- Original release year: 2002
- Consoles: PS2, GameCube and Xbox
After GoldenEye 007 and Perfect Dark, I was patiently awaiting the next revolutionary console FPS for me too get my hands on. The Dreamcast was my initial console of choice in the sixth generation war and that opened up a world of PC FPS ports for me (Unreal Tournament, Quake III, Soldier of Fortune, the unreleased but leaked Half Life), but, whilst impressive, none of those scratched the itch I had for a true ‘next gen’ console style FPS. So when the Dreamcast died prematurely, I picked up a GameCube and eagerly anticipated Perfect Dark Zero for all of 5 minutes until Microsoft bought out Rare and Rare descended into obscurity. Then TimSplitters 2 came and I forgot all about Perfect Dark Zero and stopped caring about the fact Microsoft had bought Rare (I eventually got an XBox as well anyways). The game was made by Free Radical Design, after all, a development team mainly made up of ex Rare employees anyways.
The first TimeSplitters game was exclusive to the PS2. It was an ok game, but the sequel which received a multi-platform release, was the juggernaut first person shooter experience I and many others had been waiting for. I remember the day it came out, I went to the shops and picked it up right away. I was so excited for it. When I got it home, I sat in awe at the amount of gameplay options. There was just so much content and the gameplay was so much fun, it felt like the game would never get old. It was the game that neither myself or my friends could ever stop playing. At least that year.
The gameplay is great. It looks and plays like a modified GoldenEye and Perfect Dark engine. But what is there to do in TimeSplitters 2? Well, there’s the main Story Mode (which can be played either solo or cooperatively with a friend), which is quirky, fun, but ultimately short, a little shallow at times and flawed. It’s good, don’t get me wrong, but there was always something… off about it. It just doesn’t seem as fulfilling as the story modes in GoldenEye or Perfect Dark.
What it does have in abundance though compared to the aforementioned offerings, is the amount of variety on offer, which is always nice. There are 10 missions, all set in a completely different period in time, with a different style of weapons and enemies on offer. The plot is… paper thin. Basically, there’s some time crystals or some shit and you have to travel back in time and collect them before the TimeSplitter monster things grab them. It’s basically a load of made up shite to explain why each mission is set in a completely different time period. Whatever. It works and it’s fun.
The levels themselves a little hit and miss, but there certainly aren’t any bad missions. The first mission, set in Siberia, in a dam location, is a particular highlight. It is very much reminiscent of GoldenEye, which is no doubt an intentional tribute. Other levels include an Aztec, Indiana Jones inspired location, a futuristic Blade Runner inspired stealth mission, an old school Gangsters level set in Chicago, a cowboy Western themed mission and many more.
The missions are all varied and fun, with a diverse list of objectives. My only complaint is the lack of checkpoints and some of the intense difficulty. There is just one checkpoint per level and it’s usually around the halfway mark, usually at a really random point in the game. Some missions end with a boss battle, but if you die, it’s tough shit, you’ll be heading back to that far away checkpoint. The difficulty I don’t mind so much, but it can become incredibly annoying to reach the end of a level and just keep dying and returning to the halfway checkpoint, and dying and returning to the halfway checkpoint over and over again, but that’s old school, retro games for you.
Although the story mode could be described as ‘passable’, good at best, it’s really the epic multiplayer games offered in abundance that has led to the game being so revered. Free Radical really reinvigorated the classic console shooter with this game. Even if you’re playing alone or just fancy taking it in turns with your friends, there’s plenty of challenges and multiplayer fun with bots to be had.
Essentially, if you fancy playing Timesplitters by yourself for a bit and you’ve finished the story mode or just want a break from it, there are two other modes of play. There’s the Challenge Mode and there’s the Arcade League. Playing through both will open up to you tonnes of unlockables, like new maps, new characters (and the characters are hilarious), new weapons, new multiplayer modes and other fun gimmicks. This adds loads of extra longevity and replayability to the game. Challenge Mode gives you challenges like collecting a number of items within a certain amount of time, killing waves of zombies etc., whilst the Arcade League is a bit like Quake III and Unreal Tournament’s single player experiences, where you must work your way through a number of bot-based multiplayer action, with different stipulations and challenges present. The game is really, really tough too, so the Challenge Mode and Arcade League will both keep you really busy, far more so than the story mode actually.
As for the multiplayer, yeah, that is why this game is loved. There are just so many modes and match types to play through. It really never got old and the intense amount of customisation means you can always change things and keep it fresh. In terms of multiplayer, this honestly improved on GoldenEye and Perfect Dark in every way imagineable. There’s even a level creation tool, that whilst primitive by today’s standards, was a lot of fun back in the day. I remember my friend and I used to spend ages tweaking this one idea we had we called ‘Frontlines’. Basically we created these two bases, with bunkers on either end of the map and had a massive open space in the middle. The bunkers had bridges with turret guns on the top. We just kept re-creating that same basic idea, but making different tweaks and hidden corridors etc. to keep it interesting.
Overall, TimeSplitters 2 remains one of the greatest console first person shooters of all time, with perhaps the definitive split screen multiplayer experience. Although the Story Mode is good, but admittedly fairly short and not the greatest, the two other single player modes, Challenge Mode and Arcade League, will both keep you playing for absolutely ages. The multiplayer with all its different, diverse set of maps, weapons, modes and of course the level creation tool, will keep you playing for years and years. This ladies and gentlemen is a true classic.