We had so much fun with TimeSplitters: Future Perfect's story mode last week that we've not been able to put our PlayStation 2 and Xbox versions of the game down yet. We've spent the past couple of days playing through Future Perfect's challenge mode, which, like those in previous TimeSplitters entries, comprises several different types of minigames. The game types on offer, which are invariably even more bizarre than their names suggest, include behead the undead, cut-out shoot-out, cat driving, super smashing great, TimeSplitters story classic, and monkeying around. You'll recognize a number of those names from previous TimeSplitters games, if you're a fan of the series, but we're pleased to report that the challenge mode in this year's iteration looks to be the most varied and enjoyable yet.
If there's one thing TimeSplitters games have always been good at, it's rewarding you with unlockable content whenever you complete something successfully. We unlocked plenty of Future Perfect's 150 playable characters during our time with the story mode, and the roster of available characters has grown considerably since we started playing through challenge mode. Before you start a challenge, you'll be told what score or time you need to beat to earn yourself a bronze, silver, or gold trophy. It's also possible to earn platinum trophies, by the way, but you'll have to work out the requirements for those yourself. Earning a bronze trophy will always be good enough to unlock the next challenge (there are three challenges in each category) and will often add another playable character to your roster. Additional weapons (monkey gun, anyone?) and humorous "cheat" options, on the other hand, will be harder to unlock. So, what kind of challenges are we talking about? Here's a quick rundown:
Behead the Undead
Armed with only a single weapon, you'll find yourself in a small room in which increasingly large waves of enemies appear and attempt to kill you. Your goal will simply be to stay alive for as long as possible, which roughly translates to shooting anything that moves. In previous TimeSplitters games, these challenges actually involved beheading the undead, but in Future Perfect, you'll actually be beheading monkeys with a shotgun. And in one of the levels set in a kitchen, you'll be firing tranquilizer darts into anthropomorphic cow carcasses that moo loudly as they attempt to pummel you.
Another returning favorite, the cut-out shoot-out challenges play a lot like story mode levels, except all the bad guys (and the good ones) are replaced by firing range-style cardboard stand-ins. Your goal, predictably, will be to play through each level as quickly as possible, scoring points for every enemy target you hit and losing points for every friendly one you hit. The demons and aliens you'll be required to shoot are pretty easy to tell apart from human colleagues, little kids with balloons, and such, but you'll often have only a few seconds to take aim and fire, since many of the targets pop in and out of view or move on rollers.
Already established as an office favorite, this introduction to the world of high-performance cat racing was pretty much the last thing we ever expected to find in a first-person shooter. You'll basically be driving a stuffed cat on wheels (a character who also has a cameo in the story mode) while attempting to get the best times possible over three laps of increasingly difficult circuits. The cat's engine really purrs, but the handling of said auto-feline can best be described as shopping cart-like, which ensures there's never a dull moment...especially once you beat the first two tracks and qualify for the ice circuit.
Super Smashing Great
In the unlikely event that you ever get frustrated with shooting at moving targets in Future Perfect's story and arcade modes, these destructive challenge games might be just what you need to unwind. Your enemies in Super Smashing Great are, for the most part, inanimate objects, and your goal is to destroy every single one of them within a time limit. The first challenge, for example, arms you with an infinite supply of bricks to throw at plates, windows, and room dividers inside the Chinese restaurant from TimeSplitters 2. The second challenge, which is set in a network of caves and Aztec ruins, arms you with a shotgun and charges you with destroying a large number of artifacts, some of them already in the hands of thieving monkeys.
TimeSplitters Story Classic
These challenges are basically relatively short single-player levels that you'll have to complete in no more than six minutes. Your objective in each challenge will be to navigate the level (a Vietnamese jungle or a Victorian building, for example), retrieve a specific object (a time crystal or a lunchbox of ham sandwiches, for example), and then backtrack through part of the level to escape via a time portal. The fact that you're playing against a tight time limit makes these levels feel quite different from those in the story mode. Furthermore, you'll often need to kill every enemy in a particular area to open the doorway to the next one.
Monkeys, at least as far as Free Radical Design is concerned, are something that you can never have too many of in a game. For what it's worth, we're inclined to agree, because not only do our simian cousins look cute and make funny noises, but also they're pretty adept with automatic weapons and, as evidenced by this collection of minigames, are incredibly versatile. In "Electro Chimp Discomatic," you'll use an electrotool to keep dancing robot chimps powered up. In "Melon Heist," you'll use a sniper rifle to shoot melons from the hands of thieving monkeys. And last but definitely not least, "Brass Monkeys" is a surprisingly realistic re-creation of the sport of curling...or at least a re-creation of what curling would be like if the stones and ice sweepers were replaced by monkeys.
Two of the three miscellaneous challenges on offer here amount to little more than turret-based shooting sequences, although one of them is made interesting by the fact that you'll be independently controlling and firing two turrets simultaneously on a vertically split screen. The first challenge in this category, though, is entirely different, and it requires you to use Cortez's gravity glove to pick up balls and throw them through rings. If it sounds a little bit like basketball, that's most likely because it is a little bit like basketball, except it's played on a descending elevator, the balls aren't actually balls, the hoops are never in the same position twice, and any "not-balls" that go out of bounds are lost forever. Come to think of it, the appropriately named "Cortez Can't Jump" game really has very little in common with basketball, but you get the idea.
The one thing that all TimeSplitters: Future Perfect's challenge mode games have in common with one another at this point is that we've had and are continuing to have a whole lot of fun with them. We've found the difficulty level of the challenge mode games to be just about perfect. Bronze trophies have proved very easy to acquire, for the most part, while platinum trophies have eluded us in all but one game thus far. We've no plans to stop playing TimeSplitters: Future Perfect in the foreseeable future, though, and you can expect a full review of the game closer to its release at the end of this month.