Lately there have been a number of big name first person shooters released on the Xbox; each taking the graphics and game play to a whole new level and reminding gamers just why they bought their system. And then there’s TimeSplitters: Future Perfect, a game that seems perfectly content with staying in the good old days, when games like Halo and Doom 3 weren’t competing for shelf space.
The original TimeSplitters was an early generation PlayStation 2 game that offered a glimpse at what could be done with first person shooters and the new technology. Future Perfect is the third TimeSplitters game and is showing up towards the end of this current generation’s life cycle, yet it feels a lot like that first game, the one that we hoped was only the tip of the iceberg.
Thankfully Future Perfect strays a little from the past TimeSplitters formula. In this sequel we find a coherent story that follows the adventure of one guy, traveling through time to save his people, or save some crystals, or something along those lines. You play Cortez, a Vin Diesel as Riddick look alike, who has to jump in and out of time on a mad chase to collect various crystals and chasing evildoers. The set up is pure camp, but there’s something endearing about Cortez and the funny situations he finds himself getting into.
The real star of Future Perfect is not Cortez or even the people he stumbles upon in his travels, the real draw of all TimeSplitters’ games are the various time periods you get to experience first hand. This time around you’ll find yourself bouncing all over the place, from the 1920’s all the way up to the 25nd century. Not only do these eras offer completely different environments – from trains to castles to haunted mansions – but they also manage to keep things interesting with different technology, silly humor about the time period, and missions that compliment your surroundings.
While most first person shooters take their atmosphere very seriously, Future Perfect always seems to be winking at the camera. The levels are almost blatantly taken from other games, movies, and popular culture … each giving the developers a chance to satirize much of the source material. In the mid-1990’s you will be stuck in a creepy mansion infested with zombies and an underground laboratory; the only thing missing is the road signs for Raccoon City. A century later you will be playing through a world that feels more than a little influenced by Perfect Dark for the Nintendo 64. And yet even further in the future you are smack dab in the middle of a war between humans and robots, a level so reminiscent of Terminator 3: Rise of the Machine you almost feel let down when Arnold Schwarzenegger never shows up.
With each level brings a brand new arsenal for Cortez, offering you the best goods that era has to offer. This is probably the best part of the game, since the weapons never seem to feel stale. Just when you’ve run out of uses for your backpack full of guns, you are whisked away to a brand new time period with all kinds of new items. Although many of the guns are kind of useless (especially in the single player game), all of the levels offer a nice variety.
Not only do you get new weapons, but each of the environments offers new enemies to deal with, including a number of impressive boss battles. These different areas are often cool, but some of their designs are a little on the basic side. In almost every case you only have one way to get through a level, and there is no variation of enemy placement. It’s also worth noting that the enemy AI feels like it never graduated from the days of Doom and Hexen. Thanks to the simple level designs and insanely dumb AI, chances are you won’t have too much trouble making your way through most of Future Perfect.
Without making it sound too much like an insult, Future Perfect just feels outdated. All of the levels are straight forward, you rarely get to interact with the environment in any substantial way, and you can’t even jump. Maybe I’m just spoiled by Halo 2 and just about every other first person shooter to come out since 1998, but it took a little getting used to not being able to jump … it really would have made the game a lot more accessible and, dare I say it, exciting. Then again, with the unfortunate artificial intelligence problem, this would have made the game far too easy.
Once you’ve made your way through the fairly short single player campaign you will have a few choices ahead of you. The game features some fun offline modes, including a challenge mode that offers unique missions for you to finish. There is also the arcade mode, which allows you to play just about every multiplayer game against the computer.
Like most modern day first person shooters, Future Perfect is best played with friends either in a co-op mode or against each other. Adding a friend can really bring some replay to an otherwise basic single-player campaign. Not all of the levels lend themselves well to this mode, but it’s nice to see it offered. Unfortunately you are not able to play the story mode co-op via Xbox Live, a feature that would have really made the game stand out.
The most welcome feature in Future Perfect has to be level editor, a fairly robust set-up that allows you to work around any problems you have with the standard level layout. There is a bit of a learning curve, but once you figure out what you can and cannot do, you will find a whole new world open to you that you didn’t get with the competition. You can set these levels in all kinds of environments and eras, giving you full control over weapons, special items, and more. Still you have to put up with some of the games limitations, such as the lack of jumping, but there’s no question that the map maker is an addictive feature that could really help generate a healthy community.
Unlike past TimeSplitters titles, Future Perfect finally allows you to share your created levels with the world. Thanks to the ability to upload and download maps via Xbox Live, TimeSplitters fans will finally have a way to sample all kinds of unique creations. So while you might grow tired of the game play, you will likely never run out of maps to play with.
Outside of the map making features, the Xbox Live features are pretty standard stuff. There are a number of ways of playing the game, so you won’t just have to play endless amounts of Deathmatch. The problem I had with the various online modes was that none of them felt particularly original, and most have been done far better by other recent first person shooters. A lot of this is due to the limitations of the game play, the lack of jumping is even more apparent when you’re playing with fifteen other players online. On the plus side, the games extremely large selection of weapons makes you forget about some of the games shortcomings … for awhile.
The makers of this game, Free Radical, are made up of programmers that once worked on games like GoldenEye 007 and Perfect Dark, two games that are considered classics by many of today’s gamers. The problem is that first person shooters have evolved considerably since the days of those Nintendo 64 titles; we live in a much different time where expectations are a lot higher. Had Future Perfect been released this two or three years ago it would have been considered a masterpiece, but in 2005 TimeSplitters just feels out of touch. Thankfully it has enough going for it to recommend it, but I’m hoping that future sequels will be more of a leap forward.
TimeSplitters: Future Perfect is far from perfect, but itâ€™s also not that bad of an action game. Sure it feels a bit dated when compared to other recent first person shooters, but there are enough features to keep the game fresh for many months to come