Get ready, but I’ve never played Perfect Dark, and the only time I’ve spent with GoldenEye 007 was something like ten years after its release, being all illegal…with an emulator. Don’t think I even got past the first level, that oh-so-iconic dam. Shh, don’t tell anyone. Good thing I’m only posting this on my secret, private NotePad blog on my computer’s desktop and not a powerful, crippling entity like the Internet. The fact is I never had a Nintendo 64–I went the PlayStation 1 route, see–and so I missed out on just about every single big release from that system; my childhood BF-not-F had one, but we mostly ate up wrestling games, as well as the multiplayer mode in Turok 2: Seeds of Evil.
And so when I read or hear the comparisons of TimeSplitters for the PlayStation 2 to those two previously mentioned name-heavy franchises, I kind of just shrug my shoulders. Because I don’t know left from right. That said, TimeSplitters is a bunch of goofy fun, even if it is a first-person shooter boiled down to a mostly multiplayer focus. Speaking of that, here’s the modes you can expect to hit X on at least once: Story, Arcade, and Challenge. I didn’t include the map editor there because map editing on the PlayStation 2 is a little scary, so I’ll just advise y’all to keep your distance and fire with precision.
Story mode in TimeSplitters is a big lie, even more so than in The Tiny Bang Story. The levels work more in a “time attack” manner than following a narrative and exploring at your own pace. Basically, you pick your level and difficulty (easy, medium, hard), and either a male or female character to play as. These levels are themed across nine fictional locations spanning the years between 1935 and 2035. The goal of each level is to grab an item–let’s just go ahead and call it a MacGuffin–and then make your way to the exit, which is generally not where you started. The split second you pick up the item, deadlier monsters begin warping into the level, making the return trip that much more hazardous. On easy, you can complete each level in a matter of minutes, and the main point of this mode is to unlock Arcade mode elements, like multiplayer bots, additional multiplayer modes, and so on.
Arcade is the multiplayer hub, and you can play against bots, but it’s still pretty soulless. Yes, that’s a remark coming from someone who ate up bot multiplayer sessions in Red Faction II and Killzone. The bot AI can be tweaked to five different levels of smarty-pants, but it still just feels like mindless chaos, like there’s no strategy at work. I imagine four-player multiplayer sessions are more lively. The standard modes are there in various forms, like capture the flag (well, capture the bag here) and deathmatch.
The Challenge mode can only be unlocked by beating all the Story missions on at least the easiest of difficulties, which is, obviously, pretty easy to do. It’s the best thing in TimeSplitters. Right now, I have three challenges in total unlocked: one involving killing zombies in specific ways with a time limit, another is murdering a bunch of duck-men before time runs out, and the other tasks you with holding onto a bag for a total of a minute in a three-minute arena filled with opponents. These are neat and fun; however, the difficulty in these challenges is beyond believable. So far, I have only beaten the zombie one, and it literally came down to beheading the last zombie a second before time ran out. For the bag one, I don’t think I’ve held onto it for longer than a total of twenty seconds so far. Bah humbug.
If there’s one thing that still stands out with TimeSplitters some fourteen years later, it’s that the game moves fast. Like cheetah speeds. The action moves at at extremely spiffy frame-rate and high resolution, still looking good for its day. In fact, it moves faster than more recent first-person shooters–sorry, BioShock Infinite, but you dropped your walking cane–and almost feels like your character is skating on ice, blasting away enemies and monsters with polish.
Something to not praise though are the outrageous character designs, which often have the men looking macho and powerful, while the women are given Twizzler-sized waists, large breasts, and sexual poses. Even the robotic forms. Still, there are some funny names to smile at, like Hick Hyde and Ravelle Velvet, but none of the characters, as far as I can tell, play differently from each other. The choice is welcome, but the gender portrayals are too stereotypical.
At this point, I’ve unlocked a good amount of TimeSplitters‘ content, but other than giving a few more Challenge missions another go I think I might call it quits. Again, the multiplayer isn’t filling me with joy or excitement, and I have no interest in replaying the Story levels on tougher difficulties because it just feels unbalanced and punishing. It sounds like later games in the TimeSplitters series, of which I have none, treat the story more traditionally and weave it better into the action.