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Titanfall 2 proved Respawn knows the power of a great middle eight


Gah, really. EA has reportedly cancelled a single-player game set in the Titanfall/Apex Legends universe. Bloomberg broke the news and it settled on the office here like a chilly winter fog. Everybody shivered and felt a bit grimmer about things.

Thoughts, firstly and most importantly, to all concerned. Even outside of the job shakeups, it's just horrible, I imagine, to have so much creative effort, so much hope, disappear in a single moment. And thoughts to Respawn as a wider entity too. Because this team is absolutely staggeringly good at single-player games, and here's one we won't get.

Inevitably, it sent me back to thoughts of Titanfall 2 and its glorious campaign. And this is the thing: it's not the thought of the loss of another game in this world that's so upsetting to players, I suspect. It's the loss of another single-player game by this team that knows how to make single-player campaigns sing.

Titanfall 2 still stands tall to this day - which makes this news all the more sad.Watch on YouTube

I didn't go back to the game itself, but I think I will tonight. My first thoughts were of memory, where Titanfall 2 lives, and it lives particularly well. Some games are just made for memory aren't they? They settle into such lovely, vibrant shapes. When I think of Titanfall 2 there are hundreds of great memories to think of - the classic time-flipping all-but-Super-Mario level, of course, the level where a house gets built around you as you move through a factory, the sheer fact that this game made being outside the giant mech as much fun as being inside it. But one memory always stands out over all others.

It's the bit where your friend tells you he has a gun in his head. An absolutely brilliant gun.

So. In my memory, this comes at the end of act two-ish or around there. It's the low point of the game. (Maybe it's early act three.) Your Titan buddy has been gravely injured and you're stuck inside enemy territory. It's the bit in a game like this where the enemies are overwhelming and everything around you is starting to blow up. (It's definitely act three isn't it.) Anyway, this is the point where a lesser game would become exhausting, where it would decide that the game should just get harder and harder and more aggressive until the end credits.

But Titanfall 2 isn't a lesser game. And so your dying robot buddy gives you his head and inside it there's the Smart Pistol, the absolute best gun from Titanfall 1, and the one they included to give new players a bit of a foothold.

There's a decent argument to be made for the Smart Pistol being one of the FPS genre's greatest guns.

Let us stop for a moment to talk about the smart pistol. Its reticule fills the screen. You point it vaguely in the direction of an enemy and it ties them to you with this lovely red piece of taut flex. You can select multiple enemies at once, all of them fish-lined onto the end of the barrel with that gorgeous thin red light, and then you pull the trigger, and with the sound of a school stapler, they are all dispatched. Kerthunk.

Point being, it's not just easy to kill baddies all of a sudden, it's incredibly satisfying. And it's not just satisfying - it's satisfying specifically because it's so easy.

Cue - oh god, I love this game - a glorious 15 minutes of dashing through corridors, killing baddies in groups of three without really having to think about it. You're Doctor Manhattan, doing the universe's dark work just by pointing and blinking. It's magic.

And this gets at why - or part of why - this team is so bloody good at single-player stuff. Because the game does not just get harder. The curve is not a curve, but rather a funny series of steps up and down. It ebbs and it flows. I am reaching for the right analogy here, but I actually think I have one - for this moment at least. The smart pistol is Titanfall 2's middle eight. It's the best part of every song, where it inverts the pattern for a few bars, or absolutely loses it and tries something beautiful and bizarre - Suspicious Minds - and just reaches for a new kind of glorious sound, and then returns to the normal song but only when everything's elevated.

That's what Respawn understands. Maybe coming from multiplayer stuff, where there's such a natural switchback, up and down, stop-start sense of momentum, they bring that to the single-player campaign. It's not all hard, and it doesn't just get harder over time. You get breaks and gaps where you can breathe and just enjoy what the game has allowed you to become.

Seriously, who wouldn't want more of that?

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