You might come to Titanfall 2 for the greatly expanded single-player campaign, but you'll stay for the frenetic multiplayer. The mix of fast-paced FPS acrobatics as the extremely mobile pilots and the hulking stature and heavy weaponry of the Titans is what defined the original Titanfall, and the refinements to that core formula will almost assuredly keep players hooked on the sequel. I recently got some extensive hands-on with a pre-alpha version of the multiplayer, which feels great thanks to the satisfying firepower and agile movement.
Fortunately, you won't have to wait long before trying it out yourself; Respawn Entertainment is hosting an open multiplayer tech test to put its online servers through the ringer before Titanfall 2 drops on October 28th. To give you a taste of what's to come, I've gathered a few essential tips from my time with the game - ones that just so happen to showcase some of Titanfall 2's tweaks and additions, and will put you ahead of the pack in the multiplayer warzone.
If you're not familiar with the mechanics of the first Titanfall, a 'rodeo' is the process of hopping atop a rampaging Titan when playing as a pilot, then wreaking havoc on the mech by dismantling it or tossing a grenade in the hatch before leaping away. And it just so happens that in Titanfall 2, the introduction of specific classes to multiplayer loadouts includes the Grapple role, which exclusively has a grappling hook that zips you to your point of contact in a straight line. While the grappling hook is great for getting around, it's also the easiest way to set up rodeo approaches; by the time the player controlling a Titan notices you've latched onto them, you'll have already pulled yourself up onto their hull to do some damage. Then, once you've dropped the present of a live grenade down the Titan's chimney, you can simply grapple away to safety (or atop another enemy Titan) before the big ol' 'bot can retaliate.
Burn Cards are gone in Titanfall 2; in their place are Boosts, temporary power-ups that you earn by scoring kills and objectives (much like a Titan). The Boosts available in the demo I played included Amped Weapons, which simply ups the damage on your guns for a short while, and Ticks, a truly excellent addition for players who like to go 'lone wolf' every once in awhile. To summon a Tick, you simply toss out what looks like a little red mine that transforms into a small droid that'll follow you around, attack any nearby enemies, and eventually self-detonate (hopefully atop a unsuspecting opponent's head). Tossing out a pair of Ticks is ideal when you want to capture a point and need some instant backup, or when you've found an ideal sniper perch but want peace of mind that your back's covered. They don't last long, but they're perfect support in a pinch.
The Grapple class is easily the most popular in Titanfall 2 multiplayer at this stage, but I really gravitated towards the Stim, a bright red android whose signature ability grants it a sizable speed boost and health regen bonus for a quick burst of extra survivability. I'll admit that at first, I was thoughtlessly using Stim to rush headlong into firefights - a reasonable tactic in the opening moments of a match, but it'll surely get you killed if you're blindly running into enemy territory, and the extra healing won't be enough to save you from a flurry of direct fire. Eventually, I adapted to the true strength of Stim: hit-and-run tactics. The ideal Stim scenario is when you pop off a few shots to score one or two kills, then when the enemy team notices you, activate Stim to quickly brush off any return fire, then use the amped-up movement speed to hastily flank whoever's coming to get you. When used correctly, the Stim can rack up multikills like nobody's business.
One of the best pieces of new ordinance in Titanfall 2 are the Gravity Stars: high-tech shuriken that create a miniature black hole at their point of impact. The actual damage they do is negligible, but Gravity Stars are an easy way to round up AI grunts for the slaughter, and the disruption they can cause in multiplayer is not to be underestimated. Newer players will have no idea what's happening when a Gravity Star ensnares them in place for your crosshairs, and even FPS veterans will have a hard time coping with a sudden halt to their forward momentum as they frantically try to defend themselves while waiting for the vacuum effect to wear off. That said, there is a hard counter to Gravity Stars: if you're playing as the Grapple, you can simply hookshot out of harm's way and deny your attacker the satisfaction.
Getting killed by campers is one of the most unsatisfying things that can happen in an FPS, so Titanfall 2 smartly incentivizes players to stay active over the course of a match. A meter in the lower-left corner of the HUD displays how close you are to calling in your Titan, and you'll sometimes notice an orange segment of the meter atop the regular blue percentage. Look closer, and you'll notice that this orange extension eventually ticks down and disappears - but only if you haven't done anything constructive in the past few moments. This bit of bar is effectively a bonus stacking from all your actions, and if you can keep it going with constant aggression or defense on key objectives, you'll drastically reduce the time it takes to earn a Titan. All that is to say: huddling in a corner and waiting to get a few lucky kills is one of the least effective ways to play.
There's now a tactical reason to jump on the shoulders of a teammate's Titan besides the thrill of riding atop a friendly mech. It goes back to the rodeo mechanic: every time you initiate a rodeo on an enemy Titan, the first attack animation will be you pulling a glowing green battery out of the Titan's chassis, instantly knocking off a chunk of its health. What's not completely obvious is the fact that you can repurpose this battery to power up an allied Titan by slotting it into place in the same spot and restoring its HP. You can also find batteries amidst the wreckage of a downed Titan, and can call out to your allies that you've got a battery ripe for the juicing, if they could just hold on a second and let you catch up to them.
This tip only applies to one specific mode: Bounty Hunt, the 5v5 shootout featuring three waves of AI minions that either team can kill for points, as well as a rogue Titan at the end of each wave that provides a cash reward to the team that turns it into scrap. Every kill you score, be it on a player, AI grunt, or enemy Titan, will add to your team's grand point total - but it'll also accrue a bonus stack of moolah that's specific to you. It's crucial that you stay cognizant of how much bonus money you're carrying at any time, because if another player kills you, they'll steal some of your bonus, and your reserves get slashed by half. If you're packing some serious dough, it's time to go into self-preservation mode until you can cash in your extra points at the Bank, little nodes that become briefly available in between waves and give both teams an opportunity to swing the score in their favor. Watch out when cashing in, because an easy tactic for enemy players is to camp the Bank's location and prey on wealthy pilots as they approach, severely undermining the bonus you can provide to your team. Of course, you can use the same strategy against them, so plan accordingly.