TimeSplitters is a first-person shooter stripped down to its most basic elements. Rather than worry about things like plot or a cohesive single-player game, TimeSplitters focuses on its extremely strong multiplayer elements and delivers a first-person shooter that is as addictive as any other console-based FPS.
The game's story mode is anything but addictive. It plays out more like a time attack mode. You pick your level and difficulty, and you're then dropped into a level. The goal of each level is to grab an item and then make your way to the exit, which, more often than not, is the same area where you started the level. After collecting the item, tons of fireball-launching monsters warp into various spots in the level, making your return trip a little more hazardous. The main point to the story mode is that it allows you to unlock things like multiplayer bots, multiplayer modes, and more. You'll also unlock the challenge mode, which asks you to accomplish certain tasks in a specified time limit, such as killing 50 zombies in two minutes. The arcade mode lets you choose lots of different game styles, including standard first-person shooter favorites like deathmatch and capture the bag, as well as more varied modes like knockout, bagtag, last stand, and escort. While the bot AI, which can be configured to five different difficulty settings, is pretty solid, the game really demands to be played in four-player mode. However, some levels get a little too large for only four players, so the ability to add up to ten bots to your games is a nice touch.
TimeSplitters features a lot of different weapons, as the game's levels are spread out between 1935 and 2035. So you have a wide range of standard weapons, such as the rocket launcher, minigun, assault rifle, and twin Uzis, and you also have an assortment of futuristic weapons, which mostly act like a large collection of laser rifles. In setting up multiplayer matches, you can pick predefined sets of weapons or configure your own custom set. Some weapons have alternate firing modes. For instance, the alternate fire on the rocket launcher shoots three rockets at once. There are also nonstandard weapons, such as timed or proximity mines, that bring different strategies to the game.
One of the more interesting things about TimeSplitters is its map editor. Sure, the game has a decent number of levels on its own, but not enough to support the sort of endless play that a good map editor can add. The map editor lets you choose from a large collection of prefabricated building blocks, which you piece together to form your level. Each piece, once placed into the level, can be altered to contain certain items, and you can alter the room's lighting properties. The levels can get pretty complex.
The whole game has a very clean look to it. The textures, for the most part, are crisp, and the worlds look nice and solid. Most of the game's models look nice, though some of the characters have unnaturally skinny necks that look a just little too weird when compared with some of the more normal looking models. The frame rate occasionally gets a little choppy when looking into large rooms, but it doesn't happen often, and the game runs at a nice speed, even when playing split-screen multiplayer. The weapon effects are pretty nice - the rocket launcher leaves a nice smoke trail, and most of the futuristic laser weapons look good. Shooting out windows is especially impressive, as the windows shatter differently depending on where you shoot them. The music used throughout the game is well suited to the different environments. Most of the game's sound is equally impressive - TimeSplitters features excellent firing effects, and the small amount of character voice used in the game is also well done.
Control is a big issue when it comes to first-person shooters, and TimeSplitters goes the distance by allowing you to configure the controller however you'd like. However, the default setting is already quite good, using the left stick to move and the right stick to aim. The only real problem with the control is that you can't jump. So while you can walk up to the window and shatter it, you can't hop over the bottom ledge of the window and jump down to the floor below. While the levels have been designed with this limitation in mind, fans of other first-person shooters will likely feel cheated by it from time to time.
TimeSplitters is the PlayStation 2 launch game that makes the Multitap a real must-have. The level design is quite good, and the sheer number of configurable options is staggering. Add to that the highly useful map editor, and the lack of meaningful single-player options is all but forgotten. Fans of the N64 duo of GoldenEye and Perfect Dark should definitely give this one a try.