The Infinite Zenith

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Titanfall 2: Transmitting the news and arrival of the cavalry at the campaign’s ¾ mark

“Trust me.” –BT-7274

It does come across as a pleasant surprise to have played through Titanfall 2‘s sixth mission and coming out as though I just played through the Titanfall equivalent of the Battle of Scarif: BT and Cooper meet up with remaining Militia forces who are pinned down near an IMC Communications Array, and after defeating them, Cooper makes his way across the chasms to obtain a new communications component, making use of an arc tool to activate elements in the environment to make transit of this facility possible. With the new communications part retrieved, Cooper defeats the Apex Predator Richter in a Titan battle, and the Militia forces send a transmission to their main force, which soon arrives on Typhon in order to stop the Ark from being transported to the Fold Weapon. They launch a heavy ground assault to reach the IMC Draconis, which is carrying the Ark, but despite their efforts, the Draconis takes off for the Fold Weapon. Undeterred, Militia forces seize control of IMC vessels in pursuit with the intent of stopping the IMC and saving their world, Harmony, which will be the IMC’s first target should they succeed in reaching the Fold Weapon.

Having made my way through three quarters of Titanfall 2‘s campaign, the game has continued to impress with unique, memorable game mechanics even at this point in its story. Although the time shifting gadget was damaged, Cooper has access to the arc tool, which proves integral in allowing him to traverse the communications facility in order to retrieve a part. The very nature of this facility requires clever use of the arc tool and various cranes to create a suitable path that Cooper can utilise, and it is immensely satisfying to manoeuvre a crane into place to create walls to run along, then hop off and immediately activate a doorway using the arc tool without missing a beat. Like the time shifting device, the arc tool only is presented for one mission. Insofar, every single mission of Titanfall 2‘s campaign has been a thrill, featuring one unique aspect that makes it stand out and remain distinct. As a consequence, the game never feels repetitive, continuously offering something new to mix up the gameplay and advance the narrative further. Once Richter is neutralised, and the transmission is sent, the seventh mission is an all-out Titan assault that never lets up, offering Titan battles on a scale surpassing what was seen in earlier missions, and by this point, Cooper (and by extension, players) have become sufficiently familiar with the different Titan loadouts and abilities to effectively fight their way through an onslaught of IMC forces to reach the Draconis in time.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The distant geological formations bring to mind the Karst landscapes of China, such as those of the Stone Forest and Zhangjiajie National Park. Under a beautiful blue sky and the morning mists, it feels quite peaceful here, but all gaming veterans will remark that the peace won’t last. Visible in the image are also sakura-like blossoms, adding a touch of pink to the landscape. Typhon is definitely a very temperate planet, and while Titanfall 2‘s developers and art team probably won’t mention thus, I imagine that Chinese and Taiwanese geography inspire the geography of Typhon.

  • Nearing the transmission facility, Cooper and BT find it nearly overrun with IMC forces. The Ronin loadout can be found right before BT steps into the noxious fog to engage the IMC. Featuring a shotgun and sword, the Ronin is intended to be a high-speed Titan in the multiplayer, making use of the arc wave to impede enemies and closing the distance to deal damage with both the shotgun and sword. In the campaign, it’s one of the less effectual loadouts, since the Vanguard chassis is a good all-rounder that, while capable of absorbing more damage than the lighter frames, lacks their mobility to make use of these weapons.

  • Once inside the facility, Militia forces lament the lack of an arc tool, essentially a portable power supply that is useful in activating and deactivating constructs. Delving deep into the IMC facility, Cooper eventually manages to find one, and liberates it from one of the robots working with it.

  • The robot becomes saddened that their tool has been commandeered, but won’t otherwise do anything about it. Although essential to the gameplay, one cannot help but feel a little bad for the robot: close inspection of the image shows its emotional state, and its body language, a slouched pose, speaks volumes about how its feeling. Inspection of other robots merrily working on their assignments will find that they wear a smile on their chest-mounted displays.

