The Tragedy of Titanfall 2: Part 1

by Joey Chuang ’22

Video games, at the end of the day, are meant to be fun. We play them on our phones during a bus ride, on our consoles after school, and on our computers as a way to break from the struggles of life. They let us escape from reality. In 2016, however, it seemed that for one genre of games, creating a fun experience was the last thing their publishers had in mind

Twenty-sixteen’s two biggest first-person shooter titles, Activision’s Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare and Electronic Arts’ Battlefield 1 seemed poised to battle for the crown of first-person shooter game of the year. But between these two big holiday releases was a game that went largely unnoticed. That game is Respawn Entertainment’s Titanfall 2.

In a crowd of bland, derivative shooter games that had been piling up since Call of Duty became a household name, Titanfall 2 was unique. For starters, Titanfall 2 was much more of a movement-based game than your standard fare. Characters were very fast, had the ability to run on walls, and had various capabilities that pushed the throttle further forward. Every map in the game was designed around these mechanics, too. You could call in a “Titan,” a giant mech that slowed the gameplay down and allowed you to be more methodical and impact the game drastically. A talented player, however, could still easily outmaneuver a Titan and destroy it with just their own weapons. A single-player campaign was added on top, to sweeten the package. If you weren’t doing well in the multiplayer, plenty of NPC (non-player character) cannon fodder were scattered around the map that let you rack up points even if you couldn’t directly fight other players. Finally, the game was just plain fun to play. The movement, weapons, single-player – all of it was top notch. Respawn Entertainment certainly deserves the lion’s share of the credit in making a great game. They were made up of former Infinity Ward developers, the team behind Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, a game that represents a part of the peak Call of Duty had as a franchise in terms of quality.

So, the game is exceptionally good. It’s made by reputable and talented people. And, it addressed many of the problems that the original had. Then, why aren’t we all talking about Titanfall as a mega-franchise that lit the world on fire?

Titanfall 2, despite being a masterpiece (in my opinion), was overshadowed at every single angle. It wasn’t the most successful FPS of that holiday season. That was Battlefield 1, a game that forced Activision back to the drawing board on how to please their fans. Not the game talked about the most, that goes to Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, a game that was criticized for its multiplayer and gameplay. Not even the best game in it’s genre of that year. Doom was the best game of the year in my opinion. It revived a long-dead series with blood-pumping gameplay and a jaw-dropping metal soundtrack that I still listen to when working. Titanfall 2 simply had nowhere to go. The release date didn’t help matters. It came out a week after Battlefield 1 and a week before Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare. EA, who published both Battlefield and Titanfall, made it abundantly clear which game they wanted to push more. Battlefield had been a cash cow for years now, and they certainly weren’t going to stop milking it. Titanfall, meanwhile, was barely a series, and it’s first game wasn’t a huge success either.

Consequently, the launch didn’t go well. Despite all this, the game was estimated to sell around four million copies by the end of January 2018. Four million is nothing to sneeze at, until you glance at the biggest games that came out that year. Battlefield was estimated to have sold 15 million copies in that same timeframe. Even Infinite Warfare, a game considered a commercial failure, sold over 4 million copies on the Xbox One alone. But, in the era we live in today, games can be revived through consistent updates and nurturing by their developers and publishers. No Man’s Sky, a game that was infamously underwhelming and failed to deliver on many promises, had been constantly updated and added upon until the product was even better than what was promised. Titanfall 2’s updates, however, failed to garner that success. While they were good, adding onto an already great product, none of them truly took Titanfall 2 to the next level. Respawn eventually focused on a new project, and the game’s player numbers soon declined. It seemed that a masterpiece had been killed.That wasn’t the end though. We’ll need to fast forward about 3 years, ahead to mid-2020. Titanfall, once dying and forgotten, was about to experience it’s renaissance, and a whole new tragedy awaited.