Timesplitters: Future Perfect
Review by Davo
Making the Quantum Leap into Gaming Fun
If you've seen the first Spiderman movie with Toby Maguire,
you might recall the scene where he first realizes he has spider
powers after webs begin shooting out of his wrists and he develops
super speed and strength. Maguire, as Peter Parker, Spiderman's
alter ego, slowly begins scaling a vertical wall. Clinging to the
wall about 20 feet off the ground, he looks down, breaks into a
wild grin and exuberantly screams "woohoo" as he scales
the rest of the building and begins leaping over rooftops. He's
clearly having a grand time. Timesplitters: Future Perfect is
like that moment when Parker realizes he has spider powers. This
game is grand fun in a big way.
Now, admittedly, fun is a vague term. What makes a game fun? I
can't provide a universal definition. In this case, it's solid gameplay
combined with an interesting story, unusual environments, surprising
variety and generous helpings of humor. At a time when most FPS
games are striving for dark, moody and atmospheric, Timesplitters:
Future Perfect focuses on laugh-out-loud fun in both single
and multiplayer modes. If you require dystopian environs, hell on
Mars or futuristic ring worlds in your FPS games, then you should
look elsewhere. You won't find anything like that in Timesplitters:
Future Perfect. If, however, you're intrigued by the idea of
a game that flings you through time into environments that range
from an eerie underwater city straight out of a Jules Verne novel
to a zombie-filled mansion reminiscent of Resident Evil, then
read on. Much fun lies ahead.
Back to the Future
You play Timesplitters: Future Perfect as Cortez, a deliberately
bald, muscular, slightly oblivious, can-do hero. The story focuses
on Cortez's efforts to thwart an evil alien-like race called the
Timesplitters that is determined to destroy humanity. Events in
the game span a 500-year stretch of time. As Cortez, you zip back
and forth through time trying to decipher the Timesplitters' next
move and preserve the future of humanity.
Timesplitters: Future Perfect is the third game in the series,
and the first to provide a decent storyline. The first Timesplitters
game had virtually no story. The game plunked you into the middle
of one of many playable time periods and grabbed your attention
with gorgeous graphics, diverse level design and tight gameplay.
Noting the trend toward story in FPS games, the developer wrapped
a thin storyline around Timesplitters 2. While the game was
excellent, the story was little more than an idea that connected
the time periods together.
With Timesplitters: Future Perfect, the developers have
finally gotten the story right. Originality is not this tale's strength.
Rather, it grabs hold of you with a time travel story that conceals
a few intriguing mysteries and provides much humor. If you've followed
the series, the story is a bit of a treat because you'll learn the
surprising origins of the Timesplitters. Following the series from
the beginning is not, however, a prerequisite to enjoying this game's
story. Even if you don't enjoy the mysteries or you find the unoriginality
grating, you'll likely enjoy the humor.
Most levels allow you to play the story as future and past versions
of yourself. You're future self will run into your past self and
dole out vague hints about what's going on. Halfway through the
level you'll play as your future self, complete with the opportunity
to gloat at your past self's incomprehension of what's about to
Much of the story is conveyed through outstanding cutscenes. The
Timesplitters games have a very distinctive cartoon-like
graphical style. All of the characters have a rubbery appearance,
with slightly exaggerated facial features and body movements. The
developers have mastered the ability to animate the characters in
the cutscenes. The characters display a range of emotions that you
rarely see done well outside of Square/Enix games or lavish Hollywood
CGI movies like Toy Story or The Incredibles. No effort
is made at photorealism, and thank goodness. The animation is done
so well that you'll rarely wish anything looked more realistic.
The cutscene animators have done an outstanding job capturing subtle
human emotions through facial expressions. My favorite moment occurred
during a scene in which Cortez, accompanied by a pretty, young female
punk rocker, looks down a deep pit behind a zombie-filled mansion
and hears the growl of something big. The punk rock girl looks at
Cortez, and, with an expression that is partly sly, partly scared
and partly daring, says to him, "You go first." It's over
in about two seconds, but the emotional impact of the moment is
conveyed entirely through the expression on the punk rock girl's
face, the expertly animated lip-syncing and the tense tone of her
Weak voice acting has become less of a problem over the past couple
of years as developers have turned to professionals to bring life
to their characters. Following this trend, Timesplitters: Future
Perfect has outstanding voice acting throughout the game. Every
voice is unique and appropriate for the character speaking.
