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Great moments in PC gaming: Jumping back and forth in time in Titanfall 2's 'Effect and Cause'

Great moments in PC gaming are short, bite-sized celebrations of some of our favorite gaming memories.   

Titanfall 2

Developer: Respawn
Year: 2016

Titanfall 2 lulls you in. Running on walls? Cool. Double jumping? Cool. Big robots? Cool. Time travel—wait, what? Titanfall played it straight as military sci-fi, but the sequel's campaign brazenly built a pivotal level around mind-bending time travel in what I can only describe as a rarified "shit just got real" moment. 

Effect and Cause starts slowly, putting you in a bombed-out facility with no enemies to shoot and the distinct sensation that something has gone very wrong. Then you start going very wrong, stepping through rifts in time that give you a glimpse of the facility pre-disaster. At first it's disorienting. Then it's cool, as you get to fight different enemies in two versions of the same place, and all the ramifications of time travel begin to creep into your head amidst the firefights. You're not just seeing the past, you're definitely there. Soon after, it becomes incredible.

Once you gain the ability to control your jumps back and forth, it feels like you're fighting with godlike powers. Jump back, unload a shotgun into a crowd of soldiers, and pop forward as they scramble to fire. Walk to the other side of the now-deserted room, jump back again, and light them up from behind. They never had a chance. It's absurdly empowering, and the mission demands more from you than the game has up to this point in return. You've learned to wall run, but now you're doing it in two realities, jumping back and forth to clear obstacles in one time or the other.

It's such a wildly creative mission, and so unexpected, that Titanfall 2 does peak early. But Effect and Cause is such a high peak everything after it benefits from downhill momentum. Every wall running sequence, insane jump, and shootout is energized by the memory of the extremely cool stuff you've already done. Your reflexes were forged in the literal fire you jumped headlong into before blinking between past and present at the last possible moment. It's great in the moment, and made even better by Titanfall 2's willingness to let that brilliant mission be a one-off. For some games, that would've been the entire gimmick. For Titanfall 2, it was just mission five.

When he's not 50 hours into a JRPG or an opaque ASCII roguelike, Wes is probably playing the hottest games of three years ago. He oversees features, seeking out personal stories from PC gaming's niche communities. 50% pizza by volume.