Review by clarkisdark

"Time Wasters"

It is no shy fact that Goldeneye 007 for the Nintendo 64 was a very fun and groundbreaking first-person shooter. In lesser known trivia, the team responsible for Goldeneye left Rare and formed their own company, Free Radical. Under this moniker, the team continues its flawless FPS design with the Timesplitters series. Nintendo may have missed out on the first, but Timesplitters 2 is to the Gamecube what Goldeneye was to the N64. Yes, it's that good.

First-person shooters seem to stress realism and fancy-pants graphics. Very seldom does a shooter stretch into anything else, like XIII did with its comic-book design. Timesplitters does feature a rough and generic 3D-rendered world, but the characters are exaggerated and over-the-top to the point where they are almost cartoon-like. This I like. The game also boasts a good framerate that can even hold up against four-player split screen with several bots running around. Though Timesplitters doesn't try to hide the load times, they're quick enough to be excusable.

First-person shooters aren't exactly where I look when I need a fix of cool and diverse music. The soundtrack of Timesplitters 2 is that, however. Because the game spans so many locations, the tracklist has a little of everything: heavy industrial, creepy circus music, neo-techno, Siberian melodrama, and Western. It's the best music I've heard in a FPS yet. Like any other good shooter, the sound effects match perfectly to create a more subtly realistic world.

Being very Goldeneye in nature, Timesplitters' levels follow a list of goals (which change with each difficulty) you have to meet to complete the mission. Timesplitters, then, isn't the usual run from start to finish. You often times have to sneak, explore, puzzle, and fight your way down alternate paths through the game's wide array of different locales. As the name suggests, Timesplitters is not limited to any one era. You will traverse snow-covered Siberia, old-timey Western towns, haunted cathedrals, and space stations, to name a few. The levels can be quite long, but this isn't a bad thing as there are occasionally one or two checkpoints. For those who like their non-stop carnage, there is plenty of that, too. While you will never face a whole army at once, there is always a present threat, and the large list of weapons goes hand-in-hand with the themes of the levels, from Tommy guns to charge-up lasers.

If the adventure mode isn't too enthralling, there are plenty of single-player challenges to tackle. The variety of challenges is very refreshing. There are certainly those which are just emulated deathmatches where you have to win, but other challenges are a little more intricate: make it to the end of a "level" within a time limit, stay inside a small radius while wiping out all the approaching enemies, snipe the watermelons off the heads of marching monkeys, kill so many enemies before time runs out, and so on.

The Gamecube controller really isn't fit for the FPS genre. The skimpy and remote D-pad, ill-fitting Z button, and awkwardly placed C-stick make it hard to play in the first-person view without a lot of hassle. You can customize the controls any way you like, but Timesplitters still takes some getting used to. Once you've made it that far, however, everything is okay. The controls are quick and responsive and should remind you of the better days of the N64.

Timesplitters 2 is no easy romp. I had to retry the first level several times before beating it on Normal. The game really does change drastically depending on which difficulty is selected, and the later levels on Normal and Hard can be nasty. It's not difficult in the sense that it's purely frustrating. It's difficult in the sense that every time you lose, you say to yourself, "Okay, I did that wrong. One more time..." And you end up finally beating it on your tenth try, hands tensed and brow sweating. Again, this is paying homage to Goldeneye. The challenges, on the other hand, do start to feel unfair. For instance, one challenge pits you in a small room against a never-ending onslaught of zombies. All you have to defend yourself are your bare hands. Challenging? Certainly. Too much? Most likely.

Lasting Appeal:
The list of unlockables is truly remarkable. There are so many characters, levels, and cheats to unlock, it's almost overbearing. All of these can be opened by completing the adventure mode or challenges under certain conditions. It will surely take you days to break down the massive character list, and there will always be those challenges that border on near impossible and require twenty retries. Even if you don't manage to unlock everything, Timesplitters 2 is still one of the best multiplayer games available for the Gamecube. For starters, the entire adventure can be played co-op with another person, a welcome addition for those harder settings. If that wasn't enough, the four-player deathmatch mode is absolutely customizable. The smooth framerate, quick feel, frantic level design, and tactical weapons make this game a must-have for anyone with friends. You can even add in several AI bots on different difficulty levels! Lastly, Free Radical has also put in a map editor to make your own multiplayer arenas, though the inclusion is more novel than it is practical. The editor only lets you arrange pre-determined "rooms" in a cohesive manner. It's fun to play around with, but you probably won't ever make a truly breathtaking map.

Whether you have friends or not doesn't matter. You must buy this game. The expansive and demanding challenges of the one-player mode are only outdone by the game's amazingly brilliant multiplayer deathmatches. No online mode? Who cares! Timesplitters 2 is a fine first-person shooter that does everything right and is one of the best games available for the Nintendo Gamecube. Don't miss out.

+ Smooth, refined FPS
+ Great challenge
+ Total customization
+ Extras galore
+ Fantastic multiplayer
-- Mastering controls can be difficult

Score: 10/10

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 01/10/05

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