Best Shooter 2016: Titanfall 2

BT FTW! GOTY gongs are chosen by PC Gamer staff through voting and debate. We'll be posting an award a day leading to Christmas, along with personal picks from the PCG team. Keep up with all the awards so far here.   

Chris Thursten: Who saw this coming? Given a second stab at a set of ideas that never quite came to fruition in the promising but flawed first game, Respawn burst in from left-field to deliver by far the best shooter campaign of the year. Titanfall 2 demonstrates a Valve-style willingness to tinker with the game's basic formula, remixing shooting, parkour and mech combat in a different way in each mission. The standout levels—Into The Abyss and Effect and Cause—match visual spectacle with brilliant sci-fi high concepts that would not be out of place in a Half-Life sequel. Yes, it's really that good.

Tom Senior: The interplay between titans and lone pilots creates the most tactically interesting and intense combat moments of the year. Nowhere else can I wrench a battery out of the back of a titan, hop onto the back of a friendly titan, slide-machinegun an enemy pilot and re-mount the enemy titan and drop a grenade into the battery slot I just vacated. The movement systems that enable this are extraordinarily robust and intuitive, and easily some of the best I've ever encountered in an FPS. The feeling of chaining a series of heroic maneuvers into a multi-pilot or titan takedown is hard to describe. There is almost no friction between thought and action in these moments, only the excitement of carving a path through a frenetic warzone driven by beautifully designed class, movement and weapon systems. It has been a great year for shooters, but Titanfall 2 destroys the competition.

Andy Kelly: Titanfall 2 clicked for me when I started reprogramming my FPS brain to take advantage of my character’s mobility. Confronted with a shield-wielding enemy, my first thought was to run behind him and shotgun him in the back. But then I realised that I could do a cool knee-slide towards a wall, run along it, flip over, land behind him and then shotgun him in the back. And suddenly it all made sense. This fluid character movement combines with chunky, satisfying combat and a procession of imaginative one-shot gimmicks to create one of the best singleplayer FPS campaigns I’ve played in years.

Phil Savage: The movement and level design—especially that level—are deserving of praise. But the thing that really surprised me was the feel of the weapons. Thanks to Doom and Battlefield 1, it's been a good year for loud, chunky weapons. I've spent much of 2016 enjoying the crack of a bolt-action rifle, and the deep blast of a super shotgun. By contrast, Titanfall 2's weapons feel elegant and subtle. They feel impactful and deadly, but the feedback is handled in other ways – meaning the combat doesn't overpower the audio mix. It's a refreshing approach, and gives Titanfall 2 a different texture that sets it apart from the year's other great shooters.

Chris Livingston: I hear a lot of people saying they love the movement of the pilot, and sure, it’s great. Fast, flexible, frenetic, giving us so many different ways to tackle enemies and the environment. But I’m afraid I simply can’t appreciate it as much as everyone else because I simply hate not being in my titan. Whenever I have to get out to run around on foot I’m completely miserable. Just pick me back up and put me in you, huge robot! I know I can run on walls and knee-slide and all that, but I’d much rather be encased in a giant friendly protective stomping robot than Mirror’s Edge-ing it while people shoot at me. I love that titan so much I can’t stand to part ways. If I could install a little fridge and toilet in it, I’d never get out.

Tim Clark: The level that everyone seemingly still dares not name (statute of spoiler limitations?) is the single most exciting thing I’ve played all year. Titanfall 2’s campaign is a ridiculous greatest hits album of great design ideas, condensing more creativity into its six or so hours that some series manage in that many games. That said, I don’t quite buy the line that Titanfall 2 was purely doomed by naive scheduling from EA. Even if it had been released earlier in the year, far away from the twin behemoths of CoD and Battlefield, I’m not sure it would’ve sold much better. The problem, I suspect, is that you only get one shot at launching a new shooter. And what players of Titanfall 1 remember is a great multiplayer game that failed to find a big enough audience and faded fast. I don’t think tacking on a short campaign, however critically acclaimed, was ever going to be enough to persuade players, many of whom are super value-conscious, that they’d get their money’s worth second-time around. Which is a huge shame, because I’m not sure what else Respawn could have reasonably done, and it probably dooms any hope of a third instalment.

You'll find more love for Titanfall 2 in our review.