Review by King Broccoli
Oh no! The TimeSplitters are back! But let's face it, if anyone had the pleasure of playing the first instalment of the TimeSplitters series they'd know that these title characters proved to be the most useless of adversaries. It was as if they were added to the mix as an afterthought, in the game solely to give the single player mode a feeling of continuity. Well they're back anyway, and it appears that the 'Splitters have spent some serious time in the gym over the last couple of years or so. They're tough, they're pissed off, and they've brought with them a sequel actually harbouring a story of some kind!
The protagonists in this case are a couple of military types, Cortez and Hart, who are spearheading an attack on a Timesplitter ship. It appears that those pesky creatures want to control the human race, and they're planning to do so by sending their kind into the past, the present and the future to wrest control of the Earth from us. Spearheading the attack, Cortez travels through time, taking control of the shape of a local citizen and spearheading a Timesplitter destroyal movement. Free Radical has obviously learnt from its mistakes, giving the player a purpose, rather than telling them to ''grab a bag of bones and bring it back here''. It's a wise move, and one that can only serve to further plant the TimeSplitters movement as one of the foremost in the first-person shooting category.
This ''Story'' mode is comprised of 10 different levels, these stages harking back as far as the dangerous days of the Wild West and moving forward to encompass an exotic, alien-infested planet and an insidious robot factory. You'll generally be provided with a dire situation - the Notre Dame stage, for example, has the evil Jacque de La Morte kidnapping beautiful women and performing cruel experiments on them - and a protagonist eager to dish out retribution. Somewhere along the line the vital ''time crystal'' will show up and the Timesplitters will teleport in, eager to tighten their stranglehold on the Earth's history. On your journeys to the end you'll be called upon to engage in elements of stealth, puzzle solving and straight out blasting, each finding its appropriate spot in the midst of the action. The variety, body count and level of fun for this mode is undoubtedly high, and lends itself to multiple attempts.
Helping out with this replay value is three separate levels of difficulty. Trust me people, when this game says ''Hard'' then yo better believe it. The easiest two of the difficulties recquire mere perserverance to overcome, the tough one calls for perfection. Where an enemy might once have taken the time to line up his shot and often end up missing you completely, the Hard mode sees them turning into eagle-eyed bastards, not wasting any time with unneccessaries like aiming and just shooting you in the head instead. The herculean efforts that are called on to pass such a difficulty come from hours of practice, and they're undoubtedly hours that TimeSplitters is going to give you!
Story may be the showcase mode of this game, the one that the critics seek out most often in an attempt to rate the game, yet the majority of the hours that each player spends splitting time will most likely go elsewhere. Also included are the venerable ''Arcade'' and ''Challenge'' mode, single and multi player game types that throw structure out the window and focus more on skill and fun. The Challenge mode and Arcade League mode (arcade has been expanded into two parts in this chapter of the TimeSplitters saga) may just prove to be as testing as the Story, asking you to test your stealth, accuracy and cunning against the clock in multiple series' of tasks. Asking you to perform such functions as smashing glass windows, shooting clay monkeys or merely fending off death from a mob of flaming zombies, these sections of the game will constantly draw you back in an effort to better your latest time or score.
It's in the sections such as the Arcade Mode where the true spirit of the TimeSplitters games really shine through. It's much more than just another grave ''save the world or you'll be sorry!'' titles. TimeSplitters is all about sprinting through well designed levels at a blistering pace, wielding a rocket launcher and sending little bundles of fiery death in the direction of any moving creature. It's about action and fun rather than blood. You may suffer death after death after death, but chances are you'll be able to laugh them off. This mindless element of TimeSplitters works to brighten the mood of all involved, giving them the chance to just sink some bullets into some funny looking characters and forget about the world outside their television screens for a few hours. TimeSplitters is no more a shooting game than it is a way of life dammit!
It's impossible to try out this game without losing yourself in the Arcade Custom mode. This is where TimeSplitters 2 makes that all-important step from greatness to godliness. This is where your deathmatches and your capturing of bags are going to take place, this is where the speed and style of the game really comes to the fore. Giving you a wide selection of maps, each specifically tailored to gel comfortably with the Arcade way of life, and a mind-boggling choice of game styles, Arcade Custom is going to keep you busy for weeks on end. Shooter purists will be at home with the usual inclusion of the deathmatch, team deathmatch and bag capturing games, but we've been given so much more! Modes such as ''gladiator'' (only the designated gladiator can score) and ''thief'' (kills accumulate by raiding the bodies of fallen foes) breath new life into the deathmatch way of life, whilst the ''asault'' and ''zones'' provide a more strategic, Unreal style facet to the game. And nobody, and I mean nobody, has truly lived a day in their lives until they experience the craziness of ''monkey assistant'', the levels continuously filling with monkeys to aid the weaker parties involved in the game. Yes sir, their may be plenty of apes involved, but in no way does TimeSplitters 2 do any aping of any other titles out there.
Actual skirmishes between competing players have become more balanced. The original TimeSplitters saw great rewards for head shots, with this type of accuracy and certain weapons giving players the ability to dominate entire games. These days a kill is more likely to come from a more frantic and forceful attack, with sheer brutality and non-stop punishment proving to be more effective. This will most likely come as a shock to the system of fans of the original, but with time it proves to be a fairer, more challenging style of play.
If I may change the subject for a minute, the flair of this game transcends the gameplay, and moves into the design elements as well. Graphically it's a treat, displaying clear, sharp surroundings that make it even easier to pinpoint an opponent and blast him into the netherworld. The game moves at a cracking pace, yet it is always simple enough to tell whats going on. Never does the pace and size of the game prove to be disorienting, it's always easy to feel in control of what's going on.
The sound is a little less accomplished, yet still great in its own right. Although there are a fair share of music tracks, each suitably crafted for its own particular level, the music is often sacrificed for the sake of atmosphere. I consider this a wise move, if I'm about to let off a vital sniper-rifle shot then I'd rather a haunting silence hanging over my head rather than a predictable techno beat. The sound effects are convincing enough, furthering the feel of the game with their two-pronged attack of ferocity and zaniness. As a whole this sound package manages to complement the rest of the game nicely.
Believe me, Free Radical have managed to combine all of these sumptious elements to make one of the most essential PS2 releases in recent times. TimeSplitters 1 gave us multiplayer entertainment in spades, now this sequel has expanded on that on top of providing some scintillating single player action. It'll take up countless hours of your time, and once its impressive lifespan does come to an end you'll look back fondly over the time you've spent in the company of the monkeys, ducks, Elvis impersonators and countless other oddball characters that make this game so memorable.
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 03/01/03, Updated 03/01/03
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