Developer: Free Radical Design | Publisher: Eidos Interactive | Release Date: 2000 | Genre: First Person Shooter | Website: N/A | Purchase: Amazon
Some alien bastards have decided to make a nuisance of themselves and are infiltrating Earth’s timeline from their creepy dimension. They’ve aligned themselves with some of the worst criminals from the past and future, so taking them down won’t be easy but it must be done. Earth needs heroes but fortunately Fingers McKenzie, Lady Jayne, Peekabo Jones and a whole bunch of other motley misfits are eager to sign up for the job.
As you might have gathered from the ridiculous storyline, TimeSplitters is a game that doesn’t take itself very seriously. While the 100 year long story mode (set between 1935 & 2035) sounds like it could be impressive it never amounts to more than nine themed maps. Nine very short maps I might add. If you are the type of gamer who rushes through a game on the easiest setting you’ll be watching the credits roll by after only an hour or so. Now since TimeSplitters is a launch game you might think that the short length is because it was rushed out but the truth is this is a multi-player game through and through with the story mode thrown in almost as an afterthought.
TimeSplitters is a frantic first person shooter that eschews plot and cohesion for fun and variety. The story mode can be tackled alone or with a partner and the goal is simply to retrieve something and return it to the marked location as quickly as possible. There is no save spots or checkpoints and enemies do major damage. As soon as you have your hands on whatever needed retrieving the TimeSplitters will start teleporting in and try to put an end to your journey. Succeed and you’ll unlock new goodies for the multi-player mode. Succeed in under a certain time and you’ll be rewarded even more. It’s basically a glorified version of capture-the-flag and while enormously entertaining its all too brief. You can play on easy, medium or hard settings, but don’t expect to spend too much time on this mode. “Challenge” mode is unlocked when you complete the story mode and sends you through the same levels with new objectives and time limits. Once again, it’s all just practice for the real meat of the game, “Arcade” mode.
In Arcade mode up to four human players and a bunch of bots can take each other on in a variety of challenges. Everything from deathmatch to capture the flag is covered with a few extras like “Bag Tag,” “Knockout,” “Escort” and “Last Stand” thrown into the mix as well.
All the freaks you’ve unlocked in the other modes are available so in the average match you’ll see plenty of monsters, aliens, zombies, robots and scantily clad females running around. There’s a nice selection of weaponry available as well drawing from the diverse time-periods and the best part is you have complete control over every aspect of the matches. This means you can tweak everything until it is just right. The fun doesn’t end there either as the game comes with a build in level editor that allows you to unleash your creative freedom. The game is created by Free Radical Design, who’s members have previously worked on titles like “Goldeneye” and “Perfect Dark” so you know you are in good hands.
Visually the game has a very unique art style with the characters all looking like over exaggerated caricatures. There’s a staggering amount of characters to choose from with a male and female from each time period as well as a wealth of secret ones. The game runs very quickly and smoothly, but the graphics are undeniably jagged in some places. The colour scheme can also make things look a tad garish at times. The game suffers from some long loading times, which is strange as the levels are actually quite short. They are also fairly linear and, while you can shoot out glass, your character can’t jump which feels like a limitation on level exploration.
The biggest issue is the controls which to me felt very clunky and imprecise. I admit that I play most of my first person shooters on PC, but even after spending a lot of time with TimeSplitters I never felt totally comfortable with the controls. Missing an enemy that is standing right in front of you due to your targeting crosshair jumping all over the place when trying to aim is frustrating to say the least. The game works best when you are running and gunning as with a flick of the right analog stick you can quickly shift from one foe to the next and blast them to smithereens. Zooming in with a rifle or trying to take down enemy turrets above you is another matter. Your health drops very quickly so the controls just stack the odds even more against you. It’s most apparent against foes like the zombies that just keep getting back up until you’ve shot their heads off. It goes better against other human players as the playing field is levelled but there’s still a steep learning curve.
The game has some nice tunes that fit the fast paced gameplay perfectly. Some of the songs are even quite catchy and stick in your head long after you’ve switched off the game. Sound effects are good and the weapons all sound like they should. There isn’t much speech, but the few snippets that do play will make you grateful that there isn’t more. The moans from the female characters stand out as being particularly cringe worthy.
As far as launch titles go TimeSpliters isn’t’ a bad deal. If you are looking for a solid single player shooter with a lengthy campaign mode, then you can obviously skip this game. To get the most out of it you are going to need a huge television three other friends, each with their own controller and a multi-tap peripheral. Pretty steep entry requirements, but it definitely pays off. Maybe next time Free Radical will polish up the single player mode a bit more and tighten the controls. Until then you know where to get your multi-player action fix.
*Review originally published in 2001.