Where the game really distinguishes itself in terms of story is
in its approach to humor. Like a Naked Gun movie, the game throws
one gag after another at you. Some of the humor is verbal, as when
Cortez tries to use a catch phrase throughout the game with mixed
results. Much of the humor, however, is visual and easy to miss
if you're not alert.
The game has an excellent co-op mode that lets two players play
at the same time on a split screen. Be warned, however, that playing
in co-op mode detracts a bit from the humor. Although the cinemas
remain unchanged, the secondary characters, which the computer controls
in single-player mode, do some hilarious things during gameplay
in the one-player game. There's the malfunctioning robot, for example,
that charges ahead of you in single-player mode, crowing in its
mechanical voice about the superiority of machines and the certain
death awaiting flesh-bag humans at its hands. In co-op mode, player
two will control the robot without the benefit of its humorous comments.
Timesplitters: Future Perfect's single-player mode takes
about 10 hours to complete and represents only about 7% of the game
(at least, that's what the game indicated when I finished the single-player
mode). I completed the single-player game in 90-minute sessions
over seven days.
The game's controls don't take seven days to master. You can pick
them up easily in a few minutes. The controls are as good as can
be expected from an FPS on a console. As usual, if you've played
you'll master the controls instantly. I played the Xbox version
of the game, which generally provides better FPS controls than other
consoles, although the Gamecube does okay with shooters. Still,
you should keep this in mind if you're planning to play on the PS2.
Gameplay is fast-paced and exciting. You'll race through each level
looking over your weapon in typical FPS style and killing everything
that moves. The game has a nice variety of weapons, and the firearms
are appropriate to whatever time period you're visiting. If you're
in 1924, you'll use revolvers and single-action bolt rifles. In
2400, you'll use ray guns and plasma weapons.
The music and sound effects are fitting and well done, although
nothing really stands out as exceptional. The music created the
right mood at the right time, but I can't say I remember any of
it from the single-player game. There is one challenge level (more
on these later), however, involving monkeys dancing in a discotheque
that just wouldn't work without the music chosen by the developer.
The end-game cinema also features a real treat, both musically and
visually. Sound effects are excellent throughout.
The in-game graphics don't fare quite as well as the previously
mentioned cutscenes. The Timesplitters graphics engine is aging
gracefully, but it's getting a bit long in the tooth, especially
in terms of character detail. The environments were well animated
and expertly drawn, but Cortez's hands, for example, looked chunky
and flat, like four Twinkies mashed together. In addition, characters'
lips don't move when they're speaking during gameplay. The aging
in-game engine never bothered me, but graphics aren't my first priority.
If top-of-the-line graphics are truly important to you, take notice.
The 4400 Things to Do with 12 Monkeys
After you've completed the single-player game, extensive multiplayer
maps, challenge modes, unlockable characters, a mapmaker toolset
and online capabilities round out the package.
The Xbox multiplayer maps are variants of the single-player levels.
You can play them on- or offline. Online, you play over Xbox Live
against other players. Finding an online game was easy and painless.
Create a character, pick a game mode and map and off you go. I hit
a few snags when I tried to find online games for modes that no
one was playing at the time. I'm not sure whether this is an occasional
problem or something endemic to certain types of multiplayer modes.
I found plenty of people playing the virus mode, for example, which
has you trying to avoid an infectious disease. If you become infected,
your role is reversed and you have to spread the infection. I could
not, however, find anyone playing vampire mode, which has you draining
other players' energy to stay alive. You get to continue playing
only so long as you kill other players to absorb their energy and
keep your life bar from depleting.
The multiplayer modes are insidious little exercises in clever
game design. Virus and Vampire mode were a lot of fun. My favorite
has to be "Monkey Assistant" mode, which grants five killer
monkeys to the player in last place. If you slip into last place,
you suddenly have five murderous monkeys assisting you.
Once you pick a mode, you choose from about a dozen maps. One of
the most clever maps takes place on an airborne dirigible. You can
fight inside the blimp or on top of it. At all times, you have to
be careful not to fall off the top of the blimp or through numerous
holes in its floor that appear as the airship takes damage from
If you don't have an Xbox or an Xbox Live account, or you plan
on playing the Playstation 2 or Gamecube versions, not to worry.
All of the multiplayer maps are available offline for single-player
action against bots or split-screen play against other players.
More than 150 unlockable characters are available for multiplayer
use. Multiplayer characters range from the pedestrian to the novel
to the bizarre. Pedestrian choices include the main characters from
the single-player game, scantily clad women (and men) and generic
soldiers. Novel choices include mummies, dinosaurs, zombie monkeys
and enemies from the game. Bizarre choices are incredibly weird.
