Sequel features more story, less chaos and giant robots with personality
A sequel is coming to 2014's smash sci-fi shooter Titanfall – the game that sped up multiplayer battles everywhere and revealed the chaotic awesomeness of free-running "pilots" commanding 20-foot-tall robots known as "Titans" – and this time it'll have what players have long demanded: a single-player mode. And unlike the first Titanfall, Titanfall 2 – due October 28th – will be available for Playstation 4, in addition to Xbox One and PC.
As acclaimed and popular as the first game was, it had its flaws, from an overly chaotic battlefield to a somewhat opaque approach to conveying its limited story. One of the most exciting things about the sequel is that the production team (Respawn Entertainment, founded by the creators of the Call of Duty franchise), made a concerted effort to fix them, one by one. For Titanfall 2, Respawn has added a whole new single player mode, and is also making significant changes to the multiplayer gameplay. We spoke with the development team during this year's E3 show, and here's what we learned.
The franchise that sped up gaming is actually slowing down
Despite the fact that Titanfall is largely responsible for the recent trend in extremely fast-paced multiplayer shooters, one of the tricks that the team has used to reduce chaos in Titanfall 2 is to actually slow things down a little. While this may disappoint some fans, the team asserts that it's a good design decision, as it reduces confusion during huge firefights. The majority of successful multiplayer shooters benefit from a degree of predictability, as it allows players to learn how engagements transpire and adapt their tactics accordingly.
The team's goal with Titanfall 2 is to make the experience feel much more structured, and also give players a sense that they're really able to learn the game, rather than simply react to what's happening in front of them. While Titanfall actually had a huge skill ceiling, game director Steve Fukuda says that the chaos prevented some players from believing that they could improve.
The new single player mode is about a relationship
The story in Titanfall 2 centers on the relationship and bond that forms between Militia rifleman Jack Cooper and BT7274, a Titan that has lost its pilot. Though Cooper isn't qualified, BT requires a human pilot to fully operate and to execute its primary directives. As it states in the trailer, it needs to "link with the pilot, uphold the mission, and protect the pilot."
"Even from the inception of this project, how the pilot and the Titan were to relate was something that we knew was going to be the big challenge and that we had to deliver on," says lead single player designer Mackey McCandlish.
"It's something that Steve [Fukuda], the game director identified early that we needed to get our head around. So we did a lot of prototyping and experimenting, and bit by bit as the dialog got there and as the levels got there and as the features came in one by one, we managed to get the personality across. You'll see in our trailer that when the Titan talks he doesn't have a mouth, but the lights show that he's talking. So even just getting the functionality of syncing that up with the sound effects of his voice, all those little things add up to a character that you can relate to."
"I think the purpose of a campaign is a little like a buffet, where you want to get each dish in its most concentrated form," says McCandlish. "Not like multiplayer, which is all of the different pieces competing with each other, filtered by game mode. There should be times when it's the pilot and the Titan, there should be times when it's just the pilot, in contexts that are tuned to really draw out what's most fun about each."
Each Titan is unique, and has a personality
In the original Titanfall, the Titans themselves were basically three different classes of walking tank; the light and nimble Stryders, the heavy Ogres and then the more balanced Atlas class Titans that all players started the game with. Each could be equipped with weaponry, abilities, and ordnance that was unlocked as the player progressed, and loadouts could be saved to accommodate preferences. Respawn also allowed players to customize Titans further with decals and voice packs, so particular setups would feel unique. Ultimately though, it was hard to really tell what you were up against in the middle of a battle, regardless of customization.
"One of the problems we identified with Titan combat was that people had a hard time reading an enemy Titan and what its weaknesses were," says producer Drew McCoy. "To help different play styles as well as provide some combat clarity, every Titan is unique in Titanfall 2. The two we're showing right now are Ion and Scorch, and they have their own identities, their own voices and their own set of bespoke weapons and abilities." Both of these new Titans were shown in the game's first gameplay trailers, and they have some similarities with the first game's classes. Ion is roughly Atlas-sized, whereas Scorch bears a striking resemblance to an Ogre-class Titan, albeit with some intimidating weaponry.
"Scorch is all about fire and thermite, so he has a thermite launcher that's like a mortar launcher and the stuff it fires just burns when it lands. You can also throw out an incendiary gas canister to spew out flammable gas. You can combo that stuff together and get some really cool results," McCoy enthuses. "Scorch is big, he's slow, he's lumbering, he's more of a 'let me stay away and deal my damage from afar' kinda Titan."
"Ion is all about lasers, precision and resource management," McCoy explains. "So she's a completely different style of gameplay." Ion wears a shoulder-mounted laser, drops laser-triggered mines and can fire an oversized laser from the center of her chest."
There are both male and female Titans
In the first game you could decide what kind of voice your Titan had, and what language it spoke, but in Titanfall 2 that voice is now part of its overall personality. "Scorch has a male voice and Ion has a female voice," says McCoy. "The Titans' personalities are expressed through how they move, their animations. They have unique execution animations. After they drop – when they've landed and they're waiting for you to embark – they all exude that personality. Scorch is all 'come at me bro,' he's standing like 'I'm ready for you' and he's big and burly. Their voice and dialog lines make it obvious what kind of Titan you're dealing with when you're in them."
The new game will let you be stealthy
"The cloak in the original Titanfall was a response to having both pilots and Titans in the battle," says McCoy. "We wanted a way for a pilot to move from building to building without a Titan seeing them. So it was really tuned for that. Then we also tuned it differently for pilot to pilot combat so people wouldn't seem quite so invisible. We've changed that now, because people told us that they actually want to be sneaky, whether they're going up against either a pilot or a Titan. So we've tuned the cloak a little bit, we've changed the audio mix some so that sneaky play is a more viable tactic now."
Grappling hooks are in, and smart pistols are back
In keeping with this year's favorite gameplay trend, the pilots in Titanfall 2 can use a grappling hook to traverse the environment more quickly. "The grappling hook forces players to look at the world in a different way," says Fukuda. "You have to analyze the surfaces, and analyze the geometry. Pilot gameplay is about looking at the world differently. It's not just about moving fast, or that cat and mouse thing, it's also processing the world differently."
Possibly the most contentious element of the original game was one of the first pilot weapons players had access to at the beginning, the smart pistol. Unlike other guns in the game, the smart pistol would scan for hostile targets within short range, and then lock onto them automatically. When the player pulled the trigger, the rounds would hit their target regardless. It was great if you had no idea how to play the game, but is massively unpopular among experienced players, as it's considered unfair. "Some people thought it was a great and innovative weapon," says Fukuda. "Some people found that they could exploit it and use it in bad ways. The smart pistol is returning, however, we're making significant changes to it so that the experience is much better for everybody."