Review by The Vic Viper
"A lack of originality keeps this game from being great"
TimeSplitters 2 is the sequel to TimeSplitters, a PS2 game from Free Radical. The latest edition in the series was developed for all three consoles simultaneously. TS2 is a first-person shooter where you go throughout time to stop an alien race from destroying the human race. This game feels a lot like a copy other games, such as Golden Eye, Medal of Honor, and Perfect Dark, but it does not live up to the greatness of those three games.
The single player of TS2 is far from innovative. It is setup in the standard FPS fashion, you select your mission from a menu, and as you complete other missions, more will open. In each mission you get your objectives handed to you and then you must complete them to finish the mission, or get new objectives. It might have worked years ago, when FPS games on consoles were limited to a few lackluster PC ports, but now that companies like Rare and Bungie have redefined what a quality console FPS is, TS2’s main game just doesn’t bring anything new to the table.
You play as a squad of soldiers who travel back through time to combat an alien race that is attempting to destroy humanity by destroying their history. The basic premise of TS2 is the same as almost every videogame and movie involving aliens, and sadly, the plot does not get much thicker than that. The storyline is almost as shallow as the original Doom games. Shallow stories worked for Doom because it was one of the first of its kind and did not have much competition, but TS2 is competing against FPS games such as Halo and Perfect Dark, which have much more developed plots. Of course, the storyline is by no means as important a factor in overall quality as gameplay, but the story is completely stereotypical and could have been greatly improved with little effort.
You travel to a wide variety of time periods, and in each period you have unique weapons, environments, and goals. Despite the variety in time periods, a lot of the periods are clichéd or some what unimaginative. One of the best levels, with the most variety of strategies and goals, is the first level, which means that the game starts off great and then looses its greatness fairly quickly.
The controls are acceptable for the most part, mostly because they are completely customizable. The default settings are not very well done, but can easily be fixed by spending a few minuets settings them to your preference. One major issue with this game is the lack of a cross hair to target enemies with. This would be highly effective since the accuracy of your weapons leave something to be desired. The main reason that the control scheme seems so lacking is that TS2 was made for three different consoles simultaneously, and as a result Free Radical had to keep the control scheme basic enough to work on three different controllers. Like pretty much all FPS games, the Xbox controllers are the best suited, and with the customization you can get used to the controls fairly quickly.
TS2 is not the most difficult game ever, nor is it the easiest. There are several difficulty settings to choose from, however even the hardest mode can be completed with enough practice. The enemy’s IQ is somewhat below par, and is badly compensated for by placing a large number of foes in the area at the same time. Unfortunately, fifteen dumb opponents are not the same as three smart ones. The levels are shorter than other games, and there are relatively few of them, so it ends up not being the most challenging of games. Arcade Mode does have pretty good bots, so that would be the best place to go for a challenge.
What TS2 lacks in level design it makes up (or at least tries to) with a vast array of playable characters and weapons. Almost ever time period has specific weapons and enemies from that era. Weapons include the usual machine guns, pistols, sniper rifles, etc, for the past and present eras, which fit into the level very well, but are nothing new. The levels that take place in the future are a bit more creative, and yet not creative enough. Like the level designs, every weapon leaves you with the feeling you’ve seen it before.
One redeeming aspect of the single player side is that aside from the main game there is the Arcade and Challenge Modes, which are a variety of mini-games. Challenge Mode is a collection of single-player missions that consist of a limited objective such as defending an area or reaching a specific target. Arcade mode is also done in the single player; however they are Leagues where you play matches with bots. Progressing through Arcade and Challenge games will unlock other features, especially for Arcade Custom.
Arcade Custom is basically a fully customizable Arcade match. As you complete more Challenge and Arcade games you will unlock more customizations, until you have complete control over your Arcade match. All of the arcade games are similar to deathmatch games for other FPS games, though the customization is much more complete and easier to use. Unlike other deathmatch games you cannot simply jump into deathmatching against the computer, you are forced to play through the other modes first. For those who enjoy the other modes this will not be a problem, but others will prefer Arcade Custom and end up wishing they didn’t have to do the rest first.
