Apex Legends recently exceeded 50 million players, and I wholeheartedly congratulate developer Respawn Entertainment on the game’s success. While I stand by my position of this success potentially meaning big trouble from the industry, it’s refreshing to see a quality developer manage to create a new property that isn’t a shameless ripoff or woefully broken at launch.
While appreciating the novelty of Apex Legends, however, it’s important to remember that this game would likely not be what it is if not for the tried and tested success of Respawn’s previous title, Titanfall 2. In the name of this recognition, I wanted to highlight a number of Titanfall 2’s best multiplayer features—not exclusively ones that influenced Apex, just those that demonstrate how Respawn really knows what it’s doing.
Minions in multiplayer games are nothing new, but it’s not every day you find them in multiplayer shooters. While there are Titanfall 2 modes in which AI-controlled minions are absent, they play a major role in the shooter’s most populated mode, Attrition, and no matter how many times they piss you off, you can’t underestimate their importance.
Minions can be killed for points toward the team’s overall score, with larger and more dangerous minions killed for greater value, facilitating the contribution of players at any skill level. Shooters as fast-paced as Titanfall 2 can prove overwhelming for more casual players, but minions offer lower-tier players a meaningful way to support their team. This role is also not without its challenges once the powerful Reaper mechs start dropping in.
AI bots are additionally vital to the Titan economy of the game. Getting your Titan before the enemy can make all the difference in the score of a match, so players will want to charge their Titan meter by any means necessary. If you can’t find another player or you’re simply having an off day, minions are a perfect substitute.
There is plenty of excellent map design in Titanfall 2, but there’s something special about War Games. This map is unique because–unlike all other big-team maps in the game–players don’t start the round by jumping in from a drop ship. War Games instead starts with every player loading into a virtual reality simulation, just like you do for the tutorial at the start of the game’s single-player campaign. The VR illusion continues throughout the match, not only from the map’s eclectic mashup of environment assets, but also from defeated players exploding into pixels, as opposed to boring old bleeding to death.
Sometimes it means a lot for something to just be visually satisfying, even if it has no real effect on gameplay. Boarding a Titan could easily be the same scripted animation each time, but Titanfall 2 respects the fluidity and unpredictability of player positioning by including a variety of different boarding animations for Titans, depending on what direction you board from. Try boarding from the back, you may slide through the Titan’s legs and be scooped up in their massive hand. Try boarding straight down from the top and a small hatch may open to allow you to just slide right in. There are a handful of animations to discover, with subtle differences to be found in the animations of separate Titan classes.
The Gravity Star is one of the most distinctive and versatile tools in Titanfall 2’s arsenal, having now found new life in Apex. Used simplistically, the Star can be thrown onto a surface, where it will then suck up nearby enemies and keep them stationary for an easy kill. Used creatively, however, the Gravity Star is capable of so much more. The centripetal force of the Star can be used to intercept various projectiles in the game, giving the ability to counter certain enemy attacks, or even curve some of your own projectiles around obstacles. And yes, this includes shots from the high-caliber Kraber sniper rifle. It’s rare that someone will use a Gravity Star to pull off such a feat, but when you see it first-hand, there’s nothing else like it.
It is just as possible for a shooter to have too many weapon options as not enough. A massive assortment of weapons can leave many without a feeling of individuality, as well as lead to complicated balancing issues, while too few weapon options just makes things stale. Titanfall 2 found the perfect middleground.
There’s an average of three to four options across each of the game’s seven primary weapon classes, one of which is the creative Grenadier class for players that wish to blur the line between pilot killing and Titan killing. Every weapon is special, often boasting subtle quirks in their operational design. Some of the most perceptible examples include the V-47 Flatline, which recoils laterally as opposed to vertically; the X-55 Devotion, which fires faster the longer the trigger is held; and the D-2 Double Take, which fires two adjacent shots for a wider hitbox. Titanfall 2 manages to keep its arsenal moderate while never leaving players wanting.
Titanfall 2 has the most logical and comprehensive multiplayer progression system of any game I’ve ever played. Progress is rewarded with credits, which can in turn be spent on customization options. Par for the course, but what’s important is how they’re earned. When a match is completed, you earn one credit (or “merit”) for each accolade achieved. Did you complete the match? You get one credit. Win? Have another. Rank up a weapon or Titan? Have an additional credit per rank. Did you perform in the upper half of your team? Did you extract/prevent extraction from the hot zone? Were you an elite squad member? Credit, credit, credit.
These credits also go toward your character rank, with a new level granted for every ten credits earned, no more, no less. There is never any ambiguity in why a player did or didn’t level up, or feeling that they deserved more credits in a match than they earned. It’s straightforward, simple, and fair.
Many of Titanfall 2’s qualities are likely common knowledge for seasoned gamers, but with Apex Legends still riding high, it was as good a time as any to remind people what Titanfall 2 brought to the table. Despite being one of the best shooters on this platform generation, a mismanaged release window robbed it of the attention it deserved. Maybe I can use the momentum of Apex to siphon off a little of its attention and give it to an experience that never truly got its due.