I've got a confession to make. Despite my love for first-person shooters, I completely missed Titanfall 2 (opens in new tab) when it launched back in 2016. In fact, I didn't bother with the Titanfall universe at all until Apex Legends appeared. Since then, I've spent hundreds of hours slogging through battle passes, exploring new maps, and I'm now hooked on its new Arenas mode (opens in new tab). But I've always been curious about where my favourite battle royale inherited its lore. I'm aware of notable Titanfall characters like Kuben Blisk, Viper, and Ash, but I've never ventured outside of The Outlands. So, after being told countless times how criminally underplayed Titanfall 2 is, I decided to finally try it myself.
I'm embarrassingly late to the party, but I finally understand what all the fuss is about. You were all right, Titanfall 2 is an incredible shooter. I've only managed to try out its multiplayer modes so far, but I'm shocked by how quickly I adjusted from Apex. Titanfall has more buttons to press, as you need to be aware of your abilities as both a pilot and titan, but everything feels familiar. I created an Octane/Valkyrie (opens in new tab) hybrid by choosing the Stim tactical for my pilot, and a Northstar titan. It's strange yet comforting to be able to choose my favourite weapons from Apex, too. I know where I stand with the likes of the Flatline, R-201, and Wingman, and I was surprised that I was managing to keep up with the rest of my team.
It almost feels like I've been training to be a Titanfall pilot this entire time, just by playing Apex. Sprinting around the map with my Octane legs and gunning down other pilots just felt natural, and I was the first person on my team to hop into a titan in my second match. I also managed to stomp around the map for what felt like an eternity before an enemy titan blew my mech to smithereens.
If you fancy yourself as a skilled Apex player, you'll love being a pilot in Titanfall 2. The combat feels similar, you can choose a loadout that you're already comfortable with, and it won't take you long to find your feet. The best part is that it feels like you're moving at about a thousand miles an hour all the time, with big robots and other pilots exploding all around you. I thought Apex's Arenas was a competitive step up, but this is a chaotic, sensory overload in comparison, and it's exhilarating once you get the hang of it.
After dominating on the ground, you're rewarded with a powerful mech that can one-shot the same pilots that just took you most of a magazine to kill. When you're on a streak, it feels like you've unlocked a superpower that lets you clear other players with one tap of your railgun. It sounds ridiculous that titans are this potent, and you'd expect that whichever team manages to get their mechs first would hijack the match, but there are plenty of opportunities to come back from a rough start. Before long, there are enemy titans to contend with, and taking them on restores the challenge.
One thing I expected to struggle with was using my titan, but it's really not as complicated as it looks in the loadout menus. You have a primary gun and a mixture of offensive and defensive abilities. Again, I picked the Northstar because I've spent a fair amount of time with Apex's new legend, so I already have a good understanding of when it's safe to hover and send out cluster missiles. There are other recognisable legend abilities folded into this robot, though. Its Flight Core ultimate sends a barrage of rockets at enemies below, and when calling in the Northstar it'll wait for you inside a dome shield.
The trickiest part of controlling the Northstar is that I'm a big target with very little health. Each titan has its own stats, and mine is heavily weighted towards damage and mobility. It didn't take me long to work out when I needed to back off, but if you're being greedy you'll be ejected from your mech very quickly. Titans essentially have two health bars: normal HP and shields, then a second bar that appears once those have been depleted. When you enter this 'Doomed State', you need to disembark early to avoid exploding along with your mech-and believe me, you'll only mess this up once.
Titans are more complex than I first thought, but it makes them even more exciting. It's easy to get swept up in skirmishes with other machines, but there's the additional threat of enemy pilots hopping on your back and trying to rodeo you, too. Rodeoing was entirely new to me as I've never even had to consider titans before, let alone worry about someone trying to remove my battery and destroy my mech from the inside.
There are far more abilities and bars to juggle than I'm used to, but this feels more exciting than it does overwhelming. I felt really flashy when I got the balance right and managed to stay in my titan, but I'm also thankful that Titanfall is surprisingly kind to its losers. At the end of the match, the defeated team has the chance to scramble back to a ship, which makes room for one final fight. This is a nice change from crawling around on the floor and having to watch an enemy Wraith teabag you before using their finisher.
I've spent a lot of time comparing two different genres here, but I can't stress how interesting it is to drop into Titanfall 2 for the first time in 2021. As a battle royale, Apex is renowned for its fluid movement options, but I didn't realise how far Titanfall 2 really pushes the need for you to maintain your momentum. Pathfinder mains get more of a taste of this in Apex-it's possible to build momentum from swinging, sliding, or bouncing on Octane's launch pads, but it's not long until you inevitably have to stop. In Titanfall, you're encouraged to wall run, grapple, and continue sliding until you can find another way to boost your speed even more. If you're doing it right, there is no stopping. This is something that I still need to work on, but even after a few play sessions Apex feels shockingly slow to me now.
Despite knowing that Apex is part of the Titanfall universe, I'm angry at myself for prematurely writing off its multiplayer. Having heard about Titanfall 2's quick post-launch drop off, I was concerned I'd be facing lengthy queue times for an outdated experience. But that's not the case at all, and I'm glad that others are equally curious. Just last month, Titanfall 2 hit a record player count on Steam (opens in new tab) while it was on sale. It's also available on Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, which I imagine has significantly helped to bolster its player base. I finally understand why Titanfall fans are still crying out for a sequel.
Titanfall 2's fate was sealed by its unfortunate launch timing, sandwiched between Battlefield 1 and Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, but I hope its second wind on Steam, along with Apex's success has given the studio the confidence to revisit it. It reviewed well, and its single player campaign is reported to be one of the best out there. It's clear that there's an appetite for its multiplayer today, which makes it all the more frustrating that Apex is the more popular game. I can't help but wonder how different things would be if Titanfall 2 launched now, or if Respawn was to release Titanfall 3 in the next few years. Distilling Titanfall's essence and repackaging it into a battle royale was a smart move, but as Apex expands into a platform beyond that, I hope that'll also mark a homecoming for its big brother.