TimeSplitters 2 Review
Arguably the first PS2 game that first-person shooter fans could delve thoroughly into, Free Radical's TimeSplitters, a game which carried a unique, yet seen-so-many-times, story, was excepted with open arms by consumers. The game was quite a thrill, much more so in its multiplayer aspect, as the single player mode wasn't as finely-tuned. Fortunately, this year's foray easily laughs at last year's predecessor, perfectly encompassing a very solid single player journey and a seemingly timeless multiplayer mode into one amazing bundle..
When players first start to unravel the game's many options, they'll notice that the presentation and set-up of menus, options, and on-screen configurations all look somewhat similar to Nintendo 64's 007: Goldeneye. In fact, the team that worked on TimeSplitters 2 included a few people that worked on Goldeneye, so seeing similarities throughout the game are almost a given. The whole presentation doesn't have a James Bond-type feel, though. Instead, it's a glossy, new-age design that's very impressive. Scrolling through the options and menus embedded in the game is really easy, and they're great to look at since they were done so meticulously.
Visually, the game was modeled excellently, with detail galore and impressive level designs. Donning a somewhat cartoonish look, the levels and characters throughout vibrantly shimmer. The smooth, sleek design of the layout is bolstered by high-quality textures and character models that look and move with perfection. All the environments are really crisp, and the framerate runs at a solid 60fps, even throughout a multiplayer match. With enemies clogging the screen and bullets whizzing by, the framerate never even thinks about fluctuating. This aspect helps the gameplay always run at a smooth pace, and aiming is never interrupted.The CGs were also exquisitely animated, with characters that move and react so lively. As in the in-game graphics, they boast a cartoonish look to them and are chockfull of detail. While they aren't too lengthy, they give good introductions to each level, starting players out with a basic plot and letting them proceed from there.
Free Radical has paid so much attention toward small details that subtleties can be found everywhere in the game. Almost all the objects within the environments are fully interactive. Shoot a watermelon, it'll crack and spew all over; shoot a box, it'll basically disintegrate; shoot a can, it'll act accordingly. The expansively interactive nature of the environments makes the whole presentation of the game feel much more immersive and authentic. The puddles on the ground are just another example of the intricate details that Free Radical has rendered. As you walk towards the water, you can actually see elements from the ceiling and lights above reflecting from the water, and as you move closer, the reflections will move accordingly, making the overall effect look simply gorgeous. Yet another beautiful animation is the glass shattering. Blow out a window and it'll not only shatter, but it'll actually look like a window has just broken, and you can watch all the jagged pieces soar to the ground.The game's plot is rather simple to understand. Your goal is to travel through time, making stops at important time periods, in order to stop the TimeSplitters, a race of destructive villains. Bent on saving the different time eras, you'll travel through copious time periods, including a trip to the wild wild West, a space expedition, a stroll through a mob-like setting, and you'll even get to travel back to the Aztec ruins. This plot is very diverse because of its wide range of environments and level set-ups, and it also allows for a great deal of weaponry to be handled, which adds more longevity, especially to the multiplayer aspect.
The levels are very immense, and they're filled with different objectives to be tackled, both side missions and main missions. There's no quick-save feature in the levels; however, there are checkpoints scarcely scattered around the massive areas. So when you die, you can start from the last checkpoint, with the same life and arsenal that you had when you initially reached it. Body armor can also be found all over the levels -- hidden in corridors and sitting on shelves, which help to aid your mission greatly. With the sharpshooters (read: great AI) coming from every corner, the overall missions are very challenging, but the presence of body armor and checkpoints act as great equalizers.
TimeSplitters 2 is robust with weaponry, especially since there are so many different motifs to be explored. Some of the more conventional weapons that are found are guns like a Sniper Rifle, Shotgun, Silenced Pistol, Soviet S47, Flame-thrower, Grenade Launcher, Rocket Launcher, and mines (timed, proximity, remote). There is also slew of other weapons at your disposal, including a Crossbow, Lugar Pistol, Garrett Revolver, Tommy Gun, Scifi Handgun, SBP90 Machinegun, Lasergun, Homing Launcher, and more.
An excellent weapon handling option that was incorporated into the game is the ability to equip dual guns with a select bunch. Utilizing this feature lets you mow down enemies with dual Tommy Guns (or another type), which makes you that much more efficient. It also allows you to disperse large groups of enemies quicker. Another brilliant innovation is that some weapons actually have two functions. The S47, for example, lets you shoot grenades with one firing button while also letting you rapidly fire off bullets with the other fire button. This feature will help facilitate fire-fights because it cuts down on having to switch weapons during the more intense situations and also gives to sources from which you can apply harm. For instance, if there's a horde of enemies -- and they're coming at your pretty fast -- you can spit out grenades, but while they're sitting on the ground waiting to blow up, you can also pump multiple bullets into them, as well. Another use of attack you can use -- strictly for humor, of course -- is throwing a mine onto an oncoming enemy. It'll stick to the body part it hits, and you can then watch the hapless victim take his last few steps. Pow!