  • The arc tool has a self-recharging power supply, allowing it to be used indefinitely after a cool-down, stuns robots and can kill organics with prolonged exposure on top of its role in activating power supplies. The tool’s design brings to mind the weapons I’ve seen in Borderlands 2, and according to my Steam library, the last time I played was a shade less than a year ago. I’ve been a bit of a slacker when it comes to finishing games with longer campaigns, and from the sounds of it, I’ve still a ways to go yet with Borderlands 2 before I finish the game.

  • Stunning IMC spectres allow them to be hacked, turning them into allies fighting alongside Cooper. Activating racks of Spectres will likewise provide allies that can help take fire off Cooper. A Reaper appears, but Cooper will find an LG-97 Thunderbolt, an anti-Titan weapon that is functionally identical to that of an unguided rocket launcher in spite of its unusual projectile: the weapon fires a sphere of electrical energy that deals considerable damage to whatever it impacts and can even arc to nearby targets. Once the Reaper is dealt with, the other enemies can be mopped up.

  • One of the more interesting weapon optics in Titanfall 2 is the IR sight that highlights enemies in red. The wide open spaces of this mission initially might suggest a good long range weapon, but as most confrontations occur in close quarters, having a good automatic weapon becomes more practical than a longer range weapon.

  • The open holographic sights affixed to my rifle here brings to mind the sights in Halo 5‘s Battle Rifle. Back in 2014 when the feature was first revealed, aiming down sights was met with resistance from the community, who had felt that one of the defining features of Halo was that there were no emphasis on aiming down sights: save a few weapons that had zoom-in capabilities, Halo‘s arsenal is fired from the hip. These reactions have not been seen since, and players have since acclimatised to the presence of holographic sights in Halo.

  • I personally would love to see Halo 3 and 4 come to PC: years ago, rumours abounded about a possible port, but Microsoft clarifies that Halo would not be ported to PC, citing architectural differences between the Xbox and the PC as reasons why at the time, there were no plans to make the port. This was almost three years ago, and a few days ago, an AMD marketting campaign hinted that Halo 3 might be coming to PC after all. There’s not too much information on whether or not this is authentic, but if it is, I’ll likely give things a spin. After making use of a pair of cranes to move a pair of platforms to form walls to run along, I smile and recall the days of Half Life 2, where environment puzzles were similarly utilised to encourage lateral thinking.

  • By this point in Titanfall 2, parkouring to the transmission dish to retrieve a working component is straightforwards, and it was a simple matter of obtaining the component after moving the dish into the appropriate position. While there are many fetch quests in Titanfall 2, they are done remarkably well and never feel monotonous. Further to this, another design choice that makes the missions fun is the fact that I do not have to backtrack in order to return to where I started.

  • Instead, there’s a series of panels that one must activate in order to get back across by means of wall-running. There are a few platforms in between to give players a short chance to catch their breath, but with three-quarters of Titanfall 2 done, players should for the most part, be comfortable with timing the arc tool and their jumps to return to BT very quickly. Upon arrival, Cooper finds BT fending off a large group of enemies, and embarks BT to disable them.

  • Against the large number of smaller enemies, including Reapers, I switched to the Ion loadout, thinking the splitter rifle’s rounds would be effective against robotic enemies. It’s actually one of the weaker weapons available to a Titan, and has an alternate fire mode that allows it to behave like a shotgun. Once all of the enemies are dealt with, mercenary Richter arrives with his Tone-class Titan.

  • Guides out there suggest the Ronin loadout for defeating Richter: since the Tone is a long range setup, it is unsuited for dealing with the Ronin’s exceptional short range capabilities, and coupled with the Vanguard-class’ increased health, closing the distance isn’t too difficult. Of course, I always tend to wing it when it comes to shooters now, and I ended up using the Ion loadout, dooming Richter’s Titan with the laser core before finishing him off with an execution.

