Titanfall 3 may not be happening anytime soon, but Respawn has evolved that series’ masterful traversal mechanics for Star Wars Jedi: Survivor.
Mech games can often be weighed down by heavy, sluggish controls – but not so Titanfall 2, which, thanks to developer Respawn, felt fluid and effortless. The way protagonist Jack Cooper and his trusty mech BT handled provided some of the most thrilling (and critically acclaimed) action set pieces of 2016.
Wall running, jumping, boosting… really, Titanfall 2 shouldn’t have worked as well as it did. Heck, the only other recent example I can think of that comes anywhere close to Titanfall 2’s first-person platforming is Doom: Eternal – and even that does its own thing.
Frustratingly, Titanfall 2 wasn’t a big hit, largely because EA decided to release it between Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare and the publisher’s own Battlefield 1. Still, fans have been clamouring for another game that captures that familiar mixture of flow and spectacle in its traversal. Little did we know that such an experience would again come from Respawn – this time in a title set in cinema’s most famous galaxy.
Star Wars Jedi: Survivor isn’t a perfect game, admittedly, yet it does make an effort to improve on almost every aspect of its 2019 predecessor. Combat is more approachable yet equally refined, the customisation options are off the charts, and hero Cal Kestis himself handles a lot more nimbly than before. At first I thought this was merely the result of the Performance mode’s 60fps taking effect. It quickly becomes clear, though, that as a fully-powered Jedi rather than a padawan like in the last game, Cal controls with a fluidity and grace that will feel familiar to anyone who played Titanfall 2.
Admittedly, it takes Star Wars Jedi: Survivor a while to fully show its hand in this regard. Cal has the ability to double jump, wall run and swing ropes from the outset, but it’s only when you hit the 10-hour mark that Cal’s movement steps up a notch. With countless more traversal opportunities at hand, you suddenly feel as much of a badass navigating ancient temples and hidden ruins in the sky as you do battling Stormtroopers and droids at ground-level.
You get an early taste of what’s to come during the opening planet, Coruscant, where midway through the stage, Cal’s given an Ascension Cable. This little doodad lets Cal launch himself off platforms and cling to walls in a manner that feels satisfyingly sticky. Whether it’s the sound of the line itself attaching to a surface with a thud or the whirling of the winch as Cal gets pulled closer to his target, the sound design works in tandem with some superb animation to sell the feeling of movement. Then, before you know it, you’re chaining a double jump into a wall run, a wall run into a grapple, and so on.
So far, so satisfying. But also so expected, as these manoeuvres (grapple aside) are things we’ve seen Cal pull off before with relative ease. It’s only later on, when he gains the ability to shift platforms up and down at will, phase through pesky green gate fields using an air boost, hop between walls, and eventually attract swingable ropes using his Force Pull ability that the traversal truly comes alive. Just when you think you’ve seen everything Survivor has to offer, Respawn dishes out additional traversal skills that open up new areas and grant you cooler ways of getting around them.
Nowhere is Star Wars Jedi: Survivor’s silky-smooth sense of flow better felt than in a sequence towards the end of your second time on Jedha, where Cal and Merrin must outrun an Imperial digging machine. Avoiding its octopus-like tendrils means grappling to zip-lines in a tight window of time, pulling off multiple wall jumps one after the other, and flying through the green portal tubes Merrin can now generate. Is it heavily telegraphed? Yes. Is there only one solution to completing this sequence? Yes. But it’s so unabashedly Star Wars that it makes you feel like a well-trained Jedi – and most impressively, combat doesn’t figure in the set-piece at all.
By the time Cal and Merrin were finished dealing with the spindly machine, I needed a second to pause and catch my breath. I hadn’t needed to do something like this in a game since Titanfall 2’s “Into the Abyss” level, where BT and Cooper must traverse a factory as it builds flatpack houses around them. This sequence is second only to that game’s “Cause and Effect” level – which gets bonus points anyway because time travel’s involved. In no other FPS game have I felt the need to think on my feet in terms of traversal, all while trying to make sense of the warped environments around me.
That’s when it all clicked for that, despite being played from a third-person perspective and taking place in a totally different universe, Jedi: Survivor takes Titanfall 2’s unbelievable approach to movement and expands on it. It would have been enough for Cal to retain the same move set he had in Fallen Order, but Survivor’s revised movement feels smooth, cool, and – you guessed it – effortless.
Star Wars Jedi: Survivor sees the legacy of Titanfall 2’s traversal live on, albeit in a slightly different way. I mean, after all, both protagonists even have a trusty robot buddy by their side to help.