Titanfall 2 – The wise mentor
In a brilliant level of Titanfall 2, the game gave me a destination much higher than my current position (which was already high enough to punish a fall with death) and simply said “get there by any means necessary”.
By this point I’d been fully introduced to Pilot Parkour and was confident enough to experiment. The path in front of me seemed dangerous, but possible. After a few failures I explored behind me and found a slightly easier yet still challenging and rewarding path to the top. I felt challenged by the platforming puzzle and satisfied that I played a part in the decision making.
Now that I’ve honed my wall-jumping further, I’d love to go back and conquer the riskier path. This is a taste of what Titanfall 2’s campaign does so well.
It gives you the tools and a place to use them. Like the perfect parent, it shares enough guidance but still lets you make your own decisions and mistakes, sweetening the success in the process.
Infinite Warfare – The helicopter parent
Let’s compare this with the recent Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare. I don’t want to slag the game off completely as it’s taken a few steps in the right direction concerning setting and plot. Much of the new space environments were a joy to look at, and when I filled in some of the gaps of the rushed story, I liked what they were going for.
But the COD philosophy of helicopter parenting was still there. I was given fun tools (like hacking enemy bots) but rarely got the chance to decide for myself when to use them. When the scripted moment arrived, button prompts appeared and compadres yelled in my ear constantly until I finally pressed the damn button they wanted. Usually a scripted animation followed my scripted move and we’re off to the next set piece.
These overly scripted moments are nice to look at but I feel less like I’m making it happen, and more like I’m on a Universal Studios ride. Epic events and explosions are all around me yet it’s all going according to plan, and that removes the sense of free will, danger, and tension.
There’s another brilliant level in Titanfall 2 that uses a similar mechanic to another clever game released this year (no spoilers) that furthers my point. There’s a linear path, but also a myriad of micro-decisions you make while platforming and the entire process feels under my control. It’s incredibly rewarding to complete yet still retained the epic feel of a set piece. I’m sorry to be vague but trust me you don’t want this spoiled.
I definitely felt echoes of Half Life in Titanfall 2 and even heard that some sections were directly lifted from Half Life 2. Valve’s masterpieces set the bar for cinematic gameplay that never strayed from first-person gameplay to show off a pretty pre-rendered cutscene. They proved that a linear corridor could still ask a player to think and make choices. It feels like many modern games are terrified that the player will get confused, rage-quit, and never try again. We end up with braindead Q-T-E (where ‘quick’ is a stretch) as we press the buttons we’re told when we’re told to do it.
Titanfall 2 rules, please buy it and show the publishers we want to think again.