  • At the beginning of the seventh mission, an all-Titan combat mission, I switch back to the Tone loadout and hammer the numerous Titans separating the Militia task force and the Ark. It is pure chaos in this mission, and there are supposed to be three pilot helmets scattered throughout this mission. I did not bother collecting them, but they appear to be located in the calmer areas. The seventh mission marks the first mission that I spent exclusively in a Titan, and it was incredibly fun to decimate enemy Titans and infantry alike.

  • Today is Easter Sunday, and it’s back to work tomorrow. I spent most of the Easter Long Weekend relaxing: on Good Friday, I purchased Battlefield 1: Premium and won my first match on Rupture, a beautiful map overgrown with poppies, and went for a walk nearby. Yesterday, after heading out to lift weights in the morning, I spent most of the afternoon in Battlefield 1, and by the time we sat down to Easter dinner (turkey, stuffing, ham, pineapple and a simple vegetable medley), it was snowing outside. In the aftermath of the Flames’ second loss to the Anaheim Ducks, today was a bit of a quieter day: the sun was shining when I woke up, and I’ve finally submitted my taxes for the year.

  • After a homemade fish-and-chips lunch, I stepped out to do some shopping in preparation for events of the very near future, and returned home to play more Battlefield 1. In one match today, I managed to go 17 and 15 on Fort de Vaux, a close-quarters map that lends itself to the sort of frenzy seen in Battlefield 3 and 4‘s Operation Metro map, as well as Operation Locker of Battlefield 4. I’m working on the assignment to unlock the Ribeyrolles 1918 and have all of the required kills with the Automatico M1918 Factory. The next part, to get twenty headshots with the MP18 Optical, will be substantially trickier. After the events of today, I’m very nearly at rank nine for the assault class, and are a few thousand points from rank seven on the scout class.

  • I’ll be returning in the near future to do a proper talk on Battlefield 1: Premium now that I’ve joined the premium club, but for now, it’s back to Titanfall 2, where I’ve found the Northstar loadout. Equipped with a plasma rail gun that does obscene damage against other Titans, the Northstar is best suited for long range engagements and can quickly destroy Titans from afar. In exchange, it is very unsuited for close quarters engagements, and in the multiplayer, will be ripped apart if one is attempting to engage other Titans at close ranges.

  • The Flight Core boosts the Northstar into the air and allows for a barrage of rockets to be fired at opponents below. While in the air, the rockets fired can deal a total damage exceeding even that of the Tone’s Salvo core, although these rockets are unguided. The different Titan loadouts can be switched out on the fly, making it possible to immediately adapt oneself to any situation. The campaign-only Expedition loadout is the best for anti-personnel combat, while the Tone loadout is generally best against other Titans.

  • Against the Reapers, I decided to try the Scorch loadout: its primary armament is the T-203 Thermite Launcher, which acts as a single-shot grenade launcher effective for area denial. Its projectiles arc substantially in flight, and aiming down sights will provide a small indicator for where the shot will end up. All of its abilities are based around thermite and fire: its defense measures melt incoming ordinance, and its core generates walls of flame. I’ve not made too much use of this in the campaign owing to the fact that this setup is not well-suited for direct attack against other Titans.

  • Commander Sarah Briggs accompanies Cooper on this mission, providing support and is more than capable of dealing with threats. She warns Cooper that the Draconis is about to take off and stresses the importance of reaching it, but regardless of how efficient Cooper is, the Draconis will always take off with the Ark, setting in motion the events of the next mission. I finished Titanfall 2‘s campaign this weekend, and will be aiming to get out a talk on the final missions on short order. With the campaign done, I might give the multiplayer a spin: I will need to learn the ins and outs in order to survive matches against other human players and unlock items, but there is a private mode that allows me to play against AI if I so choose.

