With its charm and "something for everybody" mentality, TimeSplitters is sure to offer GameCube owners a good number of things to like.
- Cortez is a terrific character
- Lots of variety
- Mapmaker lets you create your own levels.
- It's a multiplayer shooter without online support
- Bots aren't too bright
- Story mode is too short.
The TimeSplitters series now contains three first-person shooters that place an extreme emphasis on sheer variety and fast action. The third iteration, Future Perfect, finally makes good on the great ideas that developer Free Radical had back in 2000--at least on the PlayStation 2 and Xbox. Those two versions take the TimeSplitters series online, completing the circle and making a first-person shooter that you can play with solid competition around the clock, instead of relying on half-cocked bots and split-screen four-player games. The GameCube version, predictably, lacks the online support contained in the other two versions. With its charm and "something for everybody" mentality, TimeSplitters is sure to offer GameCube owners a good number of things to like, though it feels practically irrelevant when compared to the other versions of the game.
While the game's bread is buttered by its multiplayer focus, it still has a very cool story mode. Though it's not going to test your skills or patience to the fullest--expect to blow through the medium difficulty in six hours or so--the story is compelling and funny. You're cast as a character named Cortez, and you start out by returning from a quest where you had to secure a collection of crystals that power a time machine. Once you return with the crystals, you're sent hopping through time in an attempt to prevent mankind's current conflict--a losing battle against creatures of unknown origin--from ever happening. As you leap around throughout the past, you're put into a lot of different wacky scenarios. What starts as a futuristic battle sends you back to the early 1900s a lot, as well as to the 2200s (which, in this game's timeline, is still the past), and yes, to 1994. Each time period has you doing something different, too. In 1969, you'll team up with the swinging superspy, Harry Tipper, as he attempts to stop a Bond villain-type from launching a missile from a moving train. In 1994, you'll team up with a short-skirted girl (complete with a T-shirt that reads "slut") to infiltrate a zombie-filled mansion.
The coolest part about the story mode is that Cortez, who initially seems like a very Riddick-like action hero, is really a very likable character. And you'll be seeing a lot of him, too, because thanks to the constant mishaps involved in time travel, you'll always be running into yourself. Each time period has you working together--with yourself--in some way. Sometimes it's a simple cutscene where your future self will pass you a key and then run off. Other times, you'll be providing cover fire for your past self to make sure that your past self eventually gets to become your...future self. The interactions between different versions of Cortez are inventive and often very funny, too. You'll always be looking forward to the next wormhole. It's a shame that the game's conclusion doesn't play off this absurd level of paradoxes a little better, but the stuff you encounter along the way is cool enough to make up for that. You can also play the story mode with a second player, which makes for some solid co-op.
The game also has a lot of other single-player features. The arcade mode has a league option, where you'll go up against bots in a variety of matches in an effort to earn trophies. The challenge mode also has some unique things you can do alone, like engage in robot cat racing, throw bricks through windows, and more. Some of these activities are fun, but most of them are a little shallow. Regardless, all of this single-player trophy-gathering ties back into the multiplayer, as you'll constantly be unlocking new characters and options for the game's thick list of multifriend fun. There are 150 characters in all, each ranked in four different categories, like speed and stamina, but you can turn those stats off if you're looking for a perfectly level playing field.
When it comes to the multiplayer first-person shooting, TimeSplitters offers up a pretty hefty list of gameplay modes to choose from. Great deals of them are simple deathmatch variants, like vampire, where you must kill other players on a regular basis to prevent a meter from draining, which in turn kills you. There's also thief, which moves the scoring to coin collecting, rather than killing. Team games are represented with capture the bag and assault (an objective-based team game that splits you up into offensive and defensive units), among others, though the game only comes with four different assault-ready maps and two of them are a little simplistic, especially with only four human players.
You can play all of these games with bots of varying skill levels, though the bots are better gunmen than they are tacticians. In assault, for example, the bots on your team often seem to completely ignore the objectives and just shoot it out with the other team, leaving players to do all the dirty work. You can build your own set of bots, which allows you to adjust their skill level from one to five stars. The default three-star rating is easy to beat if you're at all handy with the headshots. Bumping up to five stars gives the game more of a challenge, but really, you're better off playing against people. Unfortunately, the GameCube version lacks the online multiplayer component found in the Xbox and PS2 releases, limiting you to four-player split-screen games. The maps were made for more than four players, so this isn't exactly the most exciting feature in the world.