This page was last updated on Thursday, 17 May 2001.
First Person Shooter : 1-4 players : PS2 Memory Card : PS2 Multitap : Analogue Dual Shock : Free Radical / Edios Interactive
Result : 7 - Next-gen Doom?
TimeSplitters is a brutal FPS (first person shooter). The plot is wafer thin, I think it's something about the evil TimeSplitters trying to manipulate the human race, you control various characters trying to stop them in the different time periods they are infiltrating. Lots of guns, high body count! Unusually for a FPS is the lack of strong character recognition, instead you have this huge range of characters, generally a choice of two per time zone. This adds variety, but further weakens the plot. There are three main game modes - single player "story" mode, whereby you normally go from the start, collect an item, and take it to the finish; Arcade, which has the multiple aspects of Deathmatch, Capture the Bag, Escort, BagTag, Knockout, Last Stand, and various team combinations; and Challenge mode, where you are given certain tasks to complete (eg: punch 50 heads off some zombies in 3 minutes, or shooting 100 ducks). The single player Story and Challenge will last for a reasonable amount of time, and then you can enjoy playing with a mate in Story mode, or play deathmatch type games in Arcade with either friends (up to 4 with a multitap) or against the bots. The variety of different game types is refreshing, and of course there is the Map Maker to try, which also adds to the lifespan.
The graphics are silky smooth, supposedly 60 frames per second, and have an incredible draw distance (compared to the PSX), it makes sniper rifles seem much more realistic. The game has a surreal cartoony feel, but throws in the odd dark aspect. Of note is the lack of gore?! Shooting someone produces grunts, but no blood, even popping off a head, while seeing the part go flying, is very bloodless. The skins/bots are very detailed, and carefully made to reduce any blockyness. The lighting is particularly impressive, better even than Unreal Tournament on my iMac, with lens flare, coloured lights, and shadows all well done. There are no FMV's, although the character selection has short animations which are often amusing (Ravelle Velvet is particularly good!). Although I only gave TimeSplitters an eight for graphics, they really are amazing, it's just that it feels like there is room for expansion - mainly better textures and world effects (heat shimmers, moisture).
Sound is slightly superior to PSX games in quality, the main difference is in the number of simultaneous sounds (with no slowdown), a failing in the PSX. Supposedly there will be full surround sounds on upcoming games, same as is used in DVD movies (Dolby digit 5.1?). There seems to be very few different "voices" for the different characters, so you get to hear the generic male and female grunts fairly often. The range and quality of the weapon noises is impressive however, there is a definite clunky feel to the reload of the rocket launcher, and the twin-chainguns will rattle your teeth with enough volume (and piss off your neighbours :-) very well done. Musically the game has some nice tracks, some are even catchy enough for my partner to enjoy listening to them (this is very surprising!), they do try to be themed to the period you are playing in, if with a slightly techno feeling, but overall it is not as memorable as having real bands.
The rest of the game feels well done too. Menu's are functional but with the right balance of flash to let you know this is not a PSX. Level design is mostly very good, the same levels are used for both Story mode (a little too linear in this mode), and Arcade where design is arguably more important. Some levels are very weak for deathmatch, they need more paths and more vertical movement too, but there also some real gems (Docks, Site, Chemical Plant) of course you can make some yourself with the map maker. While many objects are breakable, the lack of a jump means no throwing yourself out of windows as you cannot step over that small sill... The controls are better than Medal of Honour and Quake 2 (and Perfect Dark for that matter), utilising one analogue stick for forwards/back/strafe left/right and the other for "mouse look". It will take a little while for this to become second nature, but once there you can frag quite happily. The default controls can be fully customised, but there's no "best weapon" key (you get an auto-pickup option of Always/Best/Never), no quick keys for your favourite death-dealing weapon, and NO provision for a USB keyboard/mouse, all oversights I think. Also of annoyance is that Challenge games use the Triangle and X keys to Quit and Retry at the end of the game (unlike the other modes that use Start), this can cause inadvertent selection since x is fire and Triangle is reload... The bots function reasonably well, but the team tactics are poor compared to UT, and even on max skill a one-on-one with a bot is no challenge to me. They duck, dive and use cover nicely, and it all makes the game feel that much more realistic and next-gen. Once the TimeSplitters themselves start teleporting into the game (often in great numbers), the adrenaline surges as you try to make that final dash back to base. Toning down the damage and upping the monster count would make it more like Doom, as it is there is a nice balance between almost stealthy sections and big blast fests, sadly I must say that the game could do with being harder.
TimeSplitters is a quality game with only a few minor annoyances. It really does make my benchmark of Gran Turismo look outclassed in almost every area, is so far above it's PSX or N64 rivals that I cannot play them anymore, and only struggles to compete with Unreal Tournament due to that game's quality bot AI. I've been quite harsh with my marks, but that's because it could, and should, be doing more; remember the differences between Ridge Racer, and RR Type 4 on the PSX. Fortunately there is a sequel in production - which should hopefully make this into a PC beater too! Buy this game, practice a bit, and then cream your mates senseless. You'll be grinning for weeks!
Pause the game, then hold L1 + L2 + R1 + R2 and press X twice, Triangle twice.
Play as the Cultist:
Unlock the Challenge Mode:
1935 Tomb Story Level: