Time Splitters Hands-On

We played quite a bit of Time Splitters, Free Radical Design's upcoming first-person shooter, at publisher Eidos' offices yesterday afternoon, and it has left us with some very concrete impressions of the game.

We played quite a bit of Time Splitters, Free Radical Design's upcoming first-person shooter, at publisher Eidos' offices yesterday afternoon, and it has left us with some very concrete impressions of the game. By focusing on multiplayer combat, Time Splitters allows for some truly maddening firefights, which all take place on grand environments that are populated by some truly zany characters.

Though all the modes that Eidos demonstrated seemed to possess their share of fun, none impressed us as much as the game's multiplayer mode. And with good reason: According to Eidos, all the other modes will play second-fiddle and will serve solely as a means by which to unlock extra features - character models and such - in the multiplayer mode.

The multiplayer mode is fairly cut-and-dried in presentation. Prior to the matches, you and your opponents select your characters, after which player one will set the parameters for the match such as number of kills needed to win, the weapons and bots present, and the arena in which it'll all go down. Since the game is being developed to resemble, aesthetically, a series of B-movies, all manner of odd characters and stages are present - from '70s cop-show detectives to aliens and robots - and they are inhabiting places like expansive gothic cathedrals, spooky graveyards, and otherworldly spacecrafts. Some of the battles you'll engage in will prove to be truly absurd: Imagine a muscular, daunting space alien running and gunning around a venerable temple and shooting at you with a blunderbuss, and you'll surely agree.

From a gameplay perspective, most importantly, everything unfolds rather well. During the single-player mode, the action was flowing at upward of 60 frames per second, and, even during the four-player, split-screen matches, the frame rate remained quite healthy and never took a substantial blow. Indeed, even with five bots in the arenas and four players blasting away at each other, the game remained wonderfully playable and technically intact.

The game's other modes seemed functional enough, though rather single-minded in flavor. Unlike the intricate, multifaceted construct an FPS level has evolved into, Time Splitters' levels remain rather geared toward the mowing down of bodies, with the occasional key-fetch objective thrown in for good measure. Single-player and two-player co-op modes are included, both of which play wonderfully from a technical standpoint.

The game also includes a level editor, which, when demonstrated, seemed quite easy to use, versatile, and fun. Arenas with up to eight floors can be constructed, and there are a variety of texture sets with which to decorate the arenas. All manner of factors can be tweaked - from weapon availability and bot population to lighting effects. Depending on the types of peripherals developed for the PS2, would-be level designers could quite possibly make their arenas available to the online masses.

Needless to say, we're all quite excited about Time Splitters. Expect a full review of the game come its release alongside the PS2's launch.

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