Memorable Mechanics: Titanfall 2’s Time Displacement

Titanfall 2
Titanfall 2

By now, I would hope anyone with even an inkling of interest in first-person shooters has played Titanfall 2‘s campaign. If you haven’t, you are in for one of the best shooter campaigns of this console generation. While developer Respawn Entertainment created the original Titanfall with multiplayer as the sole focus, fans lamented its lack of a single player campaign. Luckily, this did not fall on deaf ears, as Respawn remedied this with an innovative and original campaign in its sequel.

Surprisingly enough, Titanfall 2’s campaign introduced characters and relationships the player came to cherish while evolving its gameplay mechanics in more ways than one. While the overarching story amounted to little more than an empire vs. the rebels story arc, the places it took players dismissed any of the “Call of Duty but with robots” claims that had been lobbed at Titanfall since its release.

No level is more indicative of the originality and dedication given to Titanfall 2 than it’s fifth mission, Effects and Cause.

The level begins with protagonist Jack Cooper exploring a crumbling IMC research facility in search of fellow titan pilot Major Anderson. Not long after entering the facility, Cooper begins experiencing rifts in time, brief flashbacks that show Cooper the facility before it became dilapidated. Same room. Same Cooper. Different time period. This is taken a step further than simply being used as a storytelling device, as the player will be forced to utilize time to traverse the facility.

Initially, the player isn’t in control of the time distortions. This changes,once they find a wrist-mounted device on Major Anderson’s body, allowing them to jump between the past and present at will. This gives players a variety of options in the way in which they choose to approach combat and platforming puzzles.

Platforming puzzles require the player to jump between the past and present to access certain ledges or walls to run-jump across. As the facility in the present is falling apart with hallways engulfed in insurmountable flames and debris, the player will have to jump to the past where the same corridors may be clear of these obstacles but are now filled with enemy soldiers. Finding the balance and awareness of the environmental status in both past and present provides a Rubix cube layer of problem-solving to the level that keeps the player on their toes throughout.

There is also the important residual effect of time jumping that when a player leaves a period inhabited by enemies, mists of blue briefly lingers where the enemies were in the alternate period. This helps the player to keep track of enemy locations and to strategically position themselves when swapping between periods.

The most memorable moment of this is when the player is ambushed by squads of IMC soldiers pouring out of elevators in a lobby of the facility. Instinctually, I time-hopped to the present where there were no enemies a moment ago, only to again be ambushed, this time by agile indigenous beasts. An ambush in both time periods. Great. Finding a balance between these two encounters is the essence of what makes this level so remarkable. Jumping in time to avoid gunshots in the past only to be bitten by a monster in the present makes for tense and rewarding combat.

Effects and Cause is filled with moments like this, and they only build in complexity and intensity the further into the level the player progresses. The culminating event being Cooper rejoining BT after the two have been separated for the majority of the mission, and must combat waves of enemies and titans in both time periods simultaneously.

Respawn Entertainment could have included a cookie cutter campaign consisting of generic corridor crawler levels to appease fans who wanted a campaign set in the Titanfall universe. They didn’t. They could have included time distortion flashbacks as a storytelling mechanic instead of making it a vital part of the Effects and Cause gameplay. They didn’t. Instead, we received one of the most original level concepts of any shooter of this console generation and showed Respawn Entertainments level of investment in the Titanfall franchise amounts to more than solely multiplayer-focused experiences.

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