You can play as "The Shoals," a tophat-wearing whale surrounded
by an uncontained bowl of goldfish circling a central axis. Other
characters include a giant white glove with a face on the back of
its palm, Mr. Giggles, a freaky clown who laughs uncontrollably,
and the Deerhaunter, a skinless zombie deer that walks upright and
runs as fast the skinned undead Doberman pinschers in Resident
Evil. The character selection screen extends the weirdness by
presenting some characters in action-figure packaging, on pedestals
or as flattened cardboard cutouts.
A whole series of strange and wonderful challenge modes are also
available. If you're pressed for time, the challenge modes offer
you several dozen unlockable experiences that you can complete in
a couple of minutes. Try the "Behead the Undead" monkey
zombie challenge levels. You're in a locked room with only a shotgun
as zombie monkeys spawn in and lumber after you. Survive as long
as you can. The "Avec la Brique" level requires you to
break every glass item in a Japanese pagoda in three minutes and
thirty seconds using only bricks. Finally, there is the pinnacle
of Timesplitters: Future Perfect's challenge modes: "Electro
Chimp Discomatic." Four monkeys kept alive with batteries are
dancing in a discotheque. Your job? Keep their batteries charged
with an electro-tool. If their power level reaches zero, they die.
Every 45 seconds or so, four more monkeys hit the dance floor, which,
by the way, occupies two floors. Now you have to race around like
a lunatic keeping your monkeys charged up. By the time you hit 12
monkeys, it's an exercise in futility just finding them on the huge
dual-level dance floor.
Then there's the mapmaker mode. Making a map is easy. Pick from
a selection of tiles taken from the game's levels, snap them together,
add in some enemies, weapons and items and start playing. The game
also provides you with half a dozen multiplayer maps made by the
developers using the toolkit to give you an idea of what is possible.
I built a very basic but workable multiplayer map in 10 minutes.
If you have an Xbox Live connection, you can also upload your maps
for other people to enjoy and download maps that other players have
made. I downloaded two maps. There was an extremely difficult map
that was supposed to be modeled after Halo. It didn't look
anything like Halo and was way too hard for me. On the other
hand, a map modeled after Doom was very impressive. Although
it didn't look like Doom, it had the feel of the game, complete
with colored key pickups and a rudimentary single-player story line
(conveyed through text).
"Get Your Filthy Hands off Me, You Damn Dirty Ape"
Timesplitters: Future Perfect has a lot of monkeys. It's
safe to say this game has more monkeys than any game other than
Ape Escape. These aren't just any monkeys, either. There
are zombie monkeys, robot monkeys, mutant monkeys, lab monkeys,
disco monkeys, ninja monkeys and plain old throw-feces-at-you monkeys.
If you love monkeys, this game is for you.
Lost Somewhere in Time
Aside from the aging graphics engine, Timesplitters: Future
Perfect contains a few additional imperfections. The game uses
a checkpoint save system in single-player mode. The checkpoints
are numerous and well placed; I never had to replay more than a
couple minutes of a level after dying and returning to my last checkpoint.
I only mention it because the ability to save anywhere is a make-or-break
feature for some FPS players. Also, the controls, while as good
as can be expected on the Xbox controller, aren't as good as a mouse
and keyboard. And with no PC version planned, it seems my computer-loving
comrades won't get a chance to experience the game. That's a shame,
because it would be interesting to see what kind of content PC modders
could add to the mapmaker tools. Finally, my analog control stick
stopped working on three occasions. I don't know whether that was
a problem with my controller or the game code, but I was able to
go back to my last checkpoint each time and continue playing.
The Future Is Perfect
Well, not really. Timesplitters: Future Perfect doesn't
quite reach perfection with its aging graphics engine, imperfect
console FPS controls, lack of a save-anywhere feature and small
number of glitches. Its negatives, however, are vastly overshadowed
by its positives and certainly not significant enough to keep it
from getting a stellar rating. I never noticed the imperfections
for more than a passing second or two, and that's mostly because
I was looking closely while wearing my reviewer hat.
I've put in nearly 25 hours of game time with Timesplitters:
Future Perfect and have completed only about 12 percent of the
game, according to the statistics screen. Boredom has yet to set
in, and I still get a kick out of watching the unlocked cinema scenes
to experience the story again. Timesplitters: Future Perfect
is one of my favorite console FPS games of 2005, and I can't
recommend it highly enough. Now I have to go back and unlock some
more challenge levels. As Cortez says, "It's time to split!"
Release Date: March 2005
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