Recently we’ve all been misty eyed about our beloved franchises going over 20 years of existence. Some still going strong after 2 decades (…) and some out of obligation from the publisher or barely exist (Castlevania, Metal Gear, Final Fantasy, Mega Man, Mario Kart, and Mortal Kombat). I kid I kid. I only poke because they are highly revered franchises that lasted console generations and recognizable to this day. Sadly, I speak of a series and a game time forgot, Timesplitters 2.
Rare does a title come along and shift how we view a genre and the way we play them. Goldeneye 007 championed local multiplayer, heralded objective based levels, and referenced past entries of the Bond movie series. Rare Ltd at the time of Goldeneye’s success, had a handful of employees leave to form Free Radical. In the newly developed studio in 1999, was David Doak and composer Graeme Norgate. Granted their leave barely stifled Rare’s dominance in the late 90s. Free Radical looked to make their first title less about story and more about the frantic multiplayer that made Goldeneye a hit. Emerging onto the PS2 as a bundled pack in was the original Timesplitters. A basic start for Free Radical, taking many assets of 007’s look and gameplay combined with nonsensical polygonal characters fighting each other with weapons from different time periods. While that was TS1’s forte, the campaign was lackluster. Story in Timesplitters was scraped for bland run and gun levels, consisting of time traveling, killing enemies, grabbing the McGuffin of an item, killing some more, escape the area, and back to a portal. It was rushed, and looked awful compared to the next addition.
October 9th, ten years ago today, TimeSplitters 2was released upon the masses. In this, came one of the finest First Person Shooters packages to ever grace the beginning of the millennium. Nothing was forced, slipped in, or even felt out of place. Each element of TS2 was equally as fun as the other, and easily eat up days with each factor. The campaign alone is something to gawk at. A story mode where time travel is the greatest asset in a game’s plot, having you fight cowboys in the West then fighting robots centuries later and it all made sense. Time Traveling is all about the adventure. Throw out the logic and minute details of “the butterfly effect” and enjoy the ride of being in the future/past. Applied to Timesplitters, here’s a portal and endless possibilities for anyone to explore in. The opening movie is enough plot to satisfy, the titular aliens called the “Timesplitters” are at war with Humans. The Timesplitters use Time Crystals to screw with the humans’ past by giving power in the worst possible hands, while two space marines attempt to destroy the crystals and prevent further destruction of the past.I could be very meticulous about how both parties use the Time Machine. However, don’t bother me with logic or plot holes here sir I’m using my fists to knock the head off this zombie in Paris!
Levels were all about being immersed in the world. A beautiful opening cutscene and paragraphs of text setting the exposition that let the player unravel the plot around them. The quantum leaping campaign focused on the control of a person. People with their own motives and missions were all connected, coinciding with an overarching storyline of Timesplitters 2. They were vessels for the generic space marine Sgt. Cortez (that doubled as Vin Diesel) to embody. It was all an allegory for the gamer. Cortez was us, the player, assuming the role of a person for a short period of time in order to progress through their journey. It’s actually quite genius to think of a game covertly breaking the fourth wall.
Your goal in Timespitters 2 is to get the crystals and escape the time machine, with a co-op partner or not. Sure Timesplitters 1 was all about smash and grab tactics that mirrored the Dooms, the Quakes of side stepping bullet hells. The sequel (again) mirrored Goldeneye’s design of level objectives. No two levels were the same, neither because of the locations nor the time period specific weapons. One had you escaping from two warring alien species. Another had you fight off Aztecs and wood Golems by lighting crossbow arrows on fire, while performing puzzles. You had the leisure of player choice with no “morality” attached to it. Given primary and secondary tasks in a level and free will to do whatever you want with them, all the game cared about is if you got the crystal and left. No matter how many guards, outlaws, and Frenchmen you kill or any amount of people saved, it didn’t matter. The opening level gave you a choice of unleashing hell upon opposing forces or sneak your way in and play it like Bond.
