Review by danwheeler

"As much fun as a barrel full of monkeys, you can even play as one"

So you think you like first person shooters, huh? No you don’t, not really. Until you’ve played Timesplitters 2 you don’t even know what first person shooters are.

It’s ironic that the word ''variety'' doesn’t have as many synonyms as you might think. Diversity, variation, heterogeneity is what you get by the bucketful. Weapons, options, characters; it’ll make your head spin.

First off I curse my inability to take full advantage of the bountiful multiplayer options. If you have three friends, a multitap and a PS2, you may never need to buy another game until the PS5 comes out. You can recreate just about any multiplayer FPS experience you’ve ever had using the almost ridiculous number of characters paired with either the inspired selection of existing maps or, better yet, make your own with the exhaustive mapmaker. You’ve got every standard feature and scenario you’ve come to expect along with more than a few twists you’d have never thought of yourself.

Graphically, Timesplitters achieves that elusive balance of graphics that impress yet never detract from or (heaven forfend!) slow down the frenzy of gameplay. Character models are so expressive you’ll mistake these artful caricatures for breathing human beings (yes, even the robots and the aliens). Story sequences are all generated using the in game models and blow the doors off of every game’s rendered FMV this side of Square. Too bad there aren’t that many of them; they’re too short and too sweet. I wouldn’t expect to see the subtlety of acting equaled anytime soon. When was the last time a CG actor made your jaw drop by shifting his cigar from one side of his mouth to the other?

Story mode is a collection of ten radically original and schizophrenically different levels held together by a negligible ''story.'' The disappointment at the absence of a genuine story is similarly negligible. This mode serves as a showcase for the cornucopia of environments and overwhelming choice of weaponry. The ten levels span almost two hundred years and there’s not a blocky hallway or bland texture to find in either century. Many are spoofs or homages of films, the Blade Runner level alone will make you wet your pants.

Most of the meat of the single player experience lies in the sixty-six boards in the arcade and challenge modes which range from breaking windows with bricks to chomping bananas pseudo-Pac Man style. The majority serve as a sort of single player version of the many multiplayer modes, you get to test drive and hone your skills in virus, elimination and team modes as well as a host of others. It seems tailor made for the I’ve-only-got-fifteen-minutes-but-I-wanna-play-something gaming fix except you’ll more like catch a dose of just-one-more-game-itis and miss your appointment by an hour. Not all of the explanations of what you’re supposed to do to win these challenges are very clear which can be frustrating.

The one problem I had with Timesplitters 2 is the dreaded brick wall effect. If you are the omnipotent God of first person shooters you can skip to the next paragraph. All the rest of us will reach a level a little too hardcore for us, a level we’ll never be able to complete unless we quit our jobs to play Timesplitters ten hours a day. I hit the brick wall on the last level of Team Series A and consequently never saw about half of the arcade levels. It doesn’t let you open up the next library of arcade levels unless you’ve completely every single one in the previous library. And that’s a shame because that’s the last thing you remember about the game: that disappointment. You play it for hours and hours and have a great time and then get sucker punched by a level that mercilessly chews you up and spits you out. The only dark spot on an otherwise flawless experience.

With Timesplitters 2, gameplay is key. The controls are spot on perfect. The replay value is through the roof thanks to the wealth of multiplayer options and a horde of unlockables. The overall impact is this is a smooth and seamless game. The unfortunate brick wall effect and some woefully insufficient mission briefings might keep all but the hardcore away but there’s plenty of FPS love here for all us softcore folks, too.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 10/28/02, Updated 10/28/02

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