First-person shooters have long worked to give players the adrenaline rush of being powerful. When Titanfall was released in 2014, it cut straight to the point by introducing giant beastly mechs called titans.
What's tougher than a giant metal vehicle with guns?
When you're the only one with a mech on the field in Titanfall, you are virtually unbeatable. It feels great in a maniacal, supervillain kind of way.
One of the best things about the original Titanfall was how much gameplay changed as you switched from a normal soldier with a jetpack to a clumsy, deadly mech.
It's the classic mouse-and-the-elephant scenario. As a pilot you're usually fast enough to avoid the mech, but if you get caught in the open, you will be squished.
Respawn Entertainment has doubled down on this feeling in Titanfall 2. As a pilot, you can use items like a grappling hook to move more quickly than ever. But you're also more easily killed.
As a mech, you feel even less mobile than in the previous game, and you have fewer ways of responding when pilots jump on top of your mech.
The tech test had three game modes in it, including a new one called Bounty Hunter. I enjoyed this mode the most of the three, as there are multiple phases in each match so your strategy has to change every couple of minutes.
During the first phase, you have to kill NPCs and avoid being killed by the opposing team. When you do well, you get paid for it. If you're killed, you lose money. Then in the second phase, you have to hand that money in at one of two "banks" around the map.
Then you rinse and repeat, with different types of NPCs appearing until either time runs out or one team reaches the score limit of $6000.
The other modes were Pilot vs Pilot, a team-based slayer game mode, and Amped Hardpoint. Those of you who played the original Titanfall will remember Hardpoint, a territory capture-and-hold game mode. Amped Hardpoint just raises the stakes by granting players the ability to earn double points if they hold a territory long enough.
There are two titans to choose from in this test, Ion and Scorch. Ion uses electric pulse as a weapon and is the slightly more nimble of the two. Scorch, on the other hand, uses fire and tries to control the battlefield by planting traps and setting the ground aflame - more defense than assault.
Personally I found Ion more fun to play, as it was possible to boost away when I found myself in trouble. Not so with Scorch, even when you factor in the mobility upgrades you earn and can apply after matches.
These upgrades appear to be the only customisation in the game, which is interesting. In Titanfall it was possible to add one time upgrades by using collectible cards, called Burn Cards, ahead of a match. That feature seems to have disappeared, which is a shame as they had the added effect of changing up the game so you never knew what to expect from your opponents.
The code this preview is based on is carefully called a 'pre-alpha tech test', as opposed to a beta. Given that beta seems to be modern day code for 'demo', it's likely a wise choice, meant to highlight the fact that there would be technical issues, some of them serious, over the course of the test.
But, surprisingly, aside from a few server issues my experience was incredibly polished - no weird bugs, no graphical issues that I noticed. Playing it is a rush, even with just a couple of maps and game modes to muck around with.
And it's safe to say Titanfall 2 isn't more of the same - while the core of the game is the same, the little changes here and there really add up.
All of this bodes well for the final release in late October.