Yes, it certainly is that time again, time to split! Sorry, I couldn’t resist. As a longtime fan of GoldenEye 007
, I welcome a return to that style of game play, and the third installment in the TimeSplitters series sure hits the spot. But is the third time the charm for developer Free Radical? Yes!...mostly.
For starters, those hoping for a decent single player campaign finally get your wish, barely. Free Radical never tried to disguise the fact that the Timesplitters games were their attempt to recreate sequences from their favorite movies, and the perfect vehicle for that the premise is time travel. So, Future Perfect
’s single player is again a hodge-podge of film spoofs and references to some of the older games the developers worked on, strung together with a thinly feasible plot. This time, you play as the Vin Diesel-ish hero Sgt. Cortez, but you don’t jump into other characters’ bodies ala Quantum Leap.
This makes for a less confusing story; the previous games made hardly any sense, and the single player was mostly an excuse to have so many diverse environments and characters packed into the multiplayer. Still, the time-travel paradoxes in Future Perfect
are more confusing than Back to the Future, and the plot doesn’t exactly rank up there with Deus Ex. On the whole the single player narrative is mostly for fun. And fun it is.
The levels are refreshingly diverse, compared to the dull, gritty space marine tromps of Killzone
. There’s a wide variety of enemies, from the run of the mill to the excessively bizarre (what where the developers smoking?) and everything in between. Of special note are the zombie stages, which poke healthy fun at Resident Evil
. In fact, there are a number of game related gags sprinkled throughout the single player. As many know, Free Radical is made up of ex-Rare employees, so the Goldeneye
and Perfect Dark
jokes are plentiful. There’s the obligatory train level, complete with bathroom humor, and a corporate office building with the notoriously slow Datadyne elevators.
To discuss the bare bones of graphics, Future Perfect
doesn’t do anything really amazing or new. Upon close inspection, some of the textures are downright smudgy and the character models aren’t exactly gorgeous. But the developers have done so much with what they have, and with no slowdown whatsoever, you’ll find that the game’s visuals are impressive nonetheless. The little details will start to catch your eye, and while they won’t wow you, they still show that a certain amount of uncommon care went into this title.
Audio is comprised mostly of stock sound effects, borrowed from other games or the previous TimeSplitters. Voice acting is purposefully cheesy and over-the-top, to accentuate the comedic characters. The music shines in particular; the quality seems almost too good for the goofy situations in the single player missions, but stays unobtrusive enough so that it doesn’t get annoying. The music isn’t dynamic, but loops like the old-style shooters that Future Perfect
emulates. In short, it suffices.
The controls are fully customizable, a welcome return from the previous games. There’s no excuse for not liking the controls as you can make them anything you like. Dual analog, single-stick, digital control, Halo
style...they’re all quite possible, and quick and easy to set up. This feature really is liberating, and more shooters should take this as an example.
All in all, the single player is a short, sweet romp through movie and game history, filled with in-jokes but no revolutions in gameplay.
The multiplayer, on the other hand, is the incarnation of replay value. Even without the online capability, the GameCube version of Future Perfect
has a multiplayer that trumps many of its online brethren. It’s huge; packed to the brim with unlockables, chock full of challenges, pumped up with...I’m getting corny. Let’s just say there’s a LOT to do. The typical gamer will want to hit the arcade leagues first, which act as training to hone multiplayer skills.
Each arcade event is entertaining and well balanced, with a standard bronze, silver, gold and platinum award system. Getting a higher medal nets you extras, like characters or cheats, and some of the better goodies can be rather difficult to obtain. The arcade leagues and the challenges become progressively harder, and only the hardcore will want to try the more advanced events. For casual gamers, these could make you chuck your controller out the window in frustration.
The actual versus modes are absolute chaos compared to other shooters on the market. FPS fans be warned: this is not your quake-clone, everyday shooter. This game harkens back to the old-school mayhem of Goldeneye. It’s blisteringly fast and has a brutal pace that may make camper-snipers unhappy. The object is to find a gun and wipe out as much of the competition as possible before you’re dead, and I guarantee you won’t last more than a couple of minutes.
All of the game modes follow this principle, but there are 13 ways to play, from zones and capture the bag to gladiator and the ever-popular monkey assistant. You heard me right; the infamous monkeys are back in force, and now they come in four varieties. Accompanying them are a whopping 150 playable characters, each with a unique skill balance. There are also sixteen maps to wage war across, and if you get bored with them, then try your hand at the icing of the multiplayer cake: the mapmaker.
Free Radical’s ingeniously simple level-creator returns. Rooms are now easier to connect, without the irritating red and blue system of the previous games, and the rooms can be set to be roofless, allowing atmospheric effects. The memory size has been doubled, allowing for twice the level size, and thus greater creativity. Every one of the game’s 30+ weapons is available for use, and there are six weapon slots for every map. A new addition is the moon buggies that can be driven around expansive maps for GTA style killing. The single player logic has been refined and made less confusing, so making solo missions is easier than ever.
Still, with all these improvements, it doesn’t feel like the epitome of mapmaking to me. Maybe I just got my hopes up too high, but it isn’t as groundbreaking as I would have hoped. Perhaps this is as far as Free Radical can take mapmaking on current-gen consoles. Regardless of my minor qualms, the mapmaker adds a lot to the replay factor, and there really isn’t anything else like it on the console shooter front.
As a final note, I’d like to say that TimeSplitters: Future Perfect
isn’t exactly for everybody. If you’re in search of a deep, gripping shooter with hordes of hell to rip through, this isn’t it. Try Doom 3 instead. Like its predecessors, Future Perfect
has Free Radical’s baffling sense of humor and is a lighter, funnier first-person experience. The addition of gratuitous gore and the not-so-subtle suggestive themes bumps the rating well into the “M” category, but rest assured, this game won’t have you jumping at shadows. Future Perfect
is everything is promises to be: an old-school shooter with a zany, slightly raunchy style that you really won’t find anywhere else.
It's time to split again, as the GameCube gets its version of Free Radical's off-the-wall old school shooter. It doesn't do anything mind boggling, but it's about as solid as an FPS gets and offers an almost bottomless supply of unlockable extras. A real challenge for the hardcore gamer, and a fun as hell multiplayer in the same package.