You know, if you ever needed proof that I have no fucking idea what I’m doing with this YouTube channel, then look no further than the fact that I’m making a Titanfall 2 video 3 months after it came out and subsequently stopped being relevant, and will proceed to spend the next 10 minutes preaching to the choir about a level that everyone already knows is good. But I’ve never really given a shit about “common sense” anyways, so let’s do this thing! So yeah, if you just got back from your 3 month tour of Antarctica, then surprise; Titanfall 2 is good! In fact, let’s not mince words here, Titanfall 2 is fucking amazing, which probably has something to do with it ending up at the #1 spot on my favorite games of 2016 video.
And that’s pretty much consensus opinion at this point, so this video is hardly breaking new ground in the field of games journalism. We all already know that the frenetic gameplay is great, and that the story does an excellent job developing the classic partnership of a boy and his giant toaster, and yeah, I “guess” it’s fucking awesome. But I want to talk about “that” level, and for the record, if you’ve gone this long and gotten this far and still have no idea what I mean when I say “that level” then you owe it to yourself to go buy the game and come back once you’ve played it. So, Effect and Cause, and first of all, can I just say how much I love that title? “Effect and Cause.” as opposed “Cause and Effect” which is the way people usually say it. And just in case you haven’t figured it out yet, it’s called that because you time travel back to the past, where you proceed to cause the big mcguffin to explode, which is what messes with time and allowed to travel back in time in the first place…
Which doesn’t make any sense because if you had never been there, the thing wouldn’t have exploded, and if it had never exploded you wouldn’t have gone back in time to make it explode, and- [MGS Time paradox.] The Effect (that’s you) happened before the Cause, so that clever bit of framing is partially why I love the title, but also because it’s such a bold faced admission that the story makes less sense than a zero dollar bill. I mean, time travel is always a wasp nest for any narrative to stick it’s face into, and is very rarely, and arguably ever, done well. So the title of the level stating aloud the big plot hole at the center of it all is a wink and a nod from the developers to us. Not only do they know it doesn’t make sense, they don’t give a shit, and they’re proud enough of that fact to point it out in the freaking title.
Because yeah, who the hell is coming to Titanfall 2 for a quantum physics lecture on the feasibility of time travel and temporal paradoxes, and would complain when things don’t add up? “Cretins” is the answer to that question, and who cares about pleasing them? “Ummm, why has it been long enough for the present to be overrun with plant life, but the fires are still burning?” Which yeah, technically valid criticism, but I doubt anyone besides them cares.
No, time travel’s inclusion here is basically a gimmick included for the sake of making the game more fun, and it succeeds in doing that, so who gives a shit if it doesn’t make sense? But enough with the metanarrative, let’s get to the narrative-narrative. So the first thing worth taking note of is how the game accustoms you to the concept of time travel with no tutorials, in a similar way to what I talked about in my Portal’s Hidden Tutorial video. The level starts with Cooper and BT taking a lovely stroll through a dilapidated laboratory and we’re suddenly flashed back to a bright sunny day where everything’s normal and lovely, before immediately being brought back. The time flashes start to become more and more constant as you near closer to the center of the explosion, and eventually you start seeing enemies in them, although they can’t actually hurt you to start out with, and when they finally do start shooting back you’re still in the past so briefly that they still can’t actually kill you.
All of this is the game adjusting you to how time travel works long before they give you control over it, and we’ll see more of this level design in action later. So you find the guy you were looking for embedded in the floor after his time machine malfunctioned, which as time travel related deaths go, is really only a step above being turned into a gel banana.
So Cooper goes back to BT, we get this wonderful bit of foreshadowing… go through the building, grave rob the time machine off the corpse, and finally get the immortal words, “Press X To Time Travel”. And yes, before all you busybody commenters with nothing better to do then to show off that you’ve mastered at least first-grade reading skills start talking my ear off, it technically says to press middle mouse button on PC, and Left Bumper on Consoles. But 1: You have to admit that Press Mouse 5 To Time Travel makes for infinitely less cool video title, B: shut up I don’t care, and 1,642: I’m on PC and therefore can rebind that button to X thus making me right. Ha ha ha. So after time swapping having been controlled for us, we now have full control over which timeline we prefer to reside in at any given moment, and can flip back and forth an infinite number of times.
But even though the game took it’s hands off the wheel, it’s still guiding you in subtle ways. For example, you start off using the time machine to solve puzzle segments, thus familiarizing yourself with it. Then they introduce enemies in one timeline, but have empty rooms in the other, meaning you can take a break and regen health, while also allowing you to use it to pause the battle and reposition yourself to gain a tactical advantage. And eventually they add in enemies in both timelines, meaning you’re not safe no matter when you go.
