TimeSplitters 2 made a decent splash at last month's E3, looking as impressive as ever for the demo-hungry masses. Eidos has allowed us to take an in-depth look at the E3 demo of the game, and we've been able to become quite familiar with the weapons, enemies, and mission designs that you'll encounter in some of the game's sci-fi-flavored scenarios. TimeSplitters 2 looks as impressive as ever in the demo that we have on hand, which makes us quite excited to see what Free Radical Design's engine will crank out next. For those unfamiliar with the game, TimeSplitters 2 is the follow-up to the multiplayer-focused FPS that launched alongside the PS2. Free Radical Design, the studio behind the game, is headed up by veterans of Rare--specifically, high-level members of the development teams behind GoldenEye 007. The team apparently isn't shy about its pedigree; subtle references to the N64 classic permeate the game, though you get the feeling they're being cheeky about it. But regardless, TimeSplitters 2 can be called the most promising FPS in development for the PS2 with little hesitation, and our recent look at the game has made this more evident.
Time travel factors heavily into TimeSplitters 2's premise. You assume the role of a male-and-female duo whose actual identities are, at this point, still a bit foggy, apart from one key point--they're bionic space marines. From what we've seen in the demo missions we've been able to play over the last several months, the character you'll use will change from mission to mission. The characters' actual looks will change, too, to reflect the era in which the mission takes place. In the demo we played, which took place in a space-age robot factory, we got to play as the female marine, fully decked out robot style. We're assuming it's her, anyway, as the body shape is generally in tune with what we've seen of the female marine before. This time around, in any case, she's composed entirely of metal, with a red hood and cloak covering her almost featureless face. There isn't much to indicate what the deal is, exactly, with the story, despite the presence of an introductory cutscene. It's very much on the cryptic side, depicting a haunting prepubescent cyborg with creepy all-black eyes retreating into the recesses of the factory's machinery. Presumably, the strange creature is one of the TimeSplitters, the human-hating aliens whose extermination is the game's goal.
True to its heritage, the mission that we played is multitiered and boasts a few cool twists. The overarching goal is to retrieve the time crystal that the TimeSplitters have hidden in the robot factory. For those who haven't been taking notes, the time crystals are the mystical artifacts that exclusively bear the power to defeat the TimeSplitters. Why this is so will presumably become clear once the game's story is fully revealed, but it probably isn't too relevant. You'll have to jump through a few hoops before you'll be able to lay your hands on the crystal, as you would in any good mission-based FPS. Luckily, the objectives in this scenario don't seem tedious in the least, but quite the opposite--they're fast-paced and engaging.
If what we've seen is any indication, you'll do more shooting than switch-hitting in TimeSplitters 2, and that is a very good thing. Even the switches that are present seem to have interesting actions associated with them, as opposed to triggering a canned event. A good example of these are the ceiling-mounted rail-riding security turrets that are scattered throughout the map. Normally, you'll walk in a room they're guarding and they'll open fire at you. But when you find a special sort of terminal, you'll be able to take control of them and use them to cause all sorts of mischief, like using their guns to shoot unsuspecting enemies or using their bodies to crash through obstacles, like force fields. "Activation"-type objectives are utilized in full effect by the level designers, though in the demo level we played, there's a bit of a twist to them. One of the objectives is to retrieve a device called an "electrotool," which is essentially a gun that spews a constant electrical beam. Once you find it lying around, you'll have to use it to destroy certain monolithic nodes that are scattered throughout the map. There are four of them, and destroying them seems to have some kind of catastrophic effect on the factory's operations. Anyway, destroying these nodes consists simply of standing near them and dousing them with the electrotool's output until they explode. They'll start to spin super fast as they short out, and if you're too close, you'll sustain some damage from the blast when they explode.
Enemies, of course, litter the grounds of the factory, and they are all robots. The "grunts" consist of tall, lanky sorts, not unlike the Star Wars battle droids in physical structure. They are usually armed with peashooters and attack en masse, dodging and deftly rolling about. Complementing those are taller, heavier robots, usually armed with more powerful laser rifles and able to take a significantly heavier beating before falling. These look particularly cool when they die, as their frames go limp, they tip over, and their limbs shatter upon contact with the ground. Sometimes, fragments of their limbs will even twitch on the ground. The third type is perhaps the most intricate. Their primary form is that of a cylindrical, stationary turret, but one that can sprout legs when the need arises. When that happens, three legs will sprout from the cylinder, and the headpiece will extend upward to act as the robot's face. It'll then follow you around, blasting like a turret, walking like a spider, and occasionally returning to its original form after it's sustained too much damage. Oftentimes you'll be attacked by several robots of various types, so you can count on the battles being pretty heated most of the time. Their tactics seem relatively sophisticated as well, so expect to get flanked and pincered if you aren't careful.
There are a number of futuristic weapons with which to fend off the disgruntled machines, fortunately. The demo has you start out with two weapons: a "sci-fi gun" and a plasma thrower. The first is a sort of peashooter, whose output consists of thin, rebounding blaster bolts. Since most of the thin grunt robots are armed with this weapon, many of the level's passages become crazy, bouncing-laser-filled death chambers. The second starting weapon, in any case, acts as both a plasma-grenade launcher and a rapid-fire plasma-bolt shooter. The output of the latter function actually escalates in velocity with each blast till it ultimately overheats and is useless for a second, but right before it does so, the rate of fire is devastating. The grenades it fires, conversely, take rather long to detonate, and their blast radius is pretty weak. There's also a laser rifle that you can pick up from the larger robots, and it has a neat "charge" function that shoots bolts strong enough to drop the aforementioned 'bots with one shot, when fully powered. Finally, there's the heavier, missile-launcher-type piece that launches missiles of the homing type. It can alternate between shooting single missiles or three-slug volleys, either of which is fairly devastating.
When you think of all these interesting weapons, as well as the ones available in the game's later "ages," in the context of online play, you could foresee the potential for some truly insane multiplayer matches. TimeSplitters 2 has consistently impressed us, both technologically and in terms of scope, and we can't wait to see more. Keep your eyes here for more.