Come to think of it, every level could be associated as a movie parody. I was a Detective gunning down gangsters, I was a rogue robot going against their master, I was escaping the brown barren land of Planet X as a Buck Rodgers esque pilot. Where other games crudely force “parodies” of popular series (Duke Nukem Forever), TimeSplitters 2 tackled genres of another medium of entertainment. Remember when I said this was made from the team from Rare that did Goldeneye? Yay there’s two glaring Bond movie references in one mission, the slowly ascending laser from “Goldfinger” and the volcanic nuclear island of “The Man with the Golden Gun.” Harry Tipper, the man with richest moustache, was Bond’s sexy and confident doppleganger. It was homage to Bond and Goldeneye 64 equally. Even the opening levels of Goldeneye and Timeplitters 2 start intentionally similar. Both started with a pan over shot with a pistol and sniper rifle as starting weapons. Both required you to infiltrate and reach the top of the USSR controlled dam to escape. In fact, the music from Siberia is reminiscent to what Norgate did with Goldeneye! Oh Bond parodies and homages weren’t the only thing in Timesplitters 2 heavily lifted with love.
Imagine this, the year is 2019, a neo-noir dystopian city of the future endlessly raining, while people are hunted down by flying law enforcement. What environment am I vaguely describing? That would be Blade Ru-Tokyo, get it right man, Neo-fricking-Tokyo. This isn’t plagiarizing Ridley Scott, this is a love letter to him. The flying cop cars are exact recreations of “spinners” and it all looks like one of the most influencial sci-fi movies ever made. Hell even the music of the Timesplitters 2 level had elements of the end theme lifted! Naturally, as a level itself, it’s fantastic.
Neotokyo doesn’t even need you to fire a weapon for the majority of the game, a direct contrast from the previous time jump of crazy lasers from the far future. You could use a gun to take out cameras or pull out the map to avoid the camera’s view. This is, of course, an infiltration mission. All you did was tail a hacker to her sewer base and doing these tedious tasks for a shooter and YOU LOVE IT. All those little bits of intrigue make you feel a part of the world, being under the impression of hacking software and uncovering how the Timesplitters fit into this place in time. That’s all after you are finally able to gain entrance to the base, devising multiple strategies to not be seen by cameras. The guns blazing part is later in the game, for now you must spend an extended period of time restarted and revising, just to get 1/3 of the level done.
You want to fight Dinosaurs and cookie bread men with a team of cloned 70s swingers? Go ahead, let it be. So what if characters nothing but skins and different heights? Tell that to the millions of people shelling out fine coin to League of Legends and the Avatar marketplace. The multiplayer in Timesplitters 2 expanded the character list of the first to over 125, and created even more ridiculous death matches with things that can’t hold guns. Half the fun is the imagination involved in pitting a team of this and a team of that against each other, making on the spot fiction. Like what if a team of Russia soldiers were out drinking at a Circus and a war broke out between the two. Ok, not a bad start, but what if we add that it was all thanks to one soldier’s horrific murder from Mr. Giggles? Who is of course a formerly well-known Ukrainian clown, now meth addict. It can be as disturbing or high concept as you want, just another example of player choice letting you paint your own picture with the blank canvas you have.
The multiplayer was actually awesome enough without making characters in to meth fueled murderers. Varying modes like Elimination gave each player lives, Leech and Vampire require constant killing to stay alive, and the coin grabbing Thief mode are all nice deviations of deathmatch. Hell others just get silly, stuck in last place? No problem, SEND IN THE MONKEY ASSISTANTS! Or in the case of Shrink, the higher rank you are in the match the bigger target you are. I’m not talking about a shiny red dot on your head everywhere, but when lesser ranked players are half your size it’s not your ordinary deathmatch! Virus and Flame tag shook things up and remove the necessity of zany guns. Mirroring the campaign of Timesplitters 2, these are modes that don’t require any bullets to win. Set the game in a narrow map with no guns with either of those aforementioned modes and prepare for hell.
The Spec Ops mode you see in Modern Warfare 2 isn’t that innovative. Retooling levels and maps to short missions of their own? Nah, Timesplitters 2 did that.So if you needed another reason to loathe a high selling and competent series, here you go. The Arcade League of Timesplitters 2 worked as a series of three. Three leagues, three locked and unlocked categories, and three matches in each category, they can be a handful. Each quest was its own story telling twist on a multiplayer match.Creating situations to introduce and unlock modes, maps, and more characters. Depending on how well you do, you can win medals of Bronze, Silver, Gold or if you do exceptionally, a Platinum Medal to further unlock more content.One scenario had a mob boss having delusions of Ducks coming to thatch his hair transplant in a hospital, and he pulls out his sawed off shotgun to take them on. With the 125+ cast ,it’s possible. We see cheeky titles on achievements/trophies, but none actually followed through. Red Fraction, err the Dead Fraction scenario had “Ulcer” Corp miners revolt against their oppressive leaders. All it did was give the exposition, and set map to Chasm (mining area). Once again, brilliant how they set up simple parodies and ridiculous sketches, leaving it open for us to play out crazy stories with our imagination.
