Review by sirloinestake
"The best FPS of all time. A must-play for every gamer"
Picture the scene. You're alone in a dark corridor, completely unarmed. You've used the last of your arsenal, and the silence is becoming deafening. As you turn the corner, you are suddenly assaulted by a dinosaur, a floating snowman and a hand with matchstick limbs, who in turn pummel you with a salvo of remote mines. Left with no choice you run towards the two closest to you as an almighty explosion destroys you, every person around you, and a couple of proximity mines. And what do you do? Dust yourself off, reclaim a cache of mines and get to work as your friends are still recovering from a fit of the giggles. Welcome, friends, to the mad world that is TimeSplitters 2.
The above scenario is one of my fondest gaming memories. Nothing beats the adrenaline of having four people crowded around a tiny television in the corner of a room, and while the first game in the series allowed this experience in spades, TimeSplitters 2 upped the ante, as every single element of the first game is improved in some way or another. In turn, the game was critically praised by pretty much everybody, and is still held up as one of the finest first-person-shooters you can buy. This will be a full, in depth analysis on why this game is so good, and why it continues to be in my active rotation of games I still play. The version I played was the PS2 version, but it was also released on Xbox and GameCube; each version has minimal differences, however.
PLOT/STORYMODE: As I stated in my TimeSplitters review, what makes the series stand out is that it doesn't need to rely on a plot to entertain gamers: it's the multiplayer that people are really interested in. Nevertheless, Free Radical actually decided to give some sort of context to the game by adding some semblance of a plot, but nothing too fancy. It's the year 2401, and humanity itself is on the brink. An alien race called the TimeSplitters are using artefacts known as the time crystals to travel into Earth's past in order to change the course of history and bring about the human race's destruction. Sergeant Cortez and Corporal Hart are sent out as Earth's last hope: retrieve the time crystals from each era plagued by the alien threat, including 1920's Chicago and near-future Tokyo, and destroy their spacestation. To do so, Cortez takes the form of a key figure in that timeline.
While the plot isn't anything special, the single player campaign is excellent. With a choice of three difficulty settings, every player has the opportunity to beat the game, but there are benefits to mastering the game. You can unlock new arcade maps, characters and cheats for general use, with the prizes for besting Hard Mode being pretty special. The difficulty spike for the hardest setting is quite steep; in that sense, it is reminiscent of GoldenEye 007's 00 Agent setting, quite apt as the same development team are behind the games. Every time-period has its own story, involving new and old characters; Harry Tipper is attempting to best the villainous Khallos, while Captain Ash is involved in discovering the secrets of the Aztec empire. While nothing spectacular, it adds a little bit of colour to the game, and it doesn't distract too much. Apart from the secret mini-games. They really DO distract.
GRAPHICS: I remember clearly a reviewer in a British gaming magazine stating that the graphics in TimeSplitters 2 are a little too French'. I'm not entirely sure what was meant by that, as the graphics are a definite step up from the original game. Much like that instalment, however, there is absolutely no lag, which is incredible given the sheer speed and detail in the action, especially considering how many bullets can be fired (say hello, Electrotool). Every weapon looks authentic, every level is lush and gorgeous, and every character has a unique graphical trait; definitely not French. The menus are beautiful and easy to navigate, with everything screaming user-friendly'. One criticism I would give though is that, while there is no slowdown, the backgrounds sometimes refuse to load, while other levels can be filled with glitches; this is especially true of the Chasm and Training Ground arcade levels. These are few and far between, however, and is a mere nitpick given how well the graphics work in the game as a whole. Top marks.
SOUND: Composer Greame Norgate was joined in the soundtrack's creation by British electronica act Goteki. The result? One of the best gaming soundtracks of all time. Each level's accompanying track is absolutely appropriate; the Nightclub sounds like a 1920's disco-hall, the Scrapyard a mess of techno and scraping metal. Each track is lovingly crafted, and nothing feels out of place. Goteki's contribution, Goteki TS2 Remix, is a fantastic track in itself: select it as your in-game music and you already feel the blood coursing through your veins. And on that note, you can even select from Norgate's back catalogue from the original TimeSplitters. Such a breadth of musical joy cannot be overlooked. The sound effects are also much improved, with each gun given a much meatier sound, losing the original's tinny nature. I could go on, but I think the score will speak for itself. A masterpiece.
GAMEPLAY/CONTROL: And then we come to what we are looking for in any game: how well does it play? Well, put it this way; the control is absolutely outstanding. Seriously, you cannot get better. Every move of the joypad is fully responsive, every bullet you shoot feeling organic. I have to make reference to it again: the speed. Perhaps it's a little too fast for some, but for me it is absolute perfection, especially for a multiplayer game.
In terms of game modes, there is an absolute raft to choose from. Classic Deathmatch and Capture the Bag modes make reappearances, along with a huge range of new ones. Standouts include Virus (be the last in the game not to be infected), Elimination (a last man standing event) and Monkey Assistant (the team in last gets some monkey helpers). Yet again, every multiplayer match is fully customisable, with a choice of five weapon slots and 10 bots available, each with their own stats. Having such control means no two games are exactly the same.
Weaponry is *slightly* worse than in the original TimeSplitters, but only just. While we lose the blunderbuss and the uzi, we gain the powerhouse SPB90 and Plasma Autorifle. Every weapon, be it pistols, rocket launchers or grenades, has its strengths and weaknesses; mix them up and enjoy the show. With all that over, select your character: over 100 characters are available, from classic TimeSplitters characters to new ones to the slightly dull ones (why have over 20 soldier bots? Seriously). And when all that is done, you can choose from a wide variety of classic maps.
But naturally, the game is not all about multiplayer. Challenge Mode makes a comeback in a much improved format, while the arcade league is basically an excuse to force you to unlock further levels and characters. But what about your all important progress? An all new statistics page lays bare your triumphs, with all gamers striving for the coveted 100% mark. When that's done, what then? A whole host of cheats are at your disposal, making an already hilarious game even greater. This is the pinnacle of gameplay. I cannot say any more than that.
OVERALL: I have been a gamer for a long time, but I cannot remember a game that has given me more joy than this one. Yes, it has some flaws. But doesn't every game? TimeSplitters 2 is, quite rightly, a gaming masterpiece, and a game that ensures Free Radical Design's legacy remains untouchable. Just watch Shaun of the Dead to get proof of that.
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 08/12/13
Game Release: TimeSplitters 2 (EU, 10/18/02)
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