Without a doubt the biggest appeal of TS2 is the multiplayer aspect. TS2 has a co-op mode where players must work together to finish the game. Co-op mode plays through the same game as the single player mode, with no new enemies or weapons added. This is not to say that playing with two people cuts the difficulty in half, because it doesn’t. The fact that you have the same weapons and ammo as the single player mode means you will have to ration your items and work together when you need a certain weapon, but only one exists.
For players who prefer to hunt down and kill there friends, rather than playing together nicely, there are also deathmatches. With fifteen different maps included and a wide variety of rules, there is enough to keep up to players busy for quite a while. Like Halo, TimeSplitters 2 allows deathmatch games to be played over the Xbox’s System-Link with up to sixteen players. What makes the multiplayer different than Halo is that TS2 can have up to twelve bots (AI controlled characters than simulate human players) at once, letting people play massive multiplayer games even if they don’t have enough people.
There are huge number of playable characters to select from; over a hundred once they are all unlocked. This does add a lot of variety to the game, but as with the weapon variety, Free Radical attempts to compensate for limited originality with sheer numbers. There is a bunch of different types of characters from aliens to robots and from cowboys to futuristic soldiers. There are several different characters in each group, but there is a lack of variety within each group.
Played through all of the areas and games? Then make your own area maps using the included map maker. While you will not be able to make the most amazing arenas ever, the map maker does include a wide variety of tools and options, with fairly intuitive controls.
Like so many other aspects of TS2, the graphics and sound effects are more than acceptable, but are nothing new. TS2 has vastly superior graphics than the original TimeSplitters, and the Xbox version is much better looking than the other two consoles, both of which should be expected. The levels, while unoriginal, are textured nicely and have very good lighting effects. There isn’t the microscopic attention to every little detail, but that keeps the game running at a very smooth frame rate. The lack of graphical problems is well worth the sacrifice of individual raindrops. The character models are also designed well, but like the levels, lack a lot of textures.
The music isn’t TS2’s strong point, but it doesn’t detract from the game very much. The soundtrack is acceptable, and could have been much worse, but it could have also been much better. The music is more a matter of taste than technical analysis; so many people may like it. There are no audio problems; it is just a matter of the music not fitting perfectly into the game. The sound effects on the other hand are very well done. Every action in the game has a corresponding sound effect that is very well chosen. The voice acting is very well done with each voice being appropriate for the character and synchronized to the graphics.
TimeSplitters 2 has a lot of multiplayer replayability due to the map maker feature and wide variety of options. The single player does lack replayability, but with the number of games in Challenge and Arcade mode, playing though once will take a fair amount of time.
The long single player mode has one major flaw, which is that it is hard to get into the game because many of the best features are locked at the beginning. At first I was not impressed at all by this game, and I had to give the game a serious second chance for me to find its redeeming features.
Besides the lack of originality there are a couple of things that held TimeSplitters 2 back from getting an 8 or 9 out of 10 for its score, but were not completely under Free Radical’s control. The first is that it is a multi-console game which meant that the Xbox’s major advantages could not be fully used. Had it been an Xbox exclusive (or developed for the Xbox first and then ported) perhaps the game would have used the hard drive’s memory caches better or have had Live multiplayer.
TimeSplitters 2 is by no means a bad game, and had it not had a lot of competing FPS games, especially on the Xbox, it would be highly recommended. The two biggest problems with TS2 is that there is nothing that hasn’t been done before and everything that TS2 does well, other games do better. While playing TS2 (especially the single player game) it is hard to not to notice what could have been, not what is. As a result there is no really good reason to say you should get this game rather than another FPS.
People who are diehard FPS fans or ones who enjoyed the first TimeSplitters would probably enjoy this one as well. Everything from the original game has been significantly improved upon. As for everyone else, if you can get this game reasonably cheap and don’t go in expecting the next Halo/Golden Eye/Perfect Dark/etc, then this game can be enjoyable, especially for multiplayer.
Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 06/02/03, Updated 04/06/04
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