Review by GreyRainCloud
"It was about time Goldeneye got dethroned!"
---TIMESPLITTERS 2 for Nintendo Gamecube---
Several years ago, we witnessed the birth of the "tactical" FPS games, with the arrival of Goldeneye. Little did we know back then, that it would be heralded as the criterion for FPS games, in the years to come.
But it makes sense. With Goldeneye, we were introduced to some ingenious story mode stages and to fantastic multiplayer mayhem. With Goldeneye, 4-player gaming on the same screen, was incorporated as a "must live" experience.
And thus, much time has passed since then. And many things changed. No more we refer to blurry graphics and low-polygon worlds, or framerate problems and low quality textures. But some things never change. We still, until today, judge an FPS by placing it against Goldeneye. Surprisingly it has been more than 6 years, and we yet had to see a game that could, or even dared to stand proud in front of this first generation N64 game. But as it seems, the FPS genre has finally come of age...
After completing Goldeneye's "sequel" of sorts, known as Perfect Dark, some RAREWARE employees, for reasons unknown, left the company. Those people, worked under Eidos' help, and created a really interesting first generation game for the PS2.
This game was called Timesplitters and offered some brilliant ideas on the FPS genre, with interesting gameplay features. But many saw it as a direct mixture of Goldeneye and Perfect Dark. Some complained about it's graphics, or controls, and some commented badly on the little length of it's story mode.
The story would end here, if it had not been for the team behind Timesplitters, coming back, for one more try, with a new game, brilliantly named as... Timesplitters 2. And we were in for a surprise. Timesplitters 2 is accomplished to perfection, and created while making one step further. This game, without a doubt, is what we were all waiting for.
I will try to explain some of the brilliance behind Timesplitters 2.
Timesplitters 2 is not the best looking First Person Shooter available, and in some places it's graphics are quite inferior to other titles available. By no means bad, they are not the best part of the game. Still, what has to be mentioned, is that the art design of the game, and the concept of the graphics, is second to none in this genre. The game is solid, with a colourful palette, and nicely crafted environments. Nothing jaw dropping, but not a let down either. Some walls are bump-mapped, while others feature some really nice texture work. The environments are not really interactive, and few parts are destructible. For an example, only certain lights can be put off by shooting them, and not everything in the scenery can be damaged by fire. Still, and maybe... through, this lack of realism, the game manages to inject to the player a feel of originality rarely seen in games of today. Surely, some parts will remind of Goldeneye, but they are used in such an ingenious way, that you won't feel it is becoming repetitive.
The second part of the graphics is about the characters design. The character design, albeit low-polygon, is without a doubt, strange. Hilarious some would say, brilliant to others, and even insane to some, truth is that the Timesplitters has some of the most original characters ever to step foot on your TV. And they are also really nice "materialised", with fluid animations and super fast movement. Nothing but job of brilliance here.
Finally the graphics in the cut-scenes of the game. Simply said, through the use of the in-game graphics, Free Radical have recreated a "cartoon" feeling. The cut-scenes incorporate brilliant use of the surrounding environments and character art. It is the way videogames cut-scenes should be. Technically speaking, the game runs at a smooth 60 frames per second, with slow down spotted in certain parts of gameplay (especially when dealing with enemies featuring a special effect like the Fire Zombies), but something you can live with. I am not sure if it supports proggressive scan mode, but I would also try to remind you that this is a game that graphics come in second and gameplay takes the first seat.
GRAPHICS SCORE: 8.0/10
This game is pretty basic when it comes to sound effects. So you basically get the standard bullet sounds that cease to amaze after a few seconds. In some places it might even resemble Goldeneye in sound effects. But where the sound effects fail to take us to the next level, the game music does. There is everything in there from dark and moody to funny and serious. Sometimes groovy, other times techno, it works perfectly and more often than not blends perfectly with the environments you play with. So if you are playing in the Aztec Ruins you hear a music quite resembling... Donkey Kong, and if you are at the Far West stage, you can almost feel that "Lucky Luke" music!
In the cut-scenes, sound and music blend for a really satisfying result. The voice acting is superb: never being too serious, so that you are reminded at all times of the light approach of the game storyline. The characters talk funny, act hilariously and at times seem too real, or... too comic. A feeling injected through the whole game's art concept. In overall the sound in quality is equal to the graphics, being as much original as solid.
