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TimeSplitters 2 Review
game: TimeSplitters 2
five star
posted by: Jeremy Kauffman
date posted: 09:10 AM Fri Nov 8th, 2002
last revision: 04:40 AM Fri Sep 23rd, 2005

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TimeSplitters 2 is about as much fun as you can have in a First Person Shooter. The developers at Free Radical have created a sequel that expands upon what we loved about the first game and fixes nearly all of its problems. It goes the extra mile in every respect with a solid story, cooperative play, an almost infinitely customizable multiplayer mode, tons of challenges and mini-games, and an upgraded mapmaker. All that and I haven\'t even mentioned the psychotic, gun-toting monkeys. TS2 is quite simply one of the best games of the year.

First on Free Radical\'s agenda was to provide players with what they were lacking the first time around-a true story mode. The story has our heroes travelling through time collecting time crystals in order to defeat an evil race of aliens known as TimeSplitters. At first glance, this may seem a lot like the shallow \"run and fetch a crystal\" scenario of the first game. It is not. The game uses opening movies and cutscenes to tell the tale of mankind\'s last stand against the TimeSplitters. Each level contains a unique set of challenges that are specific to its time and place. The game is structured with three levels of difficulty, which operate much like FPS classics Goldeneye and Perfect Dark. Each level of difficulty adds new areas and objectives, as well as amping up the ferocity of your foes. In this way, the single player game remains fresh and challenging for at least a few times through. You also have the choice of playing through the story alone or with a friend in 2-player cooperative mode.

Okay, so maybe it doesn\'t rival Half-Life in terms of storytelling. Like its predecessor, TS2 is all about atmosphere. This isn\'t a wartime saga like HALO, or a bleak political thriller like Red Faction 2. TS2 is all camp and fun. Its story plays more like a sitcom than melodrama, and it works terrifically. The opening cinematic of the first level, which has you infiltrating a dam in Siberia, says it all. A couple of clumsy soldiers encounter a zombie in a cave. But rather than aiming for suspense and terror, it is like a scene out of Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein-lots of goofy expressions and scream takes. Never one to take itself too seriously or back away from a good gag, TS2 places as much emphasis on its clever sense of humor as it does on action set pieces.

TS2 makes good use of a premise that offers endless possibilities for gameplay. This is perhaps the only series of its kind that immerses you in a completely new time period, environment, and genre of storytelling in each level. One level has you fighting gangsters in prohibition era Chicago. Another has you dueling with six-shooters in the old west. Yet another has you infiltrating a futuristic robot factory in the year 2315. There are ten levels in all. Each time you enter a new time period, you occupy a new body. One of the pleasures of the game is not only discovering what crazy situation you are transporting into, and what challenges you face, but in whose body you will face them. The player one character is usually fairly normal. The player two character, on the other hand, is often a part of a challenge or comic relief. For instance, in the Wild West level player one\'s first challenge is to find the sheriff\'s office and break player two out of jail (a task requiring lots of stolen gunpowder and a cleverly devised igniter). On the comedic side, in the Aztec Ruins player one is a proper English explorer on safari while player two is the scantily clad Jungle Queen. It plays a bit like Richard Harris\' Parker to Bo Derek\'s perpetually nude Jane in that terrible 80\'s remake of Tarzan, the Ape Man--only this is intentionally funny.

Adding to the single player experience are the Arcade and Challenge Modes. In all, there are forty-five different mini-games and twenty-one challenges that, when beaten, unlock various characters, levels, game types, and cheats in the multiplayer game. Mini-games include things like Elimination, a last man standing scenario in which you and the computer controlled bots have a finite number of lives, and Leech, where you actually steal health from your opponents by shooting them. You can also set up custom Arcade matches to suit your tastes. The challenges are much like the ones available in the first game. In Glass Smash you try to shoot out as many windows as possible in a set amount of time; Behead the Undead is essentially target practice on zombies, et cetera.

If the single player and co-op experiences are robust, the multiplayer mode is a tour de force. This may very well be the most customizable multiplayer game ever created, far exceeding even that of the original. There are sixteen game types, beginning with usual fare such as Deathmatch and Capture the Flag, then growing as you unlock more stylish games like Elimination and Leech (described above), Shrink, Vampire, Thief, Regeneration, and more. I\'ll let you discover the stranger games for yourself. There are sixteen maps to unlock. Some are based on actual levels, others completely original. All are top notch in design and function. There are over one-hundred playable characters, some thirty-two weapons, and you can include up to ten bots of varying difficulty. Then there are the little things you control, like score limit, score method, time limit, radar, handicaps, powerups, the list goes on. You can even link up to eight consoles together for sixteen-player games (eight consoles with 2-way split screen or four consoles for 4-way split screen), but unlike HALO you can include bots in your TS2 LAN bash.

