player and a mechanism for cleverly mixing up the gameplay means that Titanfall 2 feels a great deal as though elements of Portal 2 made their way into DOOM. The combination of platforming with an incredibly fluid shooting experience never comes across as being forced into the game; level designs and gameplay mechanics are clearly built with these two gameplay components in mind, creating maps that end up being both memorable and rewarding to complete. One of the reasons why Portal 2 was acclaimed was because finishing a puzzle allowed the player to feel they had accomplished something: to port this over into Titanfall 2 without having it overtake the shooter elements means that clever puzzle solving must be completed in conjunction with a sure aim and good reflexes – the sum of these components contributes to the fun factor when playing these missions. In particular, the time shift mechanic of the fifth mission, “Cause and Effect”, is a solid example of how Titanfall 2 innovates without overusing a game mechanic. When Cooper picks up the wrist device and is able to jump between the past and present IMC facility, it opens up the possibilities for novel level design. Moving between the pristine and derelict installation, Cooper encounters different threats and different setups: what was an impassible laser barrier becomes an open path at the press of a button, and a deadly flaming chasm in one time is an ordinary hallway in the other. Strategically flipping between these two time periods allows Cooper to both survive and progress through the facility (I’ve abused time shifting to safely reload before continuing a firefight on more than one occasion). However, besides being an exceptionally ingenious gameplay mechanic, the time shift also is a highly innovative story-telling mechanic; Cooper is immersed in a living flashback that explains the Fold Weapon in a far greater level of detail than data logs or communications could accomplish without disrupting the narrative of Titanfall 2.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • In a comment left by one of my readers for the last Titanfall 2 talk, the sentiment was that Titanfall 2‘s campaign felt “unnecessary”, with “horrid” writing. The individual cited Gundam as a better example of the dynamic between man and machine. I do not directly address rants: this is a lesson that dates back to 2012, where shortly after the release of the K-On! Movie, an individual’s exceptionally negative rant about the movie was accepted on the basis of their presence in the anime community. Challenging that landed me in hot water and led some folks to even boycott this blog, so presently, I don’t respond directly to strongly negative opinions.

  • Because I will invariably be asked as to how I would respond to those claims, I will provide an answer here. I would open by asking how Gundam better portrays the pilot and mobile suit dynamic, since I feel that in Gundam, the mobile suits themselves are tools that help pilots fulfil an end, and that it was only in Gundam 00 where pilots became attached to their Gundams. I would similarly then inquire – in what way is the narrative of Titanfall 2 predictable and see if some examples of other works that integrate dynamic time travel as a means of both completing a mission and acting as exposition without a separate flashback.

  • The burst core for the expedition loadout was fun, but by this point in Titanfall 2, I’ve finally grown accustomed to the Tone loadout. The harder-hitting 40mm rounds might be slower to fire than the 20mm X0-16, but by forcing me to pick my shots, I can hit my targets with a much higher accuracy. The ordinance of the Tone can only be fired if three consecutive shots are landed on an enemy Titan: this loadout is much less effective against personnel, but is probably the most versatile against other Titans.

  • After being separated from BT, Cooper must make his way alone through a gargantuan underground complex, where prefabricated housing is being assembled. The manic design of the level brings to mind the caverns of Portal 2 that Chell finds herself in after falling through an opening. In order to cross the large gaps, Cooper must make full use of the jump kit and any advantages in the environment to move over the deep chasms. While Cooper and BT are separated, BT will be in touch with Cooper, so players will never feel too alone while pressing deeper into the complex.

  • Ash is a secondary antagonist in Titanfall 2, whose consciousness was moved into a robot body after she was injured. Working for the Apex Predators, she runs this facility when not working on an assignment. She has a playful but sadistic streak, enjoying the construction of combat simulations not dissimilar to those built by GLaDOS of Portal 2 and pits captured Militia soldiers against IMC technology. Noticing Cooper, she begins with insults, similar to GLaDOS, but later comments on his resilience and decides to let him fight in one of the similations.

  • Here, I’m wielding the G2A5, a battle rifle that is highly versatile. Firing in a semi-automatic pattern, the G2A5 excels medium to long ranges; with low recoil, it hits hard and can be counted upon as a reliable medium range weapon, although its lower rate of fire means that it is wise to pair it with a suitable close quarters weapon, such as an SMG or shotgun. The engravings on the weapon read “Lastimosa Armoury”, and while one might be inclined to think that the weapon is related to Captain Lastimosa, one of the developers of the game is named Ryan Lastimosa, suggesting that it’s a callback to him.

