TimeSplitters first arrived well over a year ago on the PS2, when the system first launched, and while the single-player aspect had much room for improvement, TimeSplitterís superb multiplayer experience was what got people hooked and wanting more. Not only is Free Radicalís next foray into the TimeSplitters chapter an improvement, itís an excellent FPS with virtually no evident flaws that may detract from the overall game (from the demo we played).
The levels are very immense, and theyíre filled with different objectives to be tackled. Thereís 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 is also 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, and your arsenal of weapons is very profitable. In the demo, a Sniper Rifle, Silenced Pistol, Soviet S47, Flamethrower, and timed mines were available. Two huge weapon improvements have been incorporated into Free Radicalís sequel. The first one is the ability to have dual-guns, which basically means you can fire off shots from guns in both hands simultaneously. The second innovation is that some weapons actually have two functions. The S47, for example, lets you shoot grenades with one button and rapidly fire off bullets with the other fire button. This new feature makes fighting so much easier because it cuts down on having to switch weapons during the more intense situations. For instance, if thereís a horde of enemies -- and theyíre coming at your pretty fast -- you can spit out grenades, but while theyíre sitting on the ground waiting to blow up, you can also pump out bullet after bullet at the same time. Dispatching large amounts of enemies is now so much easier. Another use of attack you can use -- strictly for humor, of course -- is throwing one of your timed mines onto an oncoming enemy. Itíll stick to the body part it hits, and you can then watch the hapless victim take his last few steps. Pow!
Free Radical has paid so much attention towards small details that subtleties can be found everywhere in the game. Almost all the objects within the environments are fully interactive. Shoot a watermelon, itíll crack and spew all over; shoot a box, itíll basically disintegrate; shoot a can, itíll act accordingly. The expansive interactivity with the environment makes the whole presentation of the game feel much more immersive. 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 itíll not only shatter, but itíll actually look like a window has just broken, and you can watch all the jagged pieces soar to the ground.
The enemy AI is certainly better than the first TimeSplitters, and enemies are more aware of their surrounds this time around, too. Their ability to see over long distances is the first thing that makes them more alert, as theyíll see you coming up -- if theyíre looking at you -- 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 wonít hesitate to sound the alarms either, which evokes a whole gaggle of baddies in within seconds.
Not only are they more alert, but they can also sustain multiple shots before dying. Enemies can usually withstand around three to four body shots, and lower-body hits just wonít 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. 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, theyíll be much harder to take out, especially in a group. The aforementioned AI sets up stealthy play, which must be used in order to stay 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 afterwards. You can avoid this altogether, though, by simply deactivating the 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 the sniper rifle, zoom in. In addition, when aiming with the cross hairs, you can still move around with the left analog. This is very useful when youíre trying to get a head hit but need to move around to avoid enemy fire, as well. 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.
The visuals TimeSplitters 2 boasts are simply stunning. The smooth, sleek design of the layout is bolstered by high-quality textures and character models that look and move with perfection. The CGs were also excellently animated, with characters that move and react so lively, and the attention given to the faces is yet another plus. Back to the in-game action, all the environments are really smooth and crisp, and the framerate runs at a solid 60fps! Even when enemies are clogging the screen and bullets are 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.
TimeSplitters 2 isnít a perfect game, as no game will ever be. But, simply put, thereís absolutely nothing to complain about. The controls are solid as can be and move in a tight, precise-manner. Visually, the game is arguably the best on the console, and the enemy AI is quite efficient at their job. Demos usually have bugs, problems, and the such, but this build of TimeSplitters 2 is so polished and meticulously detailed, suggesting the final version to be nothing short of spectacular. This is the definitive of what a console FPS is all about and will probably bring the goods to stand toe-to-toe with the best of them. The scary thing is that itís just getting better and better.
7/26/2002 Joseph Comunale