Hands-onTimeSplitters 2

We take a look at the second iteration of Free Radical's PS2 shooter.


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However polished its multiplayer performance felt, the original TimeSplitters was but a shade of what it could have been. Fortunately all the interesting ideas set forth by the original are being fully developed in the sequel. TimeSplitters 2 now enjoys a fully fleshed-out single-player mode and boasts all the engine tweaks you would expect the team to have made in the year since the original game's release. Simply put, TimeSplitters 2 is the best-looking first-person shooter we've yet seen on the PS2.

Eidos hosted a demo of the game yesterday, and we were on hand to check it out. The brunt of what was demonstrated was the game's first single-player scenario, which takes place in a modern-day military compound somewhere in Eastern Europe. The opening sequence was a definite ode to GoldenEye, the game that Free Rad's heads helped develop at Rare back in the day. In the sequence, the camera traveled a panoramic path through the environment, focusing on the map's centerpiece--a huge dam--before dashing through the tunnel that serves as your starting point.

From there, armed with a silenced handgun, we took to scouring the base in search of people and objects to shoot. The objectives were pretty standard: We had to find and disable security cameras, activate power to the elevators, exterminate a handful of mutants roaming the compound, and destroy a certain destructive gadget. The map was pretty expansive, composed of the small buildings that make up the compound, the subterranean levels beneath the dam, and the surface of the dam itself. Overall, the action was well paced, and the level felt quite complete, given the game's early state.

We got to sample a good number of weapons throughout the course of our romp through mission one. Aside from the silenced handgun, there was a light machine gun, an automatic shotgun, an assault rifle, and a flamethrower. The flamethrower was especially nutty; when you hit foes with it, they'll actually remain on fire for close to a minute, immolating anyone they come into contact with--including you. Free Rad must have anticipated how satisfactory the weapon's effect would be for those attending the demo, because they set it up with infinite ammo. The team was smart to show it off--the flame effect was pretty impressive, with the base of the blast a nice cobalt blue and the rest of it made up of wild, dancing particles. Our arsenal also included a fire extinguisher, presumably for putting out immolated enemies. You can imagine the sorts of things the device encouraged.

According to Free Rad's Steve Ellis, TimeSplitters 2 will feature twice the base poly count of its predecessor. Given that the game still manages to run at a constant 60fps, this is highly impressive. We mentioned earlier that it's the best-looking PS2 shooter we've yet seen, and this is no exaggeration. The models are full-bodied and as batty in design as those in the game's predecessor, and they animate amazingly, right down to their hands and faces. The zombies you encounter have several animation routines, from a stilted lumber to an oozing crawl, and they often switch from one animation to another for an amazing effect. Subtle details, such as footprints in the snow, permeate the environment, and deformable objects are rampant, including boxes, barrels, and fruit.

The game's multiplayer mode will come back strong, though in truth we weren't able to check it out to any significant degree. Word is, though, that the level editor will be retooled in many cool ways, allowing for the light scripting of enemy behaviors, the setting of start and end points, and the inclusion of doors and windows into level geometry.

Of course, we're pretty eager to see more of TimeSplitters 2. Count on us having more details for you real, real soon.

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