The Titanfall 2 prealpha tech test is now open to the public, letting PS4 and Xbox One players (but not PC players) try out the next installment in Respawn's first-person shooter series. We've spent a lot of time with the tech test already, running on walls, grappling around and blowing stuff up with our Titans, and we've been impressed with many of the changes and additions.
However, after several days of playing the tech test, we also have some concerns and questions about the game. The test is very limited -- only two maps, three modes and a handful of weapons are in it -- so it's hard to say at the moment how the full game will turn out. However, there are some parts of the game that we hope will be improved or changed before its final release.
Why should we use anything but the grappling hook?
The most significant change to Titanfall 2's base gameplay comes in the form of the grappling hook, which fits very well into the game's overall emphasis on quick and rhythmic movement. Getting skilled enough with the grappling hook that you can swing and catapult yourself around is a big part of the game now, and it's both fun and effective when you do it well.
You can swap out the grappling hook for other perks, such as an ability that lets you create a holographic doppelganger of yourself or an item that sends out sonar waves to show enemies on the map. However, in our time with the game, we came to realize that there was very little reason to use anything but the grappling hook. It enhances movement in a way that makes you inherently more powerful than players without it, and the other abilities can't compensate for this imbalance. Further, the hook is the best way to take on Titans, as you can easily grapple onto them and attack them.
Since it feels like such a fundamental part of the game, it would make sense for the grappling hook to be included in basic movement like jumping or wall-running. Then, have the other abilities on top of that. That way, everyone can grapple and it gives the other abilities more importance.
Will Titanfall 2 improve and flesh out progression and customization in a meaningful way?
One of the most prevalent criticisms of the first Titanfall was that it didn't have enough meaningful player progression. The number of weapons and items wasn't terribly high, and many players felt that the most effective abilities and guns were unlocked very early on. This created an issue for Titanfall -- how do you keep people playing?
This tech test is very limited, with only two maps and three modes. It also doesn't have the full suite of customization options in the game. However, we've already noticed that players gravitate toward the single autorifle in the game. The multipurpose gun is by far the most popular. Hopefully Titanfall 2 won't fall into the same traps as its predecessor. We hope that it will have far more options and weapons to choose from, because combat is more fun and interesting if players are using a variety of different loadouts. But from our first look in this tech test, it seems like there's already the potential for problems to arise similar to those in the original Titanfall.
Can its new Boosts add the same level of gameplay variety as Burn Cards?
Burn Cards were a strange system in Titanfall 1. They provided temporary abilities or advantages during a game, and they added a level of unpredictability to interactions with enemies. Would foes be using boosted weapons? Would they be able to spawn a Titan right at the beginning of the game?
Burn Cards were controversial, but they certainly gave the game more customization and more variety between matches. Titanfall 2 ditches Burn Cards and adds Boosts, which give you an ability to build toward during a life. Think of them as something like the Specialist abilities in Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 or a minor killstreak -- you build toward them by killing enemies and completing objectives, and they give you a bit of an edge.
However, currently there are only two of these in the game, and they aren't nearly as interesting as Burn Cards. You can choose between Amped Guns and Ticks -- the former boosts the damage of your weapons, and the latter are spider bots that track enemies and blow up. On top of this, the Ticks are currently vastly inferior to the Amped Boost. As it stands, the game gives you little reason to sacrifice the additional weapon damage for slow-moving spider bots that are easily destroyed.
While the system of building toward these boosts seems to work better than simply burning a card anytime you want, there's also way less variety in matches as a result.
Since Rodeoing enemy Titans has been streamlined, can it live up to the entertaining challenge of taking down a Titan in the first game?
Taking down an enemy Titan has been significantly changed. Instead of riding on top of an enemy Titan and either meleeing it or shooting its core, you instead rip out its battery and immediately hop off it. Or, if its battery has already been removed, you throw a grenade down into its core. It takes several grenades to sufficiently kill it, however, so it's harder to fight against enemy Titans on foot than it was in the first game.
This doesn't really feel like you're "rodeoing" a Titan anymore. One of the most fun parts of taking on a Titan in the first game was seeing how long you could stay on its back, shooting or beating it to death. We'll have to wait and see in the final game if fighting a Titan on foot feels as challenging and exciting as it did in Titanfall 1.
Will the Thunderbolt anti-Titan weapon prove to be a valid weapon?
How is the Thunderbolt weapon worth using at all? It's supposedly an anti-Titan weapon, but it shoots a ball of electricity that goes incredibly slowly and barely even damages a Titan -- just incapacitates it for a second. The gun works reasonably well at clearing out Grunts, but as a means of attacking an enemy Titan, it's very underpowered at the moment.
The idea of using something other than a rocket launcher to fight against a Titan is a good one, and we hope that the Thunderbolt will prove to be a valid option in battle. But in the tech test, you're way better off choosing either the rockets or the directed-beam sniper.
Is it actually effective to play as a sniper in a game all about fast-paced movement?
This is the perennial issue for games that emphasize motion -- snipers are essential parts of virtually every shooter, but sniping requires greater patience and precision than using other guns. When an enemy can run, jump and get around quickly, it makes lining up a shot with a sniper so challenging that it's frustrating. And Titanfall is one of the most apparent examples of this.
In Titanfall 1, snipers were hard to use. In Titanfall 2, you're going to have an even tougher time holding your own because the game introduces bullet drop. You're going to have to lead your enemies if you want to successfully snipe them, which makes lining up a shot one of the hardest things to pull off in the game.
Of course, it feels incredibly satisfying to actually kill someone with a sniper -- but it currently feels almost more like luck than skill. We're interested to see how Respawn deals with balancing the sniper so that it's easier but still rewarding to use.