Robots just want to be our friends. They know there have been a few bad apples like the Terminator, the Cylons and Ultron. But what about all the nice ones, like Data from "Star Trek" and Rosie from "The Jetsons"?
BT-7274, the co-star of "Titanfall 2" (Electronic Arts, for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, $59.99), just wants to be loved. Sure, this giant bucket of bolts is really good at stomping enemy soldiers and blowing up stuff, but he does it all to protect you, a puny human stranded on an alien planet. Climb onboard — BT has a cavity in his chest that's just your size — and maybe you can get out alive.
It's not much of a story, but it's more than developer Respawn Entertainment gave us the first time around, in 2014's "Titanfall." It's a breezier tale than you'd expect in this age of ultra-serious shooters like "Battlefield 1." The villains are cartoonishly over-the-top, while the protagonist — rifleman Jack Cooper — is kind of a wise guy. He and BT develop an easygoing comic rapport, and while their banter isn't exactly hilarious, it takes the edge off the ridiculously high body count.
The single-player campaign in "Titanfall 2" takes some much-needed breaks from the tired one-firefight-after-another formula of most war games. When Jack isn't inside BT, he's equipped with a nifty pilot suit that allows him to run along walls and pull off midair double jumps. These skills come in handy in some cleverly designed puzzle rooms that could have been pulled right out of a "Super Mario Bros." game.
Still, most of the campaign is spent shooting at enemies. "Titanfall 2" offers as beefy an arsenal as any of its competitors, from pistols and sniper rifles to lasers and rocket launchers.
But the fireworks really explode when you're inside BT. Respawn has broadly diversified the Titans' skills and weapons, introducing six new robots to the melee. One can lock onto his opponents and fire missiles at them; one shoots out strands of fire; one is armed with a huge, well-sharpened sword. It's the sort of diversity you'd expect in a fighting game like "Mortal Kombat," and the one-on-one duels are some of the campaign's most exciting sequences.
"Titanfall 2" has the usual assortment of online multiplayer modes, like capture-the-flag team games and every-man-for-himself free-for-alls. But the combination of the parkour-inflected agility of the pilots with the heavy metal thunder of the Titans makes such events feel less predictable than other online shooters. The pilots are so nimble that it's a blast to just zip around the battlefield — and then summon your iron giant when you're ready to bring the noise.
That well-executed blend of play styles left me wondering what Respawn can do if it ever decides to lay down its weapons. For now, "Titanfall 2" is a rock-solid shooter with some genuine surprises up its sleeve. Three stars out of four.
Follow Lou Kesten on Twitter @lkesten.
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