The diverse gameplay and missions contributes to why Titanfall 2‘s campaign was considered to be one of the best in 2016, a year already with a number of contenders, including DOOM. Not knowing what each mission entails and walking through each level was a constant thrill, but this sense of unknown was offset by BT: maintaining communications with Cooper and providing the occasional bit of wit, it made the desolate reaches of the missions more manageable. However, by the seventh mission, with the Militia present, it feels fantastic to have numerous allies in my corner to provide covering fire and support as the Militia push towards stopping the IMC. Titanfall 2 continues to be full of surprises well into its campaign; while games can feel as though they are drawn thin if they count on too many mechanics, but this is not the case in Titanfall 2. Seamlessly woven into the narrative, each mechanic serves to keep the game fresh, being dispensed with in order to keep players from growing complacent with any one method. Ultimately, it comes down to Cooper making use of the most in his environment, and perhaps through its campaign, Titanfall 2 is suggesting that to perform in the multi-player, individuals should keep their eyes open for opportunity and advantages in their environments.

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.

Titanfall 2: First impressions of the campaign

“It is good to see you too, Pilot.” –BT-7274

Titanfall 2 is Respawn Entertainment’s sequel to its predecessor, differing chiefly in that it features a full-fledged single-player campaign. The first game presented the story of the conflict between the IMC and Militia by means of transmissions and dialogues during the prelude to some multiplayer matches; these snippets suggested that there was much that could be explored in the world of Titanfall. Thus, Titanfall 2 makes use of this fantastic setting to craft a story that does not stray far from the beaten path: after the Interstellar Manufacturing Corporation (IMC) discovers an area rich in resources and dub it the Frontier, they begin exploiting these assets with little regard for the damage they cause to worlds and their populations. A section of the IMC splinter off and become the Frontier Militia, who strive to protect their people, worlds and gain independence from the IMC. Amidst the conflict is rifleman Jack Cooper, training off the books under Captain Tai Lastimosa’s supervision with the aspirations of becoming a pilot himself someday. When a mission to the surface of IMC-held Typhon leads to Captain Lastimosa’s death, he transfers control of his Titan, BT-7274 (hitherto BT for brevity), to Cooper in his final moments, taking on the responsibility of finishing Captain Lastimosa’s mission to meet up with Major Anderson. Along the way, Cooper forms a closer link with BT and defeats Kane, an Apex Predator mercenary hired by the IMC to further their plans. With its story, Titanfall 2 treads on well-worn territory, although the real star of the show becomes apparent when Cooper is neurally linked with BT. Far more than an ordinary combat machine, BT possesses a powerful AI that enables him to be a companion of sorts for Cooper as he undertakes a mission that he has only received informal training for.

BT adds a new level of dimensionality to Titanfall 2, but as I’m only two missions into the game as of now, I can only say that the interactions between Cooper and BT right now is a friendly one even as I push further into the mission: to find Major Anderson. I am certain that there will be more to discuss about this dynamic upcoming, but in the time I have spent in Titanfall 2 already, the first thing that comes to mind is how well-designed the gameplay mechanics are. Moving around is incredibly fluid and, as a Pilot, Cooper has no trouble navigating the sheer walls and ledges in the environments. The smooth motions makes it very easy to become accustomed to parkouring through maps by taking advantages of features in the terrain. The gunplay also handles well: kills are incredibly visceral, and the weapons sound powerful. By the end of the first mission, after Cooper locates a pair of batteries to power up BT, there is an opportunity to glimpse what Titan combat is like. The default Expedition loadout for BT has proven to be my favourite so far amongst the choices available (just the Tone right now) – its 20 mm X0-16 automatic AP rifle has a high rate of fire and accuracy, while its ordinance is fantastic for locking onto multiple opponents. The vortex shield and electric smoke also make a return; the former allows BT to “catch” incoming fire and redirect it for damage, while the latter is a defensive utility for bugging out and dissuading enemies from pursuing, as the smoke can kill pilots and drain a Titan’s shields. It’s surprisingly versatile, and I find myself using the Expedition loadout far more than the Tone loadout, which features the powerful Tracker 40 mm cannon and lock-on rockets, plus a particle shield. While I’m loving the 40 mm cannon, the other aspects are a bit more tricky to use. It is with the Expedition loadout that I took with me into my duel against Kane, and after a short battle, I finished my first boss of Titanfall 2.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • After a botched landing results in Captain Lastimosa being defeated by several IMC Titans, Cooper himself is nearly eaten by Typhon’s wildlife until Lastimosa intervenes, transferring his equipment to Cooper and entrusting him with BT. The first mission in Titanfall 2 involves securing two Titan batteries for BT. These batteries, large green cylinders, are said to provide power for Titans, although given that Titans can access the nuclear ejection ability, it is likely that batteries are used in conjunction with a reactor of some sort to power the Titans.