As if Timesplitters 2 wasn’t enough content on one disc, there was a level editor that lets you make maps and single player missions. This was FAR ahead of its time, map maker on consoles? Preposterous and it worked!? No one used the internet to play on consoles early in the PS2/Xbox era, and there wasn’t even a PC port! Thus a friendless boy, like myself, can’t share their creations with anyone in the vicinity. Holy hell, I can’t fathom how incredible this would have been today. I’m wetting myself about a modern day sequel or a “remake” in EA’s case. If an obscure Capcom fighting game that isn’t Marvel or Street Fighter can be turned HD, then why isn’t there a Timesplitters 2 HD already out? Wait, nope that was cancelled too.
I’ve enjoyed a lot of levels in Timesplitters 2, but none topped my love of prohibition era Chicago. You assume the role of former Detective Jake Fenton in a middle of an internal monologue, disgusted by the corruption of his city. He drops his cigarette and crushes it with his shoe panning over to reveal the stern look of perseverance on Fenton. Glasses, suspenders, a bangin’ brown fedora, and a thirst for justice. Fenton is out to meet a snitch and gain access to the Big Tony’s Club to take out Big Tony himself. The scene ends and another act of player choice appears, use the vintage rifle to kill the guards on the docks or lead the vengeance with rapid fire lugers.
The cutscene alone got me giddy at not only the suave delivery of lines, but the lines themselves. They are what you would associate mobster movies with. The internal monologues, constant corruption, and the obsessive use of the words “Dead” and “Big,” this was crying out for me to whack.The Soundtrack with instances of Jazz, upbeat piano, and a soothing mute trumpet made for a sillier sound that would evoke of the Godfather. Get to the cronies donning Tommy Guns and hurling insults like “Ok Wise guy,” “Why I ought a,” and “It’s Curtains for you.” I’m floored by all of it. This is what I love about Timesplitters, its dedication to their stereotypically tropes of a genre. About ten minutes later I had finished my use of Fenton, and I collected the time crystal to return to the portal for the next mission with another person to repeat the process.
What Timesplitters 2 Did For Me
In my youth, or more realistically 7 years ago, I was madly in love with Future Perfect’s enjoyable campaign and bizarre sense of humor. It told me a story through cutscenes and goofy dialogue, making my simpleton mind go happy. It had everything I enjoyed about Time Traveling, silly encounters with yourself, excusing the fact the universe might tear if you meet your past self. I started with the best and biggest multiplayer and a laugh out loud campaign. Timesplitters 2 meant nothing to me. I didn’t want any part in the funky precision aiming, forced stealth, and “non-existent” plot. Faces looked even more stoic and muddy, with little dialogue in missions. The multiplayer assets in 2 were continued and expanded on in 3. Hell, it didn’t even have the boring North American cover of Cortez with a gun. Why should have wanted to do anything with 2? It was unique, where its successor changed aiming to a thumbstick from pressing a button and act like a light gun shooter. The precision and pacing was welcomed here in ten short concise levels. Where the sequel made Cortez a goofy space marine to point and laugh at every time he says damnit, Timesplitters 2’s Cortez was you. It was a mature game with hints of quirkiness and humor blended with movie parodies, that didn’t force comedy that Future Perfect blown overboard with. It was artistic without being up its own ass and retained its brand of wacky nature.
Today’s Shooters cram all this multiplayer “Rinse and repeat” leveling into their games and it’s too much. Forcing XP farming and hours mindlessly grinding to obtain one weapon, this focuses us on stats and spreadsheets, and that’s how we fun in gaming today!? Where’s the creativity and excitement from playing one match? Why does playing videogames have to become work for us? Most importantly, why do Shooters need to have both campaigns and multiplayer and sacrifice one’s quality for another? With all of that in mind in the modern age of multiplayer, my love for one game grows more and more. I salute you Timesplitters 2.