Titanfall 2’s Mobility Revolutionized Shooters – Or At Least It Should Have
Lock it, load it, sprint it, slide it, pounce it, cling it, jump-wall run it, land it, skid it, aim it, fire it, stand it, turn it, rinse-repeat it. Titanfall 2 is like a Daft Punk song except you’re being chased by enormous mechs with flamethrowers and tracking missiles the whole time. It’s got that same infectious rhythm to it, that beat you could easily listen to for ten hours on the trot without ever getting bored or feeling anything less than confronted with opportunity. I can’t believe that Titanfall 2 revolutionized shooters only to not revolutionize them.
I’m absurdly late to the party with Titanfall 2. I didn’t have a whole lot of time to play games during its launch window, so it kind of just faded into obscurity for me. It slipped through the cracks and I’m majorly pissed off about it because I genuinely wish I played this game five years ago, purely so I could have been shouting my head off about it ever since. If you, like me two days ago, still haven’t played it, drop what you’re doing and get Game Pass up. Only got a PlayStation? No worries, this is the best £17.99 you’ll ever spend.
Mobility is often overlooked in games despite being one of the core tenets of strong design. It’s what makes Mario games special for so many people, distinguishing them from one another in consistently unique ways. It’s what Warframe used to catapult itself into the space ninja sim we all know and love today, converting a bug known as coptering into the game’s iconic Bullet Jump. It’s that elusive magic Insomniac distilled and bottled to fine-tune Marvel’s Spider-Man and Spider-Man: Miles Morales. It’s the entire mechanical basis for some of the best platformers of all time, from Ori and the Will of the Wisps to Hollow Knight. And a lot of the time, it’s either ignorable or entirely absent in major shooters. Not Titanfall 2.
The thing that fast-paced shooters like Call of Duty don’t always understand is that it’s not just dashes and slides that contribute to good mobility. Level design is at least important to obstacle-coursing as the movements you used to actively engage in it – what’s the point in being able to wall run if the walls you’re running on don’t allow you to propel yourself off of them at ferocious speeds? Titanfall’s maps honestly feel as if they were built to facilitate movement as opposed to the other way around. It’s not just a good-looking arena you can flail about in – it’s a carefully constructed map designed to intuit and respond to your wildest parkour progressions. The sheer verticality available to you as you bound through jungles, factories, and rifts in time makes it seem as if you’re some kind of gazelle god, except with a fully automatic AR and a gigantic mech with fists the size of boulders to drop into.
There are obviously other shooters that have excellent mobility. Doom Eternal is up there, but I don’t reckon it’s on anywhere near the same level as Titanfall 2. Eternal’s platforming sections are fairly unforgiving, not due to lack of responsiveness so much as their ostensible irrelevance to the task at hand – Doomguy rips and tears, he doesn’t swim and hopscotch. They’re well-built and the levels are great, but there’s never that thrill of dodging a sniper bullet, skimming a wall, double-jumping to a surface on the other side of an abyssal chasm in order to evade bullet number two, and unleashing a silky stream of Mastiff shells as you glide through the air like a dove out of hell. Titanfall 2 isn’t even set in hell and it knows that.
Dishonored’s Blink is phenomenal too, although the level design here is obviously more understated due to its nature as a stealth game. It’s not necessarily worse than Titanfall 2, especially not as a cohesive whole – it’s just different. Arkane will continue to be as good as Arkane is regardless of what anybody says or does, and game devs will continue to play Arkane games over whatever EA decides to put out half the time. No matter what anybody tells you, several of your favourite games were likely inspired by Dishonored, Prey, Arx Fatalis, or Deus Ex, which isn’t an Arkane game but is at the heart of what made Arkane so special in the first place.
This is why I’m so annoyed about the curious case of Titanfall 2. I simply do not understand how such a successfully revolutionary game failed to ignite the spark of revolution. It’s exceptional in every conceivable mechanical way. I mean, it basically allows you to traverse massive, highly-polished space frontiers as a cross between Usain Bolt, a kangaroo, Spider-Man, and an EVA pilot. Is it too intimidating to use as source material? Surely that’s the only reasonable explanation for why every major publisher on the planet hasn’t forked out enormous wads of cash to enlist people to copy Respawn’s homework, but make it different enough so the teacher doesn’t notice.
Development cycles are long and arduous, especially by contemporary standards. Titanfall 2 being five years old means that it’s still relatively young – I mean, I just started playing this week, right? There could easily be a dozen games in development right now that are specifically designed to capture that same magic Respawn conjured for this phenomenal game. If not, though, I’m going to be furious – and yes, I mean like an absolute spoiled brat who has just thrown his toys out of the pram. I mean exactly like that, because I fundamentally cannot comprehend why Titanfall 3 isn’t in development, or why some other studio hasn’t said, “Titanfall 3 isn’t in development, so let’s make a game like Titanfall 3 before Respawn does.” Those are the only two reasonable motives that make any sense in my head now. Other than that, I’m the living embodiment of “no thoughts, head empty.” Titanfall 2 lives in my head rent-free now.
Do you know what – why am I even writing this? If I’m not getting any games like Titanfall 2, I’m just going to go and play more Titanfall 2. Later alligator.
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Cian Maher is the Lead Features Editor at TheGamer. He’s also had work published in The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Verge, Vice, Wired, and more. You can find him on Twitter @cianmaher0.
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