Where’s My TimeSplitters Sequel?
I love TimeSplitters. Actually, I loved it. We haven’t seen a new entry in the series for more than seven years, so it’s inevitable that I have to switch to the past tense. That sucks.
TimeSplitters was one of the PlayStation 2’s launch titles, and it’s one of the four games I picked up when I bought the console (the others, if you’re into some deep Cork trivia, were Summoner, SSX, and, inexplicably, Madden NFL 2001). TimeSplitters immediately monopolized my PS2 schedule. I often used it to convince friends to pick up the console — I knew a lot of GoldenEye players at the time, and they were sold after learning that the developer that created the game, Free Radical, was formed by former members of the GoldenEye and Perfect Dark teams at Rare.
The series eventually grew to three installments, with sequels TimeSplitters 2 and TimeSplitters: Future Perfect. And then it stalled. The occasional rumor of a fourth game popped up now and again, but we never got anything close to a concrete announcement that it was coming. (This weird nonstatement from Crytek’s CEO was the most recent example.)
Anyway, I’m still hopeful that someday we’ll get another TimeSplitters. Stranger things have certainly happened. If you haven’t ever played TimeSplitters (or, if you haven’t played any TimeSplitters yet), here are a few of the things I think you’re missing out on.
One of my favorite things about the series is how TimeSplitters never took itself seriously. It was refreshing at the time, considering how the only other jokey FPS games I’d played were Duke Nukem 3D and Shadow Warrior. Serious Sam, Team Fortress 2, and Borderlands have popped onto the scene in the years since, but TimeSplitters was one of the rare games that wasn’t all about ooh-rahing military dudes or angsty space marines. Which leads me to…
The TimeSplitters series features one of the biggest character rosters around, in the FPS genre or otherwise. They covered just about anything you could think of, from (non-angsty) space marines to scientists to bears (with a vest and little bellhop hat!) to snowmen to squid dudes to gingerbread men. There are dozens of other oddities in this false range, too. Characters were more than mere skins, too. I remember the glee I felt the first time I set my friend’s snowman on fire and heard the frosty guy scream that he was melting.
Surprise! An FPS game includes fun competitive multiplayer modes. TimeSplitters burrowed into my multiplayer playlist thanks in large part to those characters. Even my nongaming friends gravitated toward at least one silly avatar on the character-select screen, which was almost always enough to suck them into the game. Any remaining slots could be filled with bots, so the action was always brisk. The maps themselves were a nice mix of exterior and interior sections, with alternate paths and wide-open courtyard areas. It all built up to a sensation that you were never quite safe — an enemy with a flamethrower might be right around the corner, so you’d best be moving at all times. And if there’s anything more humiliating than winning a match after chucking a brick at an opponents’ skull, it’s not coming to mind.
The map editor
I never got sick of the base maps, but that didn’t keep me from dinking around in the series’ excellent map editor. The tools allowed you to place corridors, rooms, and other elements in whatever configuration you wanted. They were themed according to the game’s time-travelling motif (prohibition, disco, zombies, a sci-fi future), which meant you weren’t going to create 100-percent accurate adaptations of your favorite maps from other games, but they were often good enough. By the time Future Perfect rolled around, players could create their own simple scripted events and mission objectives.
In addition to plowing through TimeSplitters’ story missions and multiplayer, players could kill time (among other things) in various challenges. For instance, you might have to run around with a brick and smash as many stained-glass windows as possible within a time limit. Or you might have to defend a space from respawning zombies. Also, cat racing.
I enjoy playing military shooters as much as the next guy (though maybe not as much as the other next guy), but they’re all blurring into one big brown puddle of "on my six/reloading/tango down" goo. TimeSplitters always had its own personality and style, and it was refreshing then. It would seem downright revelatory today.