According to recent job listings, Respawn Entertainment is developing a new single-player game in the Apex Legends universe. Exactly what this game is remains to be seen, but those of us clamouring for Titanfall 3 may be in luck, as the futuristic battle royale franchise not only borrows some movement and weapon mechanics from Titanfall, it is also set in the same universe.
I’d be jumping the gun if I said this new game in the “Apex Legends universe” – as Respawn puts it – is Titanfall 3, but even if it isn’t a new Titanfall, there’s no doubt in my mind that 2016’s Titanfall 2 and its impeccably compact campaign will influence the project.
On that note, I’m here to tell those of you that haven’t played Titanfall 2 that you absolutely should purchase the game, or boot it up via EA Play and Xbox Game Pass, because it’s the first-person shooter (FPS) equivalent of required reading in the back of an academic paper.
Titanfall 2’s central mechanic: the ability to control the Titan BT-7274 and interact with him via dialogue, is what makes FPS stand above the rest even after six years. Controlling a Titan is a complete power trip, and one where the weight and strength perfectly contrasts with the light as a feather Pilot-based sliding and wall-running.
BT is also the perfect example of how a game’s mechanics can be interwoven into its story and characters, making for an even stronger experience. As despite being an AI war machine, BT is personable, loyal to a fault, and even has a cracking sense of humour. You’re immediately drawn to this 40-ton robot, and over the game’s campaign you can feel him getting drawn to you too.
This connection is heightened by how you can slip into the mech or ask him for him at any time with conversations between the two of you – which you can often influence slightly with minor dialogue choices – taking place whether you’re working in tandem, or busy hopping between walls and shooting bad guys. BT is always reciprocating the player’s actions, either through dialogue or direct control, and this helps you forge a relationship with him over the short campaign.
Without spoiling Titanfall 2’s story (I’m trying to get you to play it after all), having a connection based on both mechanics and character makes the small moments stand out, and the larger ones all the more impactful. The running gag of BT throwing you, or his short pause before a thumbs up, both have impact not just because they’re well executed in the moment, but because of how Respawn deliberately forges your relationship.
Sadly, if Respawn’s upcoming shooter leans into the Apex Legends side of the universe over its Titanfall roots, it’s safe to assume Titans will be nowhere to be seen. What will remain though is the studio’s excellent level design, and penchant to move on to a brilliant idea almost as quickly as it introduces one.
The best example of this in my mind is mission five of nine: Effect and Cause. Here Respawn traded out BT-based action for a one-and-done time travel mechanic, and the team’s willingness to literally toss the idea aside and move onto the next thing is emblematic of how the entire campaign squeezes all it can out of an idea, before completely moving past it.
In Effect and Cause you’re immediately introduced to time travel in a controlled environment, before being given a device that lets you swap between past and present at will. It’s then possible to swap between two firefights at once, use the time travel device mid-platforming, or even use it to progress through the level by using the location’s different states in the different time zones to make a tough climb.
Respawn could’ve turned this time travel mechanic into an entire Portal-style game, but instead elected to use it in one level and then move onto the next. It’s this restraint, combined with the barrage of first-rate ideas, that makes Titanfall 2’s short runtime feel much longer than it actually is.
From BT to excellent level mechanics, everything that makes Titanfall 2 worth your time is underpinned by the game’s electric sense of movement. Respawn did use some of these ideas in Apex Legends, but Titanfall 2’s movement system, which lets the player freely combine slides, double jumps and wall runs is unmatched. Whilst stringing together basic movements feels sublime, the high skill ceiling means dedicated players can become an unstoppable force that darts around like Nightcrawler of the X-Men.
Combine Titanfall 2‘s movement with some truly inspired level design that utilises each level’s mechanics – like the time travel of Effect and Cause – and you’ve got a movement-based FPS that the player navigates with a fast, fluid and forgivable parkour system.
Will this new single-player game in the Apex Legends universe actually be Titanfall 3? Probably not, as Respawn has made it clear on multiple occasions that the game isn’t in active development. Even so, if Respawn channels the design philosophy of Titanfall 2, this new game we end up getting is sure to be something truly special.
Whatever happens, Titanfall 2 still stands tall as a quintessential FPS experience. Whether we get something Titanfall flavoured with the Apex brand slapped on it or something altogether different, Titanfall 2 is still worth playing.
Titanfall 2 is out now.