SOUND SCORE: 8.0/10
With controls being completely customisable, little can be told. You can opt for the normal setting which lets you fire with R and target with L, use your secondary fire with Z, etc. But chances are that once you try it, you will instantly feel what is better for you, and change it to fit you better. It is the kind of philosophy, "if you do not like it, customise it as you wish", that runs throughout the whole game. Soon, you will play the way YOU want, and that alone is marvelous at conception. To let gamers judge how they want the controls to be. In the game, you can run or walk, fire with your weapon and reload it at will, use it's secondary fire mode, crouch, strafe and look, aim, all through the use of your controller. The absence of a "jump" option might feel awkward in the first place but after a while it will not feel that discouraging in exploring the game's vast gameplay. Sure if it was implemented, new ideas would be instantly able to work, but then again, it might had destroyed a feeling of stability that only with this game I have enjoyed. ...The only thing that can break it, is a well shot homing missile... ;-)
CONTROLS SCORE: 9.0/10
The story is not the best you are likely to witness. It is the normal "alien invasion and humanity against it" stuff with a nice twist. Aliens are trying to destroy humanity by altering it's present, past... and future. Now you have to travel in time to fight and stop their evil plans. The story mode, even though it might feel quite unlinked between it's chapters, offers quite an enjoyable, albeit simplistic, approach to the concept. You won't feel that it is the best storyline, and surely it does not even come close to that, but you are likely to see the cut-scenes over and over again... and even show them to your friends. Enjoy the simplicity. It is the best thing our world can provide.
STORY SCORE: 7.5/10
Down to the deep. By now, I feel you know what Timesplitters 2 has to offer in gameplay. If you have not yet, then I will repeat that it is a perfect improvement on the ideas originally posed by Goldeneye on N64. Everything from destroying cameras to shooting unsuspecting soldiers remains intact. There are still alarms for you to trigger, and hordes of machine gun holding enemies to decapitate. Did I said decapitate? Then I also have to mention the zombies, perfectly resembling those of Resident Evil, that I would be surprised if this "similarity" wasn't intentional!
The story mode, apart from being shorter than expected, is really nice and will suck you in for as long as it last. And this is not for a long time I am afraid. So after the story mode, you will need to look at something else. And this is where Timesplitters 2 shines. Apart from the story mode, there is the Arcade League, the challenges, and the Map Maker mode. The first two, work with the concept of multiplayer in them. Arcade League is a bunch of missions for you to accomplish, much like the Challenges in Perfect Dark, which put you against computer controlled bots, in a multiplayer mayhem. Challenges, are nice changes from the typical gameplay and incorporate some nice ideas to test your mastery on the game's controls and your ability. These will last you for a lot of time, and if you go for the medals, which you will, you are guaranteed to play for months.
So we come down to the multiplayer, which is fun as heaven. Everything can be altered, from bots to frags, and from the number of teams to one shot kills and handicap. Everything can be tweaked to make your multiplayer even more elegant. You can play in the fantastic preset maps, or, if you dare, create your own in the Map Maker. The options are endless, and you will probably spend a lifetime to play Timesplitters 2 with every single option. It is that huge, it is that intuitive. And most likely, you will wish you had a lifetime free just for THIS game. It is THAT good! The Map Maker, even limited, is something all FPS games from now on should incorporate, and the multiplayer options and modes are endless. What are you waiting for? If you don't have this game, you must buy it immediately!
GAMEPLAY SCORE: 9.5/10
Once upon a time, there was a game called Goldeneye. But the fairytale is far from over. Welcome Timesplitters 2, the "heir apparent to Goldeneye". Nothing comes close to this. Nothing is as "cool" as this is. And probably nothing will surpass it for the years to come. This is the new standard, and the criterion for the FPS games to come. Free Radical have just gained 1000 Karma points in my respect list, for delivering the impossible. The only Goldeneye beater, and the only FPS game that caught my attention since Goldeneye. This truly is the Best First Person Shooter... ever!
PROS: It's multiplayer, the Map Maker, and the sheer depth of all the game modes on offer.
CONS: Short story mode, not really strong technically.
FOR: People who loved Goldeneye, or who want a fun, deep and endless FPS game to play.
NOT FOR: People who love "realistic" FPS games.
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OVERALL SCORE: 9.5/10
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 01/21/03, Updated 05/28/04
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