  • Here, I am wielding the EPG-1, an anti-personnel plasma grenade launcher. The weapon projectiles travel slowly but deal massive damage. I’ve always found that the more conventional automatic weapons and battle rifles are more effective than flashier weapons on the virtue that ammunition for them is more common, and there are precious few moments to utilise such weapons. However, my experience in FPS campaigns also mean that there might be opportunities to use more powerful weapons later on, hence my decision to hang onto the EPG-1 here.

  • The electric grenades turned out to be an incredibly fun weapon to field against the IMC grunts present throughout the facility. As it turns out, having just the G2A5 was sufficient as a weapon, and Cooper’s progress leads even Ash to congratulate him; she points the way to a simulation dome. I died on several attempts to get here, but ultimately made it, entering a fake valley in the mountains with some prefabricated structures.

  • After Ash recreates the simulation and I defeated the first wave of Spectres, a Reaper appears. Occupying the mid-point between the smaller Spectres and Stalkers, and the full-sized Titans, Reapers carry powerful weapons that can decimate foot-mobiles and quickly wear down a Titan’s shields. The EPG-1 I’ve been carrying all this time comes out, and I empty the plasma grenades into the Reaper, destroying it. The second Reaper that appears was dealt with in a similar manner, leaving Ash surprised as to how Cooper is still alive.

  • Finally reunited with BT, I move to take on Ash using the Tone loadout. Unlike the fight with Kane, I was quite comfortable with using the Tone loadout’s setup now, pummelling Ash’s Ronin-class with 40mm rounds and lock-on missiles. After crippling her Titan, I made to melee the doomed Titan and ended up executing Ash: BT pulls Ash from the Ronin and squeezes her until she explodes in a bloody spray. Apparently, Ash will criticise Cooper for using the Core ability, so I decided to play honourably and bested her without using my Salvo Core.

  • To make my way though the abandoned IMC facility is to bring back memories of the Test Chambers seen in Portal 2: from the damaged concrete to the growth of vegetation through the inner chambers, the installation has clearly been devoid of human activity for quite some time. Through the missions earlier stages, residual energy causes Cooper to be transported sporadically back through time, revisiting the facility when the IMC had still occupied it. Issues surrounding a possible time paradox arise in this mission, since it is Cooper’s presence that causes the IMC to test-fire their Fold Weapon, bringing him to investigate the facility.

  • Here, I come across an empty lecture hall. I chose to stay back and avoid interrupting, but if Cooper moves forward and is noticed by the lecturer, all subsequent recordings will allude to Cooper’s presence in what is a very clever touch. The combination of abandonment and a theatre-like environment brings to mind the abandoned theaters of Taiwan: as Alexander Synaptic describes, Taiwan had numerous theaters n the 1970s and 1980s, but changing times meant declining audiences, leading to their demise. By the 2000s, these buildings remain unused and crumbling, conferring a sense of melancholy. One can only imagine what it would be like to explore these places with the Titanfall 2 OST as a background accompaniment.

  • The Mastiff is a pump action shotgun that fulfills the role of the ultimate close quarters weapon, firing energy rounds in place of pellets. It’s one of the most powerful weapons at close quarters, and par the course of a shotgun, has high recoil and a slow projectile travel speed. Here, I navigate one of the laboratories in the IMC complex. Using the time travel device effectively is the only way to navigate the facility, as some passages open in one time period are inaccessible in the other. Besides navigation, there is one additional use for the device; it can be used to very quickly extricate oneself from certain danger, and I’ve shifted between time periods to escape damage or execute a reload.

  • The combination of platforming and switching timelines is a refined, unique take on Portal 2‘s puzzle-solving gameplay. It’s been quite some time since I’ve played through Portal 2 in full. This would have been back during the summer of 2012; six days after my MCAT had passed, Valve announced the Perpetual Testing Initiative, where all individuals owning Portal 2 would be given a seventy-five percent off coupon to encourage their friends to participate in co-op test chambers with them. While I never did make use of the co-op mode, being able to play Portal 2‘s top-tier campaign for five dollars was a fantastic experience.

  • Since I built a custom PC and acquired a new screen, I never did go back to play Portal 2, but on the list of things I wish to do as summer rolls around is to experience Portal 2 again. For now, however, my adventure through Titanfall 2 continues: here, I make it into a vast room where some well-timed time-shifting is required for navigation. Highly clever from a gameplay and narrative perspective, the time-shifting mechanic in Titanfall 2 is probably accomplished by designing the level twice and then switching out the assets and effects in world space. I imagine that the unused assets are probably cached and stored in memory so the transition is seamless: dangers escaped from one time period will still be in the same spot when one returns.

  • As Cooper gets closer to the course that Major Anderson takes, he learns of the Fold Weapon’s existence and its dependence on the Ark. I am wielding the D-2 Double Take here, a double-barreled marksman rifle that fires two shots simultaneously and can penetrate multiple targets, although the projectile speed is on the slower end. The Double Take has a unique variable zoom sight, and owing to its design, attaching a different sight will not remove the existing sight from the weapon.

  • A holographic display illustrates how the Fold Weapon works in a visual manner. From the sounds of it, the Fold Weapon works by creating a fold in space-time and can shift objects through this, causing destruction of an unprecedented scale. While exposition suggests this weapon was found, built by precursors akin to Halo‘s Forerunners, that it can be moved through time as well as space may also imply that the weapon was developed in the future and was transported back into the past. There’s all sorts of potential paradoxes that arise in Titanfall 2 with time shifting, and since my background is not in relativity or quantum mechanics, I do not have the authority to make any concrete claims on how realistic Titanfall 2 is. However, I can comment that I am watching Interstellar now; back in 2014, I wished to see the movie but circumstances precluding my seeing it prevailed.

  • Almost out of the facility here, I high-tail it back to the exit in order to link up with the Militia forces and transmit the information to them for further action. By this point in time, we’re now more than six months since Your Name released, and news of the BDs are still nonexistent. I did some investigating and it seems that the delay in its release stems from its immense success in theatres. Home releases usually happen when ticket sales decline, and apparently, the companies are aiming for the film to top Spirited Away. Any home release could challenge ticket sales, so the distributors are holding out until things settle a little; more conservative estimates put Your Name as coming out in June or later.

  • With this being said, I will still review and write about Your Name in spite of the fact that its wide dissemination and discussion renders ineffectual the purpose of a review. For the time being, I will focus on the present and focus on completing Titanfall 2, as well as handling priorities such as work and taxes. Back in Titanfall 2, it turns out I can use the time shifting device inside BT and ended up having a ball of a time blowing away enemy Titans. By this point in the game, the Tone loadout is my absolute favourite, surpassing the default Expedition loadout for its versatility. There’s also the fact that the 40 mm cannon sounds incredibly satisfying to fire.

  • The mission “Cause and Effect” ends with a malfunction in the time-shifting device, freezing time absolutely. To achieve this effect is actually not as challenging as one might think: it’s a matter of placing 3D assets in space and giving them collision physics, but otherwise, they won’t be affected by the physics engine. When the flow of time resumes, the device breaks down and is rendered unusable, meaning that time travel will not be seen anywhere else in Titanfall 2. It’s a clever way of keeping mechanics fresh in a game, by ensuring that no single element dominates. Having reached the halfway mark of Titanfall 2 and with Gabriel Dropout in the books, I turn my attention next to Yuki Yuna is a Hero: Washio Sumi Chapter‘s first part. I will also be dropping by at the third episode mark for Saekano and at least one other anime in the future, as well as a brief talk about the Eddie Detachment DLC for Valkyria Chronicles.

At the halfway point, Titanfall 2 demonstrates why it is considered to be one of the most entertaining shooters of 2016: 2016 turned out to be a fantastic year for first person shooters, and the innovations seen in Titanfall 2‘s campaign make it capable of delivering new surprises in every level. This is especially important in campaigns – repetition diminishes the sense of urgency and accomplishment, turning missions into a long exercise in patience. In Titanfall 2, players want to push further to explore the dynamic between BT and Cooper, but also to learn of Major Anderson’s mission and its significance. Of course, Titanfall 2 reinforces the fact that players should continue to adapt and think in an open-minded fashion to complete the game: by the end of “Cause and Effect”, the device Cooper has found malfunctions shortly after he learns of the Fold Weapon. There is no more opportunity to explore the rest of Typhon in two distinct time periods, and so, Cooper must fall back on his training in order to survive. With an exceptionally powerful arsenal and the jump kit at Cooper’s disposal, however, players do not feel like they are losing an ability, and instead, are left to anticipate whatever challenges await them in the Titanfall 2‘s remaining missions.

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