  • While players have a chance to become familiar with the different parkour and wall-running abilities in the tutorial, the first mission is where these abilities are first put to the test. Some of the abilities, such as double jumping by means of a jump kit, are locked initially. The cliffs of Typhon’s first area are a fantastic place to begin practising; in narrower passages, where it’s possible to wall-run on one side, then hop over to another. Pilots will lose momentum as they continue wall-running, making the timing of a wall-run critical to avoiding falling to a deep chasm.

  • I’m running Titanfall 2 on the second highest settings available, since I personally cannot tell the difference between maximum settings and the tier below it: the game looks fantastic all around, whether it be the lighting effects or details in the environment. Here, I’m equipped with the R-201 Carbine, the standard all-around performing assault rifle of Titanfall 2 that replaces Titanfall‘s R-101C. With a good rate of fire, moderate damage and low recoil, it’s suited for a variety of situations, bringing to mind how I stuck with the R-101C predominantly during my Titanfall trial back during 2014.

  • Wide open spaces in the maps means that it’s useful to carry a good long-range weapon, and the Longbow-DMR fulfills this role early on in Titanfall 2. One thing that is unique about Titanfall 2 is that killing enemies will cause their helmets to pop off: when I first saw this, I thought their heads were popping off owing to the sheer firepower of the weapon. This may not be the case, but the Longbow remains an excellent all-around long-range weapon with its relatively high rate of fire and fast bullet travel time.

  • The presence of lush vegetation on Typhon suggests that it’s got a tropical or subtropical climate, evoking memories of Taiwan. When I visited back during 2014, it was in December, and the weather was still markedly more pleasant than the weather back home. While our route around the island did not take us through the Huatong Valley (we took the coastal highway before transitioning to a train from Hualien to Yilan), we did travel through some regions of Taiwan’s interior en route to the Monster Village (妖怪村) and the Sun Moon Lake (日月潭), where there are steep mountains rising up from the foggy valley.

  • All told, Cooper is required to pick up two Titan batteries from the interior of the MCS James McCallan, crashed from the operation as a result of heavy fire. The relatively pristine nature of its interior (excluding structural damage sustained during the crash) is a reminder that the vessel only crashed a few hours earlier, but the absence of personnel on board suggest that most of them were able to escape. While getting acclimatised to the jump kit, the IMC forces announce that players have the chance to surrender themselves and be spared death; BT remarks that it’s likely a lie.

  • This brings to mind the announcement that Admiral Salen Kotch has for Reyes and his forces: “surrender for immediate execution”. Kotch pulls no punches and outright tells the heroes their expected fate, whereas the IMC present a bald-faced lie. Back in the days of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, ultranationalist forces can be heard telling Captain Price and his men to surrender. Price merely responds: “ignore that load of bollocks. Their counterattack is imminent”. Back in Titanfall 2, I come across an IMC outpost and hammer it from afar with the Longbow. Stealth is also an option: pilots are equipped with a cloak that, while too short-lived to accommodate the sort of sneaking around available in Crysis, is immensely useful for getting out of a pinch.

  • In the IMC outpost, I find the Spitfire LMG, a fully automatic light machine gun great for delivering a large amount of hot lead downrange. Unlike its Titanfall counterpart, whose accuracy would improve as it was fired, the Titanfall 2 Spitfire can be fired in shorter bursts. I’ve never been big on LMGs that become more accurate as they are fired in multiplayer contexts, since it encourages a waste of ammunition and also exposes a user’s position the longer the weapon is fired. A sharp-eyed reader might notice that the parts of the weapon closest to the camera are blurry. This is a design choice in Titanfall 2, and while it makes the game feel a little more realistic, it also makes the weapons a little less visually impressive.

