Reviewed: May 1, 2005
Released: March 21, 2005
EA certainly has the “Midas Touch” these days, picking up established franchises and turning them into solid gold. Burnout 3: Takedown was a prime example; admittedly a great series when Acclaim was publishing it, but achieving legendary status once EA took over. And now we have TimeSplitters: Future Perfect, still from the fine folks at Free Radical Design, but Eidos has dropped the series and EA has taken over with glowing results.
It’s been over two years since we’ve seen a TimeSplitters game, so we can (and should) expect a lot of advancements in the franchise. Free Radical delivers it all, entertaining solo gameplay infused with wit and charm, numerous challenges, and a rich multiplayer component (now online) that will have you saying, “Golden-Who?”
Combine all that with hundreds of humorous characters that are so funny you are compelled to unlock every last one, a great story that spans past, present and future, and some of the best console-FPS controls in the biz and you have the makings of a truly remarkable game.
FPS fans who appreciate a good story will certainly enjoy this latest saga that ties together all the missions in a cohesive plot that spans centuries; 1914, 2401, and a few years in between. You actually have a reason to be jumping from time zone to time zone, and in a clever new twist, you can even rip the time fabric and interact with your future or past self, often several versions of your self. And these aren’t just gimmicky moments but true puzzles and action sequences that require you to work as a “team”.
And when you get tired of playing with yourself you can invite a friend to tag along for some excellent (offline) cooperative campaign play that oddly enough, works better and is more fun than Doom 3. Of course the multiplayer modes is where this game truly shines and Future Perfect packs in more multiplayer gaming than any two other titles. Prepare to play nothing else for a long time.
Like any good modern day video game, Future Perfect delivers a wealth of gameplay and locks it all behind a clever reward system that encourages, nay, forces you to play the story mode over and over, at least if you want to unlock the enormous cast of hysterically funny characters and everything else. Otherwise, you can settle back for a nice 10-12 hours story that spans 13 missions and 500 years.
We join our hero, Cortez, hanging upside after crashing his spaceship. Rescued by comrades, you storm through the desert landscape, learning the intricacies of the control system as you blast alien beasts. Once inside the complex you jump into the time machine and begin (or rather resume) your quest for those mysterious time crystals.
Rather than assume the role of an era-specific character (ala Quantum Leap) you play the entire story out as Cortez, who isn’t much for blending in. This leads to some humorous exchanges. The game also has you revisiting certain levels at various time periods and interacting with past and future versions of yourself. It’s a fairly clever way of having you backtrack through previous levels without having it seem like you are backtracking through previous levels.
Your first jump back in time takes you to 1924 to a castle being bombarded by air and sea. After some rousing adventures inside the castle you jump to the swinging sixties then off to more exciting times and levels like a haunted house, island military base, zombie-infested science lab, a moving train, just to name a few.
The game is infused with more humor than a week’s worth of Comedy Central, not only in the charming character design but also in the witty banter during the story and even the one-liners spoken during the character select screen. “With a little lubrication I’m ready for anything”. As you might guess from that quote and the Mature rating, the game gets a bit off-color at times, but it’s all pretty juvenile and lowbrow humor, much like South Park. Some of the funniest moments are when Cortez delivers his heroic “time to split” catchphrase that is always met with mixed results.
There is a great selection of weaponry, more than 20, always specific to the era. Free Radical has also thrown in the Gravity Gun so you can toss around objects and bodies just like in their telekinetic thriller, Second Sight. Unfortunately, manipulating gravity has become about as original as including “bullet time” in your game.
You can now also hop into trucks, tanks, and buggies and either drive them or possibly man the turret in the back and let you’re A.I. or human companion drive for you. This is pretty standard stuff for anyone who has played HALO, but it’s certainly new to the TimeSplitters’ franchise and a most welcome addition.
The missions and the levels design don’t leave much to the imagination when it comes to trying to figure out where you need to go and what you need to do. Everything is very linear with no alternate paths or solutions. You merely fight your way to the next point of interaction, pause for a moment to contemplate the situation, solve the dilemma then rinse and repeat.
But what happens when you take those same levels or variations on the environments and set them to multiplayer mayhem? Total brilliance. With dozens of mini-games, insanely creative challenges, standard and non-standard multiplayer modes, and a built-in map designer, there is no end to the fun you can have with Future Perfect.
There are 16 multiplayer maps and all of the Arcade and Challenge modes can be tackled solo or multiplayer. The ability for split-screen cooperative campaign play is just icing on the cake. Multiplayer gaming is enhanced further with massive stats tracking and all sorts of game modifiers like having a monkey assist the player who is losing.
