The Multiplayer Tech Test for Titanfall 2 has launched into its second weekend. Once again, players on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One will be able to experience a small sample of the multiplayer game. And from what we've seen, it's shaping up nicely.
Polygon had a chance to play a bunch last weekend, but there's a laundry list of changes being made for this new round of testing. All we know is if they change that grappling hook, we might have to write very a strongly worded letter.
Rifleman Nick Robinson
I was kind of taken aback by how much I got sucked into the Titanfall 2 pre-alpha. I really enjoyed it!
The specific thing I can't stop thinking about is how cleverly they've rebalanced titan-versus-pilot combat. The new battery system is really smart. Whereas in the original Titanfall, "rodeo"-ing an enemy titan would just present you an opportunity to take some health of the enemy titan's health bar, in Titanfall 2, rodeoing leads to you ripping a giant glowing green battery out of the titan, which you can then carry to a friendly titan (including your own!) to give it a temporary — but useful — energy shield.
The battery system is one of those gameplay concessions that is extremely silly from a narrative perspective (Why are the batteries so exposed? Why does your titan's battery only seem to benefit other titans, not your own? Why do you need to hop on the titan's back a second time to throw a grenade in the battery... hole?), but it's ridiculously clever from a mechanical perspective. All at once, it is makes rodeoing friendly titans a worthwhile endeavor, gives pilots a great reason to engage titans in one-on-one combat, adds dropped batteries as a worthwhile pickup for pilots on the battlefield, and encourages teamwork between pilots and their titan-equipped teammates in a way that the first game never did.
And oh man, that grappling hook. I'm not sure I've ever gotten a feel for a grappling hook mechanic as quickly as I did Titanfall 2's, and god, does it feel good when you use it effectively. It's such a natural extension of your pilot's movement abilities, and in conjunction with wall-running and double-jumping, I'm not sure I've ever felt as nimble or as mobile in a video game before. It's such a powerful addition once you get good at it.
Honestly, if I had one major criticism of Titanfall 2 so far, it's that the grappling hook is so fun to use that I fear I may never try any of the other "tactical" perks! Why would I ever equip a stim or a pulse blade when it comes at the expense of that grappling hook?!
My biggest gripe about the original Titanfall was how difficult it was for me to move through the environment. Wall running? Sticking in place to fire? Leaping along the upper reaches of the map and moving fluidly from rooftop to rooftop? Couldn't do it to save my life. I was stuck playing a traditional, ground-based first-person shooter while everyone else was zipping by and capping me in the top of the head.
That's completely changed. Maybe it has to do with my switch from PC to PlayStation 4 as much as anything, but the game simply makes more sense to me now. I can see the path I want to follow and I can get there fast. Coming up short against a barricade? No big deal, my character grabs the ledge and boosts me over. Just a little short of the next rooftop? I can pop that jump jet one more time for a handy double-jump.
It feels like Respawn learned a lot from the context-sensitive movement systems in series like Assassin's Creed as well. Here's an example: I was sneaking up behind an enemy titan with my grappling hook out. I zipped onto it and yanked its battery out when, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a second enemy titan just a half block away. So I hopped off and zipped over to it, dropped a grenade in its empty battery socket and jumped off. But as I was just reaching the top of my arc I saw a friendly titan, so I grappled onto it and donated my fresh battery to the cause. As I jumped clear to an adjacent rooftop, I saw the second titan go up in a ball of flame.
It all happened so fast that I barely even realized what I was doing. I had leapfrogged three titans and scored huge points racking up an assist and a titan kill, all without ever hitting the ground.
The first tech test weekend, network issues aside, felt just right to me. I hear Respawn is making the game faster this coming weekend, so wish me luck out there. I'm probably going to need it.
Pilot Samit Sarkar
This was my first experience playing Titanfall 2, and boy, was it a microcosm of the joys and sorrows of playing Titanfall.
Nick touched on this, but I feel the need to emphasize it. The freedom and ease of movement in the original game was unprecedented and unparalleled in a first-person shooter, and the grappling hook in Titanfall 2 adds something to the equation that I didn't even know I wanted.
It seems like Respawn designed the grappling hook mostly as a short- to medium-range tool, and one that isn't quite like the thing on Batman's utility belt. What I mean is that I frequently failed in trying to use Titanfall 2's grappling hook from a stationary position: The low speed with which it pulls you upward means that you'll often get caught on lips, ledges and the like. Instead, it feels like the grappling hook — like most things in the world of Titanfall — is meant to be used when you're moving at speed. (This isn't necessarily a criticism; I think the low-tension grappling hook makes sense in the context of Respawn wanting to ensure that it's still possible to get a bead on pilots who are zooming along using the tool.)
I was kinda surprised that Respawn didn't nerf the long-range accuracy of the R-201 assault rifle in the patch for the second weekend of the Multiplayer Tech Test. You can almost snipe with that thing! And this isn't Respawn's fault, but: Similarly to any objective-based competitive mode in an online shooter, people need to learn how to not just capture hardpoints, but stick around and amp them too. You get double the points! Come on!