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Titanfall 2's 'unexpected single-player' needs time to win over players

But getting new fans to try out the game will be tough

This October’s Titanfall 2 differs from its predecessor in several ways — so much so that executive producer Drew McCoy told Polygon that it could take a few hours to really get a grasp on it.

"My feeling is, as we’ve been wrestling with how you get someone to play the game and understand it, you can’t do it in less than 90 minutes or two hours," McCoy said when we met during Gamescom 2016. He was referring specifically to the game’s single-player mode, a story-heavy campaign that was highly requested following the multiplayer-focused first title.

That length "is usually too long for a demo, because there’s so many things you can do — you can’t build that relationship [between a player and Titan] in 10 minutes. It’s really hard. You can’t just take a level that’s halfway through and say, ‘Go play it.’"

But testing out the mode is exactly what many are eager to do, especially those who found themselves wanting more from the online-focused Titanfall.

It’s not that Titanfall suffered critically or commercially for its lack of single-player, McCoy said; in fact, it did "much better than anyone expected." Yet Respawn Entertainment is aware that, for many modern gamers, a game that costs $60 without both single- and multiplayer options can be a hard sell.

Titanfall 2 is "more thoughtful" than the first game, thanks to single-player

"Even if they don't play that other side of the game, the fact that it's there makes [consumers] feel better about their purchase," McCoy told us, calling complaints about the $60 multiplayer game "a perceived value proposition."

It’s a criticism that has befallen other, similar online multiplayer games. Buyers worry about the longevity of a game that essentially must live or die by the amount of people who are still playing it — and considering that most successful consoles games are expected to receive sequels not too far into the future, McCoy admitted that it can be tough to convince them to stick around.

"We really did care about people’s perception of whether their money was well spent," he told us. "You can’t make your players feel like they were left out to dry. We want people to think, ‘They’re gonna take care of us.’"

Thus begat Titanfall 2, a game that ships with the multiplayer that many fans of giant fighting robots and first-person shooters have come to enjoy, along with a roughly eight-hour campaign mode. It’s a complete story, McCoy says, one that is as much geared toward the people who fell in love with the Titanfall universe on its first go around as new players, those who were too intimidated by the multiplayer focus to check it out.

Convincing more people to check out Titanfall 2 includes leaning harder into its action-adventure side, McCoy said. A presentation shown both at Gamescom and at an earlier event this month showed off diverse types of gameplay, pointing toward a surprising — but promising — campaign mode for the first-person shooter.

Showing off the story mode to potential newcomers is a challenge

"It’s a little bit more of a thoughtful game" than Titanfall, McCoy told us. "There's puzzles, there’s platforming, there’s more, dare I say, emotion. It’s not just gritty dark guys with mustaches."

Although a multiplayer beta test runs this weekend to communicate what’s new — or still fun to play — there, there are no concrete plans to let anyone try the single-player campaign. That’s not for lack of desire, McCoy explained; it’s just that showcasing a varied story about building a relationship between "a boy and his dog-slash-robot" isn’t the easiest thing to do in a demo.

But when Titanfall 2 is just as much about winning over players who prefer to play alone, a multiplayer tech test doesn’t seem like the most accessible way for anyone but the Titanfall-versed to jump in.

"There aren't many single-player demos these days," McCoy said. "We are unique in that people don't see us as a single-player game, so we need to increase awareness. We are speaking to an existing audience [with just a multiplayer beta], I would somewhat agree."

Roping in the people willing to dip their toe into a game about shooting up massive walking robots remains a challenge. It’s one that McCoy feels confident about, however, despite all the talk about how exciting the campaign mode is.

"Everyone’s like, ‘This is not at all what I’m expecting, but it’s cool, it feels unique and refreshing,’" he told us of early reactions.

The next level of puzzles.

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