For even more variety, there is an enhanced Mapmaker that allows you to create your own multiplayer levels. This proved invaluable in the first game\'s longevity, and with more options than ever, TS2 should make players happy for the long run. This Mapmaker is more streamlined and user-friendly than the previous one. The piece preview makes all of the difference in the world. You should be up and creating stylin\' deathtraps in a matter of minutes.

The action in TS2 moves at a relentless pace. The game is fast and frenetic-a battle of reflex, skill, and firepower. Most of the weapons from the first title make a comeback. Among the many weapons added to the mix are the lasergun, whose secondary function is a shield; the plasma autorifle, which can launch a timed explosive that sticks to walls and enemies (much like plasma grenades in HALO); and the electrotool, which fries your enemies with a devastating, continuous bolt of electricity. There is the usual array of explosives as well. Making a more pronounced appearance this time, in the story and multiplayer modes, are the powerful stationary guns and computer controlled miniguns.

The graphics, aside from a few lackluster moments, are outstanding. The performance is rock solid-there is never any slowdown whatsoever, which is amazing for a game that roars along like TS2. Even in the multiplayer the visuals do not take a hit of any kind. Much improved from the last game are the lighting effects. Some of the sci-fi weapons are a light show unto themselves. In terms of style, TS2 takes the exaggerated cartoon look of the first game and goes wild. The series has always had a unique, zany approach and it works. We are talking about a game that counts among its playable characters cowboys, gangsters, robots, zombies, aliens, some scary women, a giant duck, a gingerbread man, and a monkey. A few of the effects could have come off better. The UFO invasion during the Escape from Planet X seems to be rushed, as the flying saucers fly unconvincingly and special effects like laser beams and explosions drop out for no reason. Moments like these are few, however.

The sound is, and I say this without hesitation, perfect. The music plays a key role in each level, creating the perfect tone for each time period. Some of the highlights include the gothic organ music of Notre Dame and a western score that would have made Sergio Leone jealous. The vocal effects are just as affecting. I am not necessarily talking about the voice acting, although the actors have a knack for accents and comic timing. What are better are the intonations such as the haunting groan of a zombie or the shrill laughter of a monkey.

Monkeys. They have been mentioned several times in this review, and for good reason. First of all, let me say that the monkeys in this game are deadly. They are small, hard to hit, and absolutely insane. Second, some of the best gameplay moments involve the little bastards. Put one in a multiplayer game as a 5-star bot (the most difficult setting), and you\'re in for it. Set up a capture the flag game with four players against ten monkeys, and I defy you to win. It\'s a lot of fun, though. There are even monkey mini-games and challenges. But the best of the bunch is a multiplayer game called Monkey Assistance. In this game, whenever the game gets a little lopsided, you will hear a rescue charge and several monkeys will teleport into the game--hellbent on killing the player in first place. On that player\'s HUD a monkey icon will appear, letting them know they\'re going to die. The whole spectacle is hilarious to watch: a group of heavily armed monkeys, rushing past all the other players in pursuit of the first place player. And the mayhem that ensues once they find that player is classic.

The differences in performance between the PS2 and Xbox versions are minimal. The load times are a bit shorter on the Xbox. However, there are two key differences, one favoring each system. In the PS2\'s corner, I liked the controls better. They work the same as any other FPS, but the PS2 has those two extra shoulder buttons, one of which brings up the targeting reticule. This makes for more precise run-and-gunning. On the Xbox version you have to press down on the right stick, which works, just not as well on the run. But if I had to recommend one or the other, I would go with the Xbox version for one reason: the hard drive. You can make as many multiplayer maps as you want with virtually no concern for storage space. That, to me, is a huge selling point.

TimeSplitters 2 has so much to offer: a great single player experience, cooperative gameplay, one of the greatest multiplayer modes around, a mapmaker, plus great visuals and sound. But most of all it is just plain fun. You will find yourself laughing out loud, I guarantee it. In fact, the only disappointing thing about the game is that the online support, which was promised early in its development, was sacrificed due to time constraints. This is truly unfortunate, as online play would have been amazing. Still, TS2 is destined to become one of the greatest FPS games that either the PS2 or Xbox will ever see. And it is unique enough in style and purpose that it can be played side by side with a slower, more precise game like HALO, and neither one will detract from the other. If you are a fan of the genre, you must own this game.