The enemy AI is certainly better than the first TimeSplitters game, and enemies are more aware of their surroundings this time around, too. Their ability to see over long distances is the first thing that makes them more devastating to encounter, as they'll see you coming up -- if they're looking in your vicinity -- well before you can get close to them. It also seems that once one enemy is aware of your presence, multiple enemies become alerted; they won't hesitate to sound the alarms either, which evokes a whole gaggle of baddies within seconds.Not only are they more alert, but they can also sustain multiple shots before dying. They can usually withstand around three to four body shots, and lower-body hits just won't get the job done. If two or three enemies are simultaneously firing at you, your best bet is to take cover and wait for them to turn the corner. Doing so allows you to take them out one by one, wherein your chances of survival will be much greater. They're also quite versatile and sport a forte in moving quickly and efficiently -- dodging, rolling, and using objects to take cover, as to avoid your fire. In short, the AI will make for some difficult battles, so the best way to dispose of them is to simply sneak up from behind and blow their head off. Otherwise, they'll be much harder to take out, especially in a group. The aforementioned AI heavily encourages stealthy play, which is crucial if you play on staying alive. Another important reason to use a stealth-like approach is to avoid the surveillance cameras, which are scattered all over, navigating their designated area. If one spots you for more than a couple seconds, the alarms will be sounded, and enemies will arrive shortly thereafter. You can avoid this altogether, though, by simply deactivating them at their control panels.
TimeSplitters 2 controls like a dream, letting you aim with laser precision and hit just about anything at will. On the default setting, the left analog moves forward/backward and strafes from side to side, while the right analog rotates your body. R1 and R2 act as the alternate fire and regular fire, respectively, and L2 brings up the cross hairs and will, with some guns, zoom in. In addition, when aiming with the cross hairs, you can still move around with the left analog. This is very useful when you're trying to get a head shot but need to move around to avoid enemy fire. Some FPSs are somewhat jumpy when trying to move just that half-inch or so, but TS2 shows no signs of this. The movement of your gun sways so fluidly and uninterruptedly that moving that one half-inch to get that crucial head shot is a piece of cake.
With a number of different levels to chose from in multiplayer -- completely different from those found in the single player part of the game -- the longevity is skyrocketed. Some levels sport huge, wide-open environments, with hiding places and the such here and there (which are good for the Rockets or Explosives set-ups), while other levels are fabricated with a more crammed-up design, making for a more suspenseful, surprising experience, letting players employ their more stealthier, thought-provoked tactics.
Before starting a multiplayer game, there are tons of options that can be fooled with and toggled around. Aside from the multitude of levels to chose from, you can also set up teams, score limits and methods, handicaps, power-ups, and more. Additionally, there are many different rules you can set the game to, such as Leech, where health is gained by inflicting damage on your enemies; Virus, where players play a game of tag, and those who get tagged die; Vampire, where you kill others to extend your life span; Elimination, where after you die the given amount of times, you're out, and there are also many other ways to play. Alongside the engorgement of modes is a huge list of selectable players, totaling to around 100.
A really enjoyable aspect of the multiplayer is the fact that there are different weapon sets you can select before starting an actual multiplayer match. The weapons are organized in various groups according to its use and power. So players can have an explosives-fest, where players use nothing but rockets and mines, or they can have a good ol' dual guns match where most of the weapons are dual, including Tommy guns and shot guns. However, the most enjoyable weapon set-up, hands down, is the rockets one, where the only weapons at your disposal are rocket launchers and homing launchers. When there are 10 people in a level all shooting rockets every which way, it's like the fourth of July and World War III combined -- truly great stuff.Those who enjoy working more so as a duo that fight evil together will also find an immense amount of fun from the multiplayer. A co-op mode is available for two players to go throughout their arduous journey fighting side-by-side. This mode is rather fun with a friend, and the difficulty about evens out when comparing it to going solo on the single player mode -- because while you have more fire power and an ally to back you up, your ammo and power-ups get cut in half. And proving once itself once again is the extremely reliable framerate, which doesn't even come close to dipping here.
Given the game's completely addicting multiplayer nature, maybe the game would be better suited with the name TimeConsumers, since playing the multiplayer part can easily consume hours of your day. Bots are included too, and there are eight enemies in each set of bots. Truthfully, though, without the addition of bots, the multiplayer found here wouldn't be nearly as good, because playing with a few friends as well as a swarm of computer-controlled players makes the on-screen action a non-stop thrill.
One of the finer new incorporations to the game is the mapmaker. Very intricately set-up, the mapmaker can result in some amazingly-structured levels for those who have the patience and determination to delve far enough into it. While a great addition, the multi-player's standard levels already serve as an adequate amount, so this is just a little extra something that players can fool around with.
TimeSplitters 2's aural approach turned out quite well. There are minor dialogue parts found within the short CG segments, and they were acted for nicely, and the different gun shot noises are your traditional, recycled sounds. Perhaps the most exhilarating part, though, is when an alarm is sounded and enemies flock to the scene instantly; those instances always create some intense fire-fights.
Praise for this title is just so easy to give; the game is basically synonymous with the word brilliant. With a multiplayer mode that's seemingly immaculate (easily rivals Goldeneye and Halo's), a single player mode that's well above average, and a control set-up that anyone can operate effortlessly, the game practically encounters no downward spirals. The few flaws the game does have are so minuscule that they're basically not even detrimental to the overall product. One of the finest, solidly-crafted games in years -- there's no question.
10/23/2002 Joseph Comunale