Review by msindona

"The Best *Multiplayer* Console FPS Game...Ever "

Time Splitters is one of the PlayStation 2 launch titles and the only First Person Shooter, other than Unreal Tournament, available during the PS2 launch on October 26th, 2000. Created by most of the same developers who were responsible for the N64's GoldenEye and Perfect Dark (two of the best console FPS games in existence), potential for this game to be a mega-hit was very high. Will Time Splitters meet everyone's high expectations? Probably not. But it met mine, here's why:

Graphics *8*

Sure, the graphics are pretty darn spiffy, but please, this is the PS2. I want my jaw to drop like it did with SSX, Madden2001, and NHL2001. While I appreciate the constant 60FPS (more on this later), great weapon models, and the vibrant color schemes, I expect a bit more ''umph'' from a PS2 game. Maybe I'm being too picky, because seriously folks, there is a lot here to gawk at.

Some people have been complaining that the characters in the game are too skinny and they all look anorexic. Well, being a big ''Aeon Flux'' fan, I think the player models are quite good, and any fan of Flux will instantly be familiar with the character design. This is a ''sci-fi'' type of story, chock full of alien cyborgs, zombies, and dimension-hopping freaks. Why is the fact that the human player models aren't ''properly proportioned'' such a big deal? Bah!

Level Design is decent, not as beautiful as MDK2 for the Dreamcast or Half Life for the PC, but good enough. There are 3 multiplayer levels available at startup which are playable. There are also around 8 (maybe 10?) ''sample'' map-maker levels, which are also a blast to play. Just load them up and away you go. Do you think you could make a multiplayer map better than the ones provided? More info on that below...

Animations in the game are good, but not spectacular, although, some of the death animations will make you chuckle the first few times you see them. Explosions aren't the best I've seen, but watching all of the bodies go flying when my proximity mine explodes is a hoot.

Overall, while the graphics don't harm the game in anyway, they're not mind-boggling gorgeous either.

Sound *7*

Sounds are pretty good and compliment the game. Weapon effects are right on the money, although I'd like to hear a lil more ''boom'' coming from my subwoofer while I'm plowing down my buddies with a tommy gun or 2 double barreled shotguns, (perhaps I need to check out my sound system's settings?). Some of the music tracks are down right catchy and really add some ambiance to the game. Then there are a few of the ''eh'' music tracks which can get annoying at times. Usually, while playing an intense multiplayer game, the last thing on your mind is the soundtrack in the background. Character grunts, moans, and yells are decent as well.

Gameplay *3SP 10MP*

''What the heck does '3SP 10MP' mean?'', you ask? Well basically, I'm separating the Single Player experience from the MultiPlayer experience. The difference between the two in this game is like the difference between getting a Tabasco sauce enema by an angry midget in a diaper vs a full body massage by seven nude, oiled-up supermodels. Or in layman's terms: Single Player sucks, Multiplayer rules!

The single player ''Story mode'' game is almost not worth mentioning, since it's just so ''bleh''. Think N64's South Park FPS, take out the filthy wisecracks, add (much) better graphics, then switch the turkeys for alien zombie cyborgs, and there you go! The single player game amounts to a buttload of mindless enemy killing to get some piece of a electronic whiz bang device and then, once you are in possession of that piece of whatever, you go all the way back through the same level again to the finish. Rinse, Wash, Repeat. Yippee. Yeah, riiight. The only reason to torture yourself with the single player mode is to open up new characters, weapons, and levels for the multiplayer mode. But, due to the fact that the characters and weapons available for multiplayer at the start of the game are already pretty groovy, plus the ability to create your own multiplayer levels, the single player game is very avoidable. I recommend this part of the game only to S&M practitioners and lobotomized mental patients.

Multiplayer, on the other hand, is the new Mecca of console FPSs! Let's see: 4-player split screen, constant 60FPS, 10 bots with configurable difficulty settings, 4 teams, 6 different game modes, customizable weapon selections and game settings, and the mother of all options: a Map Maker Utility mode! Thank you, drive thru!

I'm thinking about writing a FAQ on this section of the game alone! The Map Maker utility in Time Splitters is not as deep as a Quake or Unreal level editor (on the PC), but it isn't as confusing and time consuming either. There are around 20 or so pre-fabricated level pieces offered to you, ranging from a single ''tile'' and small rooms to multi-leveled large rooms and even a *HUGE* main base piece. Using these pre-fabbed room pieces together with the simple tile, hallway, wall, and corner pieces, one can create a work of architectural multiplayer map madness!

I have already created four large maps, 1 for just deathmatch, 1 for a 2-team Capture The Flag (or Bag, as Time Splitters calls it), and 2 maps for a 4-team CTF. The Map Maker takes about a good hour or two of usage to get the hang of map creation and moving around its user interface. It's also wise to load up and check out the ''sample'' maps provided to get some hints on good multiplayer map design.

Maps can be up to 7 ''floors'' in height, using special ramp hallway tiles or multi-leveled room pieces to maneuver your way up and down the map. Flat maps are okay to start with, but the real enjoyment comes from playing in maps with many different levels to play on. Unfortunately, there are no ''elevator/lift'' type pieces available, so getting from bottom to top of a multi-leveled map will take a lot of ramp/step ''management''.

