Review by BloodGod65

"Time Tripping with Cortez"

Back in the days of the Playstation 2, online multiplayer was still in its infancy and the primary way for people to play together involving being in the same room and sharing the same television. So it was strange that Free Radical released Timesplitters, a first person shooter that focused on multiplayer action in the vein of Unreal Tournament, exclusively for the Playstation 2. Although critically well received, Free Radical has decided to make the sequel more accessible to the masses by introducing a more substantial single-player mode, while keeping the wacky humor of the original intact.

Timesplitters involves a group of time traveling aliens known as, appropriately enough, the Timesplitters. These aliens are bent on stealing artifacts known as time crystals so they can… do… something nefarious, no doubt. As Cortez, you must travel time and recover the crystals so you can keep the Timesplitters from doing… whatever it is they plan on doing.

As you might be able to tell, the whole story thing isn't really fleshed out. It's basically just a bare framework that gives an excuse for a series of unique and totally unrelated missions in vastly different locales. But that's okay, because it still ends up being pretty fun.

The areas players will encounter are remarkably unique. From an alien planet inspired by the science fiction movies of the fifties, to a Notre Dame overrun by zombies, a Russian Cold War base (also with zombies), Prohibition era Chicago, the Wild West, and a Blade Runner style Tokyo, the levels all have their own unique feel. Each level also has its own different objectives and weapons that feel appropriate for the setting.

For instance, in the Wild West, you'll be using revolvers and shotguns. One of the objectives has you using kegs of gunpowder to blast a hole through a prison wall for an impromptu jailbreak. In one sixties-era spy movie styled level, you'll be attempting to thwart an evil villain's plans for world domination as a self-destruct timer counts down. The end result is a game that feels like it contains several unique, pint-sized games crammed onto a single disc.

However, as a shooter Timesplitters doesn't really stand the test of time. There are just some things a shooter needs to have to work properly, such as a targeting reticule and free range of movement. Timeplitters has neither. While I can appreciate Free Radical's attempt to create a HUD-less screen, the lack of a targeting reticule ultimately makes it hard to hit enemies in a firefight. Although you can bring up a reticule by pressing a button, this also zooms in the screen, slows down screen scrolling, and keeps the player from moving around. Not exactly the best idea.

The other big problem is the snap-back aiming system. If you're trying to aim at something not at eye level – say, there's an enemy on a balcony - the view snaps back to center immediately after releasing the analog stick. There's no option to disable this infuriating feature, so you're forced to keep pressure on the analog stick if you want to keep aiming at a target. Again, bad idea.

Apart from the story mode, there is a wealth of extra content to be had. In addition to multiplayer, you can play through the arcade mode, which is really just a gauntlet of dozens of bot-matches and challenges. Contrary to the normal perception of bot-matches, these are actually pretty fun. There are numerous event types, from the basic deathmatch to more creative things like virus mode, which has a single person on fire. As that person runs around and touches other people, the virus spreads. The last person standing wins. There are more events – far too many to detail in this review – but they're all creative and entertaining.

Some of these arcade challenges aren't bot matches at all. One tournament puts you in different areas and makes you break every pane of glass in the entire level while a time counts down. One of my personal favorites puts the player in a small room with several entrances and a continuous supply of zombies trying to get in. You've got to ward them off for as long as possible using nothing more than a double barreled shotgun. Regardless of what type of event you're playing, beating a challenge unlocks new character skins and further challenges.

The map-maker feature can also keep you busy for a while. Although not nearly as in-depth as what you'll find nowadays, it still lets you put together some interesting maps to play on. There are different room layouts and various skins. You also have the ability to play with lighting effects, weapon locations, and spawn points.

Unlike the outdated shooter elements, Free Radical's visual style remains fresh and vibrant even now. With a brightly colored, highly stylized cartoonish approach, the game's visuals have held up remarkably well in the intervening years. The audio, however has not. While the music is still nice, the various sound effects – from guns firing to objects being hit – are very poor. Most of the weapon effects sound like they are emanating from a cheap department store pop gun and the sound of your character being hit is hilariously bad. It sounds more like someone being cracked in the head with a two by four than someone getting shot.

Although Timesplitters 2 was a good game for its time the poor shooting mechanics make the whole thing more frustrating than it should be. Even though its quirky charm remains intact, this – like most console first person shooters of the era – is a game best remembered rather than experienced again.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 08/15/11

Game Release: TimeSplitters 2 (US, 10/08/02)

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