Multiplayer truly shines on the Xbox featuring up to 16 players, twice as many PS2 and four times that of GameCube’s split-screen only multiplayer. If riotous multiplayer action is what you’re after then the Xbox version is the one you need to be playing.
Future Perfect looks amazing most of the time with a few moments of sheer brilliance and fewer moments of "oops, what happened there?" The first of several wow-inspiring moments was about five minutes into the game when a huge installation on the planet surface blew up. The resulting explosion, heat distortion, and shockwave sent my controller to the floor along with my jaw.
Free Radical has always been about the wacky character design that borders more on twisted comic books or exaggerated reality than anything else. They are truly one of the few designers that can create a game and you can instantly know who did it by looking at the character models. The cast in Future Perfect is eclectic and totally hilarious. With more than 150 playable characters you’d think they would run out of ideas, but I guarantee, just when you think you have seen it all they throw something new at you.
Level design is simplistic, both in design and detail. Indoor and outdoor locations are sparsely populated and the textures are detailed enough, but everything has a washed out look to it, almost like you are watching through a lens filter or something. A few objects populate the interiors and some are even interactive like the organ in the castle that plays a few choice tunes if you activate it.
Framerate holds up at 60fps for the single-player game but can take a hit during multiplayer when you have dozens of players and enemies running around creating total graphical chaos. Larger explosions can bring the game to a crawl. I was puzzled and disappointed that even though the game supports progressive scan there was some shimmering in the levels and jaggies were abundant in most every level. Obviously, the Xbox version was not optimized or this simply wouldn’t exist.
There is a decent theatrical-style score that resides in the background for most of the game, but rises to the surface during intense moments. It’s dramatic when it needs to be and disappears when it should.
Sound effects are rich and the game supports a Dolby Digital mix for optimum experience on a home theater. Explosions are powerful and will rock your sub-woofer while all the various weapons make interesting and believable sounds. I’ve never fired a laser turret before so I can’t say for certain. Same goes for vintage pistols, rifles or machine guns from the 20’s.
Of course the dialogue truly sells the game and the story with superior voice acting by Cortez and his cronies. And once you unlock the enormous cast of characters you will easily spend an hour or more just listen to the various one-liners in their selection screen.
Multiplayer supports the headset for full voice chatting and the level editor gives you full control over placing sound and music cues within your custom-built levels. Pretty cool stuff.
You might not notice just how big Future Perfect is until you are about done with your first trip through the campaign and see you have only “completed” 20% of the game. Sure, you can “finish” the story mode in a single evening, but to actually explore this entire DVD will take you a month or more of solid play.
By design, you are encouraged to play and replay the game on the various skill settings. Some characters and other bonuses can only be unlocked on the more difficult settings. Consider your first pass a trial run. Plus, the levels and challenges open up with each new change in difficulty, so you don’t even have access to the entire game on the easier settings.
And then you have the massive arcade experience with a host of mini-games and challenges, all of which are ranked and recorded on Xbox Live. The first time I went Live with Future Perfect I literally spent 2-3 hours exploring the menus, checking out the massive stats system, and poking fun at the guys at the top of the list who have obviously quit their day jobs to log such impressive stats.
Even more ingenious is the ability to record your gameplay, at least for the challenges, and post those replays online. Not only does this give you the ultimate bragging rights, but it actually serves as a tutorial for those of us who can’t manage to turn a 19-second lap in the cat race or snipe the melon off a monkey, three at a time.
There is also the hope of future content from Free Radical, but meanwhile we can enjoy the massive library of levels that is already building up on the Xbox Live community. The map editor isn’t entirely intuitive, but it appears there are enough talented designers out there to keep us in fresh levels until the next installment.
TimeSplitters has always been a huge hit with multiplayer fans and has never been known for their single-player game. Free Radical has gone the extra mile to enhance both the single and the multiplayer experience. Obviously, just by making this game playable online they have revitalized the franchise, but they have added so much more. And while the single-player campaign is still lacking, especially when compared to anything else out there, it is still a huge evolution from anything they have done in the past.
Wisely enough, the designers know the value of this game is in the multiplayer modes and have locked everything down behind the single-player game, but even worse, you have to play it on various skill levels to open up all those characters, weapons, levels, game modes, and other bonus goodies. Oh yes…you will play the single-player game...you will…whether you like it or not.
But with charming characters, fun scripted events, and the chance to play with past and future versions of yourself, you can’t help but have a great time with TimeSplitters: Future Perfect. The more you play, the more you unlock and the longer you keep playing. A definitely most-own title for any action or FPS fan, especially if you love multiplayer.
Time to split….