One major thing to keep in mind while creating a level is that: Weird, random, wacky-designed levels are great for free-for-all deathmatch, but for levels with teamplay in mind, you want to try to keep things ''symmetrical'' to an extent. Creating unfair advantages/disadvantages due to poor level design can be frustrating for whichever teams are involved. If one team has ''control'' on an ''L shaped area, then all teams in the level should have an ''L'' shaped area too, and then connect all the team areas together. Of course, you have the freedom to do whatever your twisted lil' mind desires, so happy level designing.

Another sweet addition to the map design is the configurable ''style'' to the map. You want your level to have a castle/cathedral feel to it? Go with the ''Gothic'' map style setting. Are you a big Star Wars/Sci Fi geek and want your level to look like something out of the Next Generation? Go with the ''Space Port'' map style setting. There are 5 or 6 map styles to choose from, although one of them, the ''Virtual'' style setting, is completely boring and useless, so don't bother. The best thing about setting the map style is that it's not permanent! While you are at the Multiplayer Map selection screen, you can change the style on the fly. Switching map styles not only changes the general look and feel of your custom maps, but it also changes some of the architecture WITHIN pre-fabbed rooms in your map. For example, the HUGE mega-base pre-fab room in the ''Gothic'' style setting is portrayed as a large church cathedral, but switch the map style over to ''Space Port'' and that church transforms into a Ship Docking Station along with a docked space ship which you can enter! Did somebody say ''Replay Value''?

Once you've finished with the basic design/architecture of your level, you can setup the lighting for each piece of your map. There are almost an infinite amount of colors to choose from, along with brightness and darkness of each selected color. Also, you have the ability to set light effects, either the basic ''on'' or ''off'', or you can go with ''flickering'', ''flashing'', or ''pulsing'' effects, each with different selectable speed settings. Want to make all the hallways have an eerie-green, slow-pulsating glow, then go ahead. How about make the level look like Big Gay Al's Big Gay Animal Shelter disco room, with multi-colored flicker, flashing lights all over the place? THOOPER!

Finally, now that the level is designed and the lights have been installed, you can now place all the items in your level. You don't have to do lights first, items next, that's just the way I do things. Items you can place around your map are: Player Starts(which can be team color specific), Team (Bag) Bases, weapons, health, armor, etc. As another general rule, I try to keep team bases/player starts and room light colors similar. In other words: The blue team's area has a nice blue glow to it, while the red team's area is nice and...yep, RED!

Once you place all of the items and you're satisfied with your map, load that puppy up and have fun killing your friends and bots in your ''creation''. If something doesn't ''feel right'' about the map, like a light is too dark or there are not enough weapons in the map, you can easily go back into the Map Maker Utility and tweak your map to your heart's content.

All's not perfect in Wonderland though. There is NO online support, which is more of a hardware issue than software. It would be nice to have you and your friends go up against a 4 guys from across the country, no beans here folks. Also, while creating a map, it limits you on how ''big'' the map can be. Not the actual physical size of the map, but more like a memory constraint. I guess this is just a memory management thing we have to deal with, but what I don't like is the fact that making a BASIC room using 16x16 floor tiles takes up 3 times the map memory as using a 16x16 pre-fabbed room! What's up with that? What if I don't wanna use the pre-fab room (with all it's weird architecture) and I just want to make a simple, empty room with the same dimensions? It costs me 3 times the memory space of my map?!? Doh!

Control *6*

It's no cakewalk at first getting used to the controls. Using them two doohickey knobs on the Sony controller to control your player is, at first, more mind-bendingly painful than trying to figure out the reason for Richard Simmons' existence. Of course, after a few play sessions, you will adapt to the control style and it won't be so bad. Controls are always a pain to figure out at first, but in the end, Time Splitters' controls suffice. Now where's my controller customization? Hmmm....

Replay Value *10*

Let's pretend the single player story mode does not exist, ok? If you have at least ONE friend (preferably 3) who enjoy playing mulitplayer FPS games, and you have at least an once of creativity in your cranium, this game will offer you unlimited replayability thanks to the great gameplay and the Map Making utility. Capishe?

Final Pros and Cons:

Pros:

- Best Multiplayer Console FPS out now, if you have a PS2, and you like this genre, get this game.
- No slowdown ever (in multiplayer), always cruises at a sweet 60 FPS!
- Create your own multiplayer maps using the Map Maker utility!

Cons:

- Control takes a bit of time to get accustomed to. Oh yeah, where's my Controller Configuration?
- No online multiplayer support. Stupid PS2. And yer trying to get people to consider you a ''computer'' over there in Europe?
- Strange Map Maker memory management. Sure, I ain't smart as no software engineer feller, but how comes a 5 by 5 block of single tiles takes up more memory than a HUGE 15 by 15 mega-base room? Nevermind, it's not like explaining it to me is gonna help remedy the problem!

Bottom Line: If I could only keep one game for my PS2 (I bought 7 of em), it would be this game. When the friends are over, you can waste hours blasting away bots or eachother. No friends around? Well, then have a blast creating you own levels for the next time they do show up! If this game didn't have the Map Maker utility, you can bet I woulda given an overall rating of around 5 or 6 tops. Thanks to an ingenious move by the folks at Eidos and Free Radical, the included Map Maker and practically flawless multiplayer execution propelled this game to MUST-BUY status! No perfect 10, just because there will always be a sequel...


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 11/02/00, Updated 11/02/00


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