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TimeSplitters Future Perfect is fast-paced fun
The map editor

I had visions of long, column-lined hallways surrounding an open courtyard; the kind of place a guy could hunker down and do some sniping, but still appreciate the aesthetic beauty of it all. I ended up with two floors, one pit and no courtyard. The transition from mind to screen, apparently, does not always go smoothly.

As I had virtually no idea what I was doing—it would have been way too easy to follow the instruction manual’s Map-Maker Tutorial—I needed often to preview all the tiles and items (and, in Advanced mode, story AI and game logic) I’d put in there. Fortunately, the load time from Map-Maker to Preview was only about five seconds, significantly lessening this potentially tedious task, and reinforcing the smoothness of the entire Map-Maker operation. If there’s anything to gripe at, it’s that you need to select each individual tile for placement, even if you’re laying down the same tile more than once—it would have been nice if the copy function held until you chose a new, different tile.

The tile choices are numerous, from one-floor rooms—which glow with freaky red pentagrams in the horror theme—to larger tiles such as the pit, which becomes a spiky nightmare in the Egyptian theme, and the choice of items and other amenities is even greater. Those with on-line hookups can show off your design skills and challenge any comers to fight in your house, even if your boards end up as lame as mine.

-- Aaron Solomon

Along with evil robots and bug-eyed extraterrestrials, time travel is one of the primary go-to subjects for science fiction that's light on the science and heavy on the fiction. TimeSplitters Future Perfect, the slick new installment in the TimeSplitters franchise, is no exception. Although it delves into the ethics and paradoxes of time travel even more superficially than Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure does, its fast-paced run-and-gun gameplay would be right at home in any era.

Whereas the previous two games dealt with a war between humans and the monstrous TimeSplitters, Future Perfect sends Cortez (a thinly-veiled knockoff of Vin Diesel's Riddick) on a quest across time to prevent the war from happening in the first place. It's a promising premise, but the single-player story is weak. Its biggest innovation is the inclusion of wormholes that allow Cortez to leap backward a few minutes to give himself a hand, leading to occasionally virtuoso sequences like the one in which four different Cortezes hack into a computer system while fighting off security drones (yes, you'll play through the scenario four times, each time in a different capacity). For the most part, the single-player levels are straightforward and uninspired, broken up occasionally by unimaginative boss battles. The entire story mode can be completed in only one moderately heroic sitting – probably six hours or so.

What TimeSplitters has in its favor is some of the most exciting first-person shooter gameplay you'll find on a console. Unlike most console shooters (which tend to crawl), Future Perfect is lightning-fast. The play control is so responsive, it's almost as good as using a keyboard and mouse. More importantly, developer Free Radical Design absolutely nails the tactile sensation of the game's weapons. The combination of the sound effects and expert manipulation of force feedback lends every weapon just the right kick. This is a game that just feels right.

The focus here is on multiplayer. Among the many multiplayer modes included are such standbys as Assault and Capture the Bag, plus quirky ones like Vampire (your health slowly ticks down to zero, and can only be replenished by killing other players) and Shrink (a standard deathmatch, except that players change size depend on their ranking). Gamers can go online with the PS2 and Xbox versions of Future Perfect, and all three versions have impressively intelligent bots to play against. Given the plethora of options available – really, I think it would take a computer to calculate all the different gameplay variants you can cook up – and the 15 multiplayer maps, it seems clear that the depth missing from the story mode wound up here. There's even an improved mapmaker (see sidebar for Aaron Solomon's take).

There's also an amusing and rather bizarre "challenge" mode. Tasks include racing a wheeled cat around racetracks, smashing the heads off of zombies, and recharging the batteries of disco-dancing robot monkeys. (No, I didn't make any of that up.) Winning a gold medal in the challenges will unlock new character and levels (EA claims 150 playable characters, in fact, but I didn't come close). The challenges make for fun diversions, and at times achieve a gleeful freneticism, but lack the lasting fun of the multiplayer modes.

What has distinguished the TimeSplitters series to this point has been its refusal to take itself seriously. A lot of platform games these days have a sense of humor, but first-person shooters overwhelmingly tend to be grim, or even downright sadistic. TimeSplitters Future Perfect retains its predecessors' irreverent tone, pairing Cortez with a variety of wacky characters like a 1970s swinger and a teenage girl wearing a T-shirt that says "slut." There's an impressive amount of NPCs, all of them distinct and interesting, and nearly all of them make fun of Cortez for his catchphrase: "It's time to split!" That level of awareness is rare, and welcome.

I doubt we'll be talking about this game years from now, but its wit and breezy, arcade-style gameplay make it a great choice with friends or online. Though it doesn't re-invent the wheel, TimeSplitters Future Perfect proves that sometimes style is substance.

Score: 8.0 (out of 10)

Issue Date: April 8 - 14, 2005
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