  • After securing two batteries for BT, Cooper is able to board for the first time, just in time for enough of a neural link to be formed for Cooper to use BT’s ordinance package, which by default, fires lock-on missiles at distant opponents. When the initial link is established, players can begin using the X0-16 20mm Automatic rifle. Boarding the titan for the first time was a powerful moment, and as any gamer can predict, players have the chance to take on enemy Titans of their own. The X0-16 makes quick work of the Brutes, common IMC Titans encountered throughout Titanfall 2‘s campaign.

  • With my mind continuously drifting towards the vast mountains and remote valleys of Taiwan’s Eastern coast, I present Synapticism, a website whose author travels the more unbeaten paths of Taiwan to explore both the ruins of Taiwan as well as the rural areas away from the major cities. It’s a remarkably well-written website with plenty of good content that presents Taiwan in a completely different perspective than would be obtained from a more traditional tour of Taiwan’s major attractions.

  • Titan-on-infantry combat is almost unfair against the IMC grunts: all of a Titan’s weapons seem like overkill, capable of ripping apart infantry very quickly. The Expedition loadout seems best suited for taking on infantry owing to multiple lock-ons offered by the ordinance and the X0-16’s larger magazine capacity. There are anti-Titan weapons for pilots on foot, and usually, it takes a degree of coordination amongst pilots to use these weapons effectively in order to eliminate an enemy Titan.

  • So far, I’m enjoying every aspect of Titanfall 2, although the HUD is a little different than what I’m used to: one’s ammunition and equipment is placed near the center of the screen, which is a strange place to situate it considering every other shooter I’ve gone through places these counters at the bottom right-hand side. This makes it a little tricky to keep track of reserve ammunition count, since I need to glance towards the lower center of my screen in order to take a look at what’s happening.

  • I can never be sure if it’s pronounced  “tohn” (IPA: “təʊn”) or “toh-ne” (利根, romanised “tone”), but I imagine it’s the former, given that the other Titans of Titanfall 2 have English names. Presumably, the Tone loadout is so-called for the fact that a tone is emitted when one acquires a lock-on, and here, I unleash the salvo core, firing a barrage of guided missiles to absolutely overwhelm enemy Titans. The default Expedition loadout confers a burst core, which continuously fires the X0-16 with a high firing rate.

  • The cavernous interior of the pump facility brings to mind the Metropolitan Area Outer Underground Discharge Channel (known informally as the G-cans) system in Saitama, Tokyo. Construction began in 1992 and concluded in 2006; the tunnel system is intended to redirect water and prevent flooding: the most famous section is a 177 by 78 meter water tank with a height of 25.4 meters. There’s a total of 6.4 kilometers of tunnels linking the five water tanks together, and guided tours of the facility in the Japanese language are provided. My feeble Japanese skills mean I’m unlikely to be qualified to sign up for these tours in the absence of an interpreter, but for the present, I can explore a variant of that in Titanfall 2.

  • I find a Kraber-AP Sniper, a 14.5 x 114 mm rifle that fires heavy armour piercing anti-personnel rounds that can neutralise an opponent with one shot. It features a straight-pull bolt but is still relatively slow-firing compared to other weapons, making the Kraber best suited for long range combat, although the heavy rounds have a slower muzzle velocity compared to the Longbow, requiring that one leads their shots at longer ranges. I use it here to pick off IMC soldiers, watching as their helmets pop off on a successful kill, and note that the weapon’s low magazine capacity means that the weapon, though fantastic against other pilots in the multiplayer, is less effective in the campaign than the Longbow as a long-range solution overall.

  • The EVA-8 is an automatic shotgun that unsurprisingly excels at close-quarters engagements. I use it in the tight corridors to pick off enemies. Inspection of my HUD also finds that I’m rocking an incendiary grenade, which deals damage over time. The enemies in Titanfall 2‘s campaign are a combination of IMC infantry and robots: the latter are more resilient against projectiles, and may carry the L-STAR particle rifle. Classified as an LMG, this weapon draws energy from a battery pool rather than a magazine and overheats when fired for extended periods.

