TimeSplitters: Future Perfect Review
TimeSplitters' story is interesting, yet it doesn't take itself too seriously, adding tons of quirky humor, double entendre, and inside jokes to keep things light, despite the fact you're trying to save mankind. You play the role of Cortez, a Vin Diesel look-alike who is given the task of traveling through time to stop the invasion of the TimeSplitters once and for all. Along the way Cortez meets up with a wide variety of characters, a peculiar English fellow name Captain Ash, Harry Tipper, who's a far-out hippie, a teenager in a school girl outfit with the word "Slut" emblazoned upon here shirt, and even a woman that bears more than a passing resemblance to Joanna Dark. The game's villain is a classic bumbling villain, who fits in nicely with the story. It never takes itself too seriously, but at the same time, you're interested in the end result - similar to a summer blockbuster.
TimeSplitters is a fast-paced first-person-shooter, with an emphasis on the "shooter" part. The enemies aren't very smart, but they are heavy in number and are fairly aggressive, so you'll have to stay on your toes; none of that sit back an hope they wait for you stuff here, that's for sure. It's possible to even simply run past some enemies, bypassing confrontation altogether, but there are several parts where the doors won't unlock until you kill everyone - a lame bit of game design indeed. There are thirteen levels in the game, most of which can be completed in 20-25 minutes, though some levels take twice as long. There are multiple checkpoints in each level, but you can only save after the level is over, which in this day and age is a pretty large oversight. If you're starting a new level, and you only have 20 minutes to play, there's almost no point in even starting, since you're just going to have to do things all over again. Weapons and ammo aren't very scarce, so this isn't one of those games where it pays to do a level over in hopes of conserving resources. One thing that is scarce, at least in certain areas is health, so you will need to be careful not to get shot up too much, especially near a boss fight.
The levels are in general very linear, and involve very little exploration. You might find an extra health or shield here and there if you explore every nook and cranny, but that's about it. Cortez rarely fights alone, and his "partner" for each level often takes the point and leads through significant chunks of each area, though they all seem to get distracted quite a bit, leaving you to fend for yourself quite often. Since the game is so heavy on time travel, you'll often meet up with your future or past self and have to work with them to accomplish a goal. This is a neat idea, but its poor execution makes it more tiresome than fun. Occasionally, you'll do something cool together, but other times the sequences are either too short and pointless, or tremendously repetitive, like when you have to diffuse a bomb 3 times in a row.
There are tons of weapons to pick from, like a sniper rifle, machine gun, shotgun, pistol, rocket launcher and numerous futuristic weapons, though there's nothing particularly unique about the weapon selection. Unlike a certain Master Chief, Cortez can carry as many guns as he can find. Changing weapons is as easy as pressing left or right on the digital pad until you find the gun you like; it's a wonder why more games don't use this setup. The rest of the default controls are a bit unwieldy, but you can customize them exactly as you wish, and once they're setup the way you like, they're great. In addition to the use of guns and grenades, Cortez can use his Temporal Uplink, which allows him to manipulate objects from a distance, as well as display a map. It's a neat feature, but it's underutilized - the levels are linear, so you rarely need a map, and the levitation features are usually used to grab health and shields.
After you've beaten the relatively short (6-8 hours) single-player campaign, there's still plenty to keep you occupied. There are tons of mini-games, many of which are pretty fun, like cat driving, or running around smashing all the glass in a level. Sure, some of the games are duds, but there's certainly something for everyone.
TimeSplitters also has a map making feature that will allow you to create your own multiplayer levels, and even trade them online. There isn't a whole lot of instruction, so there's a lot of trial and error involved before you make a good map, but for a console, it's pretty easy to use and offers a fair amount of variety, including scripted events, levels that span multiple stories, and even lighting options. It's not for everyone, but some people will find hours and hours of enjoyment here.
One thing that this series has always been begging for is online play, and Future Perfect finally delivers. You can play with up to 16 people in a variety of game modes, which range from the standard deathmatch and team modes to game variations where you collect coins and even a cool vampire match type. The online experience is a good one; there were no server issues to speak of, and things ran well. It's no Halo 2, but some people will enjoy the faster pace that Future Perfect offers.
TimeSplitters is a nice looking game, but it's not spectacular. Its best feature is the fast, smooth framerate that rarely falters. There are tons of special effects on screen in any given gunfight, so the fast framerate is quite impressive, especially for the PS2. If you've got a widescreen TV, the game's got a widescreen mode that adds quite a bit of real estate to the screen. The character models, all 150 of them are unique and nicely detailed. Since the levels take place over a period of several hundred years, there's quite a bit of variety to them. From a haunted mansion to an island castle, a moving train, to a decimated city, the level design is solid, though it is a bit too linear.
From start to finish, TimeSplitters' audio is an aural treat. The music is catchy and fits in with the theme of the level as well as the time period - even the tune in the main menu is a good one. The voice acting is a little over-the-top, but again, it fits the game perfectly. Cortez's deadpan delivery is great, and all the wacky characters are voiced just how you'd expect them to be. The sound effects aren't anything exciting, but they get the job done just fine.
TimeSplitters: Future Perfect is a fun, accessible game that you'll certainly get your money's worth from. There are a ton of things to do, and completing the game 100% will take weeks, if not months. The online play is solid, but not spectacular, and the inclusion of bots allows people without broadband of friends to enjoy multi-player, which is a nice touch. The game's main flaw is that it's all over the place, and feels like it simply tries to do too much. If more time had been spent lengthening the game by providing more save points, adding more levels, and not tiresome wormholes where you replay the same sequence multiple times, it'd score a bit higher. But the bottom line is, if you're craving a good FPS, Future Perfect might be the perfect game for you, so give it a look.
4/13/2005 Aaron Thomas