Ah, TimeSplitters. You’re a special breed of crazy-ass, and we love you for it.
If you’re well-versed in the gametastic, you’ll know that FPS games mean effing business. Much like MMOs and MOBAs (and maybe a couple other nerdly acronyms), the communities are legendary for not suffering fools lightly. Woe betide a player who slips up. They’ll be met by a torrent of poorly-spelt and grammatically questionable abuse like they’ve never seen.
This is serious freaking business, right here. This game? It’s not a game. Except it is, we’ve just forgotten that amid all the killstreaks and K/Ds and whatnot.
Still, sometimes, an FPS will surprise us. It’ll still be competitive and track stats and such, but it’ll also bring us a lot of silly shit. Which is something this po-faced genre could really use. And for me, no shooter has done this quite like TimeSplitters 2.
The first game was a PS2 launch title, back in 2000. It was Free Radical’s toontastic, time travelling take on shooters. Heavily influenced by contemporary greats such as Perfect Dark and GoldenEye it may have been, but with several tons of its own quirky spirit layered on top. Playable snowmen and monkeys and joke guns abound.
Two years later, the second release arrived. This little doozy took that foundation and ran with it. Let’s take a look.
TimeSplitters 2, is set in the year 2401. Humanity is up to their asses in a war with the TimeSplitters, an alien race who are using time travel to alter the history of the world (and, y’know, destroy the planet in the process). Studly bald space marine Sergeant Cortez doesn’t approve of this sort of thing, and follows them through the ages to stop them.
As Cortez, your objective is to cruise though ten levels, defeat the boss and regain the time crystal they each hold. It’s a Quantum Leap-y adventure of befuddling proportions, casting you as a Wild West bounty hunter in one stage and a prohibition era Chicago gangster the next.
This sort of thing is often great for a title’s campaign mode. Back in the day, the FPS was fairly samey in this regard. You’d usually wander through identikit corridors, shooting angry dudes and/or angry creatures, wondering where the eff the keycard is for that door you passed a half hour ago. But we have no time for any of that BS around here.
Rescuing boobtastic maidens in their undercrackers from a creepy old pervert in Medieval Notre Dame? Getting your spy on in Siberia, in a dam suspiciously similar to the one in GoldenEye? Using some fancy-ass Metal Gear tech to stalk a hacker through the streets of futuristic Tokyo? These are varied level objectives, right here. The story is completely freakin’ nutty, but there’s an internal logic and brilliance to it under the surface. Like your average Doctor Who episode.
So, a pretty damn great single player. This was a rarity for shooters at the time, and even today a lot of these bastards can’t get that right. But beyond that, TimeSplitters 2 was content-amundo. Over a hundred ridiculous characters to unlock (monkeys, dinosaurs, a six foot gingerbread man, ‘robots’ in cardboard outfits, weird mutant duck-man, several kinds of zombie, you name it), and a big ol’ crop of challenges to try. It’s all endlessly high-scoreable.
True, multiplayer wasn’t online, what with this being the early 2000s. But back then, local multiplayer was a thing that existed outside of Nintendo’s weird tablet consoles. And there’s no doubt that TimeSplitters 2 was some of the best local multiplayer I’ve ever played. As crazy-ass as it was, it was still a solid and well-designed shooter at heart. This made for the best of both worlds, and ensured the game’s success.
There hasn’t be a series release since 2005‘s TimeSplitters: Future Perfect, but there’s a damn good reason why gamers worldwide still hold out hope.