  • The L-STAR can make short work of robots quickly, and causes infantry to explode into chunks of meat when shot owing to the particle rounds’ high energy. Here, I come across a “清明” (Qingming) logo. Possibly being the name of the company that runs this facility, the sign reinforces my sense that Typhon has some elements from Taiwan, although I note that the traditional and simplified characters are the same. By this point, I’ve reached the point where I’ve opened one of the values and are fighting off IMC infantry and ticks, spider-like drones that explode to deal massive damage. Unlike TheRadBrad, I managed to survive the onslaught by moving continuously, and eventually reunite with BT.

  • Unlike Battlefield 1 and Call of Duty: Infinite WarfareTitanfall 2 is more similar to DOOM in that making use of the map in conjunction with staying in motion is the key to survival. The movement system in Titanfall 2 is far smoother than in Infinite Warfare, mirroring the manoeuvrability afforded by the jump kit. Hidden in levels are “pilot helmets”: similar to Call of Duty‘s intel, these collectibles encourage exploration and are required to unlock a special achievement. They’re often hidden in tough-to-reach locations, requiring a bit of parkour to reach, and while I don’t always find them, I do make an effort to reach the ones that I see.

  • The 40mm Tracker cannon is an integral part of the Tone’s loadout: the projectiles it fires contributes to the lock-on missiles’ targeting system. One feature I was initially hesitant about was the fact that the weapon’s tracers appeared to arc in a parabolic manner, but testing the weapon out, the weapon does not experience projectile drop at closer ranges. I look forward to experimenting with the Tone loadout as my main Titan setup during the campaign, since I enjoy using slower-firing, heavier-hitting weapons in general.

  • Initially, I was unaccustomed to the Tone loadout and promptly lost a bit of my health against Kane, so I switched back to the more familiar Expedition loadout and hammered his Titan to defeat him. One of the Apex Predators, Kane is somewhat unstable and is fond of calling those he considers beneath him “scrubs”. His dialogue comes across as rather humorous, and the fight is not particularly challenging – besting him allows his radio to be collected, which gives players the ability to intercept Apex Predator communications. With this mission done, I look forwards to pushing through the next stages of the campaign, but for the present, I’ve got several upcoming posts: the Amanchu! OVA releases tomorrow, while the first part of Hai-Furi‘s OVA series comes out Friday. Besides these two OVA reviews, future posts also include whole-series talks for Gabriel Dropout and Nyanko Days, both of which I found to be far more amusing than anticipated.

I am impressed, but not surprised that the campaign of Titanfall 2 has proven to be as enjoyable as it has been so far: I originally picked up Titanfall 2 during an EA Publisher sale for 60 percent off, after seeing an advertisement on Facebook for it. Prior to this, I was wondering if such a sale would occur such that I could try the game out: one of the reasons I became interested in Titanfall 2 was owing to its soundtrack: the rich, soaring sounds of the track “BT-7274”, and the melancholy yet optimistic “Rifleman Cooper” stand as my favourite tracks. The majestic, purposeful presentation of these songs brings to mind a rather unusual image: the heavily forested mountains and foggy valleys of Taiwan’s interior. I suspect this is in part owing to a memory bias, since my iPod continuously gave me Titanfall music while on shuffle, during my vacation to Taiwan two and a half years previously. Still, the songs seem rather fitting, describing the steep peaks and remote roads that cross Taiwan’s eastern edge nicely. Indeed, Typhon seems to feel a little like Taiwan, with its lush vegetation and unforgiving terrain: it’s the perfect backdrop for Cooper’s journeys, and consequently, I am looking forwards to pushing through Titanfall 2 to see what adventures await Cooper and BT. Doubtlessly, regardless of what challenges Cooper faces, BT’s presence will be sufficient to maintain morale and allow Cooper to realise his own ambitions of becoming a pilot Captain Lastimosa would be proud of.