Timesplitters 2 GameCube Review
TimeSplitters 2 is the multi-format sequel to the Playstation 2 original. However, it is not quite as simple as that. The developer, Free Radical, is made up in part from the ex-Rare team that of course made the legendary GoldenEye 007 on the N64. You may remember one lead member of staff in particular when you see the end of game credit screen; he was ‘Dr. Doak’ from the Facility mission. Free Radical has clearly looked to take the basics from GoldenEye and build on that. The health and armour meters remain unchanged and initially things seem similar to GoldenEye, especially the first mission.
The game features some unique character models. Based on an almost cartoon style, a wide range of fun and interesting characters can be used. From 70s secret agent Harry Tipper, to cow-girl Ample Sally, the characters are likeable and their original style is nice to see. Technically the models are relatively simple, and only use basic textures, but this is really not that important. Levels look above average, relatively decent textures make the low polygon levels look better than they are, and it is easy to see items and weapons on the floor.
The graphics fly by at a fair pace, and an impressive 60 frames per second is maintained throughout. However, compared to the level of detail seen in the latest PC shooters, and Halo, TimeSplitters 2 fails to make a big graphical impression, yet at the same time, is quite reasonable and sets a firm base for the gameplay to build upon.
GoldenEye had quite possibly the best gameplay of any first person shooter ever, especially on a console. Only Halo can compare and has that feel of total control. Therefore you would have thought that after half a decade the same could be said for TimeSplitters 2. Unfortunately, as soon as you try using the manual aim you will have great difficulty as the sensitivity is far too high, and the c-stick is completely useless as an analogue stick. This can be countered by having a fiddle with the advanced aiming settings, so that when manual aim is used, the left analogue stick takes over the aiming. It makes you wonder how extensively gameplay testing was, as everyone who has played TimeSplitters 2 seems to have the same problem. You also have to go through the tedious process of updating every single player profile’s aiming settings so that everyone can feel like they have some level of control over the weapons. Similarly the aiming is inverted by default. In case you do not know what this means, down goes up and vice versa. This is completely ridiculous and no sane person would choose to use such a setting. Auto aim is also defaulted to on, which means a total of 3 important settings to change in order to set up a player profile to the typically ‘normal’ standard that most gamers will expect. Anyway, after these issues have been addressed you are free to play your friends in multiplayer using the best possible settings.
The level design is slightly odd, replacing the perfect, mainly corridor based levels of GoldenEye with more open levels. This leads to a completely random multiplayer experience when bots are implemented as it is purely down to who runs into the most bots. In GoldenEye there were certain focal points of each level which needed to be controlled in order to be successful. Even in 1v1 you feel like the person with the best gun will win, no matter the opponent’s level of skill. The hiding behind corners, careful aiming and slow movements is replaced by random charging at opponents without manual aiming. As the characters move at least 5 times the speed that they did in GoldenEye it is impossible to pick off someone who is running towards you will a precisely aimed headshot. An enemy can cover far too much ground in a few seconds that weapons like the sniper rifle are near impossible to use outside of the missions.
There is a wealth of multiplayer options and customisability, although you must unlock weapons in single player to complete the entire list, which at the start is distinctly plain, and if you do not want to play through all the tedious challenges you have to put up with a boring set of weapons. I strongly recommend creating a few balanced sets of weapons, as all of the default ones are horribly unbalanced. ‘Snipers only’ is one of the better ones that I have found. Still, there is no excuse for not including the classic Golden Gun. Bricks and a fire extinguishe rare not a suitable replacement.
Single player wise things are ok; there is a range of interesting set pieces from the Wild West to Siberia, which is set on a dam, just like the first mission in GoldenEye. As you increase the difficulty level, various extra things have to be achieved on each level, but what always remains is to collect a time crystal. The story (what there is of it) does not make much sense, and it doesn’t bring any reward for paying attention to the seemingly random in-game graphical cut-scenes. The gameplay does feel better in single player as the enemies behave much more realistically when compared to the insanely fast human competitors. Arguably one of the best features of the game is the cooperative mode, where 2 human players can play through the missions together without much loss of graphical detail. This is much more entertaining than playing through countless deathmatches that require little skill and quickly become tedious.
Without the classic Bond license the sound and resultant atmosphere in TimeSplitters 2 is a hollow experience. Infact I cannot remember a single track from the game as they are so unmemorable. Use of sound effects is distinctly average and nothing special. There really is not much to say on the sound front here. The classic death sequence from GoldenEye where the blood runs down the screen has been replaced with a plain spinning view of your body.
Most notably there is a level editor included; something that could add months to an already good first person shooter. I am sure few will actually bother to use this feature, but designs for the classic GoldenEye levels have been posted on the Internet for fans to use. I have not tried the editor extensively but have heard mainly good things about it. It is a commendable feature and we can only hope a standard in future console games.
With all the settings, unlockable features, customisability, 4 player split-screen, huge selection of characters, cooperative play and the base of GoldenEye behind it, you would have thought that TimeSplitters 2 would keep gamers returning in future years, as was the case with GoldenEye. Disappointingly this is not the case, however for about 2 weeks the impressive range of features will keep you fully occupied. After that you may, as I have, feel that the gameplay is too frantic to allow players with far greater skill to excel to any great level as in GoldenEye. Without this deep and never dull multiplayer mode, TimeSplitters 2 is a disappointment and will be quickly forgotten by those who have had years of experience in PC first person shooters, or by those who have GoldenEye or Halo at hand, as it fails to offer anything an experienced gamer has seen before.
It would seem that I have been very harsh on TimeSplitters 2, and being a huge GoldenEye fan this may seem surprising. It is far from a bad game, but is just not great by today’s high standards set by the likes of Halo and the wide range of PC first person shooters. In this day and age the industry needs original ideas, not rehashed ones taken from the likes of GoldenEye and combined with distinctly average implementation. TimeSplitters 2 is just not much fun, it is too fast to have any stealth or surprise element, and has graphics and sound that are years behind what is possible with today’s hardware.
The control issues are unforgivable, especially as the GoldenEye ones were perfect. How could it be possible to make it worse? Nevermind make them terrible. The inclusion of many features and level editor is no excuse for the disappointment for what should have effectively been GoldenEye 2. On the surface it may appear to be true to the classic, but underneath is a vastly shallow implementation that promised so much more. I was looking forward to many nights of skilled multiplayer matches, but it would be much more rewarding to save yourself £40 and dig out the old N64 for a better gaming experience.
6.5 out of 10