Hello all! Last week, we looked at a game that’s original and great despite being cobbled together from pre-existing parts.
Today brings us a game with a hell of a legacy.
TimeSplitters 2 (which was in the gaming news recently) is a PS2/GameCube/Xbox FPS developed by Free Radical Design, a now-defunct company I’ve mentioned before, made of key developers of GoldenEye and Perfect Dark. Released in 2002, TS2 was, of course, the sequel to the original TimeSplitters, a PS2 exclusive that was...it was pretty good, but it lacked the structure that TS2 had; it was more arcade-like, in that you chased high scores and fast completion times over story. Anyway, TS2 is a game about traveling to different time periods in order to grab Time Crystals in order to stop the titular TimeSplitters (aliens) from changing time to win a war against humanity.
Not the deepest plot, but this game isn’t about plot. The overarching plot is there mainly to (loosely) tie together the different time periods and characters, and that’s where TS2 shines brilliantly. As Sgt. Cortez from the year 2401, you travel to 1990, 1931, 1895, etc., assuming the roles of different characters from the time period and using period-appropriate weapons. There’s ten levels, and honestly, it’s not enough.
First, the gameplay. TimeSplitters was a good start, but TS2 is essentially, in terms of gameplay, the successor to GoldenEye and Perfect Dark. The controls are exactly the same, the weapon balancing is similar...hell, it’s even got the same reload animation as GoldenEye. But it’s more than superficial stuff, like the health/armor meters being the same. It’s also in the level design; the first level is a Russian dam in an obvious GoldenEye reference, but I’m talking more about the level structure itself, and the objective-based difficulty (higher difficulty means more objectives in the mission), the latter being sadly absent from games today.
Perhaps games are more complicated and open than TS2 is, but there was something special and unique in these levels. They’re somewhere between “believable area” and “video game level,” definitely leaning more towards the latter, but having enough flavor to not feel like a series of empty corridors. There’s more...character, I think, in level design like this; I love realistic level design as well, but that wouldn’t fit in a game like TS2, really. It’s all about that retro GoldenEye/Perfect Dark feel, and the developers nail it, having created those two classic, highly influential titles. The game overall feels just like playing N64 again, except you have a second analog stick, which is nice.
But my favorite part of TS2 is the characters. See, every level in the game, as you know, takes place in a different time period and area. You play as a different character in each (okay, Cortez taking different forms, but still) and you play through their story. In short, you get to experience ten stories instead of one, and it’s like...oaky, so one level takes place in 1895 in Notre Dame cathedral, where you play as Viola, a woman dressed in a jester outfit, and shoot zombies on your quest to rescue maidens from an Evil Guy named Jacque de la Morte. I mean, there’s a whole media franchise there, or at least one awesome game.
And every level is like that. There’s a Wild West one; at one point, you push a carriage full of TNT to a wall, then light a trail of gunpowder Looney Tunes-style to blow it up. When I first played this in high school, I thought this was the coolest damn thing ever. Hell, it’s still pretty rad. There’s a cyberpunk level, a Prohibition-era Chicago level (you have to shoot barrels of whisky to drain them, and you need to shoot them at the bottom so they drain all the way—another cool detail), and so on. No two levels feel the same, thanks to the plot’s time-travel mechanic.
Character art is oozing with charm, having a very exaggerated cartoon look, and the music is awesome; it’s composed by the same person that did GoldenEye, Perfect Dark, Jet Force Gemini, and even the original Killer Instinct. There’s a variety of tracks present, all of which simultaneously draw attention to themselves and fit perfectly in the background of the levels.
And then there’s a robust multiplayer suite, though it’s “only” split-screen. I’m more into old-school multiplayer than online play, but that’s a story for another time. Anyway, being basically a new GoldenEye, TS2 features a huge variety of competitive and co-op options that’ll keep you busy for hours. My younger brother and I spent an awful lot of time playing both modes, and that’s one of my fondest gaming memories.
In case you didn’t get it from this article, TimeSplitters 2 is the best thing ever. I’m really feeling the nostalgia after revisiting it this past week; I don’t have a single bad memory playing this game. It’s a masterpiece, and...I really don’t think I want a modern take on the franchise. While I still love this game, I feel like it wouldn’t translate well with today’s modern gaming trends (which is not to say modern gaming is “better” or “worse,” it’s just different). Aside from an HD port along the lines of Perfect Dark’s remaster, which I would play the hell out of.
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Next week brings us a game based on a comic book starring a green guy.