This section is probably the high point of the level, and as such the entire game, when you’re having to mentally balance two equally intense battles, one versus a bunch of soldiers in the past, and the other with the lizard doggos in the present and weighing up which one you’re less likely to die in at any given second and switching back and forth as need be. It turns each combat encounter into a dance, similar to new DOOM, and saying “It’s like new DOOM” is, as compliments go, right up there with “Recommended by God himself!”. And that’s the great thing about time travel as a mechanic! Like jerking off with your non-dominate hand, time travel is “technically” just a gimmick included to add some variety, but it’s the best kind of gimmick; one that adds something to the experience. The core gameplay loop of Titanfall 2 has you going back and forth between platforming and shooting, and time travel as a mechanic interacts with both of them. It adds extra depth to platforming by making you perform multiple actions in rapid succession, and it adds a layer of complexity to combat by freezing the enemies in whatever timeline you just left, allowing you to reposition yourself to better engage them.
And speaking of, fun fact: Jake Keating mentioned in an interview that originally enemies in different timelines kept moving normally, but they ended up changing it so that they stayed frozen because it was more fun that way. And that’s just one of so many wonderful little touches throughout the level. Like how when you shoot an enemy in the past, their decayed skeleton will appear in the present, again playing into that “Effect and Cause” paradox I mentioned earlier, or how this is the only level in the game with audio logs, and only because the developers had a really cool idea that your actions in the past could influence the logs in the present. For example, if you interrupt this guys lecture, the recording will change to reflect that.
Or how you’re picking up enemy radio chatter about a break in by someone with a really advanced stealth system, and it eventually dawns on you that, “Oh, I’M who they’re talking about.” Because yeah, from there perspective, you’re there one moment and then disappear and reappear in a different place seconds later. It just strikes me as an exceptionally clever way to frame the story. So after all that action we get a breather in the form of exposition that neither of us care about, so let’s ignore it. After that you go back outside and regroup with BT, and get into a fight, and I’ll always remember my amazement when I said aloud, “Aww, I bet can’t take BT back to the past.” just before pressing X and taking him back to the past with me, after which I let out one of those maniacal laughs that are becoming more and more frequent and that I should probably be concerned about.
Then we get this awesome bit where time’s frozen around you in the middle of the mcguffin exploding, so you can just walk right up and scan it, thus completing your mission. Then time unfreezes, and and the time machine breaks, and is never used again, which simultaneously leaves you wanting more while ensuring the gimmick didn’t overstay it’s welcome. So that’s Effect and Cause, and holy shit, that was awesome! It had a fantastic idea to spice up the gameplay, execute it perfectly, and then moved on before you could possibly get bored of it. I’m not kidding when I say there was seriously an entire game’s worth of ideas and awesome shit packed into a 30 minute span of time.
Also, I wanna mention just how much of a technical marvel Effect and Cause is. Like, do you realize that Respawn essentially had to make two separate levels, and then combine them down into one? I’ve seen people all over the Internet going, “Man, why hasn’t someone made a whole game out of this idea?” and that’s pretty much why. Every level would take twice as long to make as it would in any other game. And adding to my amazement, consider all the extra time spent on making this one level could have EASILY gone into extending the campaign by another hour or so, which sadly probably would have drawn in more customers. Because you just know that tons of people were going to go, “EHHHH, the multiplayer’s great, but the campaign’s only like 5 hours long, I’m not paying full price for that! Now excuse me while I go back to playing Overwatch!” Never mind the fact that the campaign is so insanely high quality that I ended up playing through it multiple times, and never mind the fact that playing through a 5 hour story bursting at the seams with interesting ideas is infinitely more interesting than a 15 hour campaign that’s the same old shit you can get anywhere else.
Like I said earlier, this is why you should never cater to idiots, because then awesome shit like Effect and Cause wouldn’t exist. But really, Effect and Cause is just the cherry on top of the whole experience for me. Titanfall 2 is just a fucking amazing game all around, and probably one of the best FPS games I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing. I wanna state for the record that I laser focused in on this one level here, but the entire game’s bursting with this level of quality, and there’s so many moments big and small alike that I’ll never forget.
So if you haven’t picked up Titanfall 2 yet, it’s time you did. If you want me to be able to hire a comedian to write better ending jokes then that, then you can support my and my efforts to make more videos on Patreon. You can also check out my vlogging channel and Twitter if you have nothing better to do with your life. Also, special thanks have to go out to: Isaiah Christou, Sawsbucky, Forgotten Paladin, Killie, Ludwig, Magaline, an account I made to donate to myself to pretend that I have more fans, for all of their support. Thank you all for watching, and I’ll see you guys next time. Later!.
As found on Youtube