TimeSplitters: Future Perfect Xbox, Playstation 2, and GameCube Developed by Free Radical Design Released in 2005
After the revolutionary overhaul that TimeSplitters 2 brought to the series, Free Radical Design had one more title coming up that would be bigger and better than any of the previous games. While it did succeed at that in some ways, with Future Perfect being remarkably close to the first person shooters we know today in terms of pacing and mechanics, Free Radical took it a little too far and, in my opinion, threw out a lot of what made the last game so endearing in the first place.
They spilled comedy all over the plot!
TimeSplitters as a series has always had a good helping of comedy worked into the mix. From its perplexing obsession with monkeys to the crazy characters and even weirder setpiece moments, the games have always been weird, but the story, at least when there was one to begin with, was always played straight. The series is about humanity’s last stand in a fight against a race of time travelling aliens seeking to undo humanity’s past, and a unit of elite marines tasked with chasing these aliens down and making sure historical characters do what they are famous for.
The second game utilized this concept well and throughout that adventure Sergeant Cortez acquired a number of time crystals. Future Perfect is a direct sequel and has Cortez arrive back on earth where earth’s top scientists have constructed a time machine of their own to finally take the initiative in this war.
It sounds like a logical continuation of the plot and some missions you end up doing tie in with events from previous games. You once again meet up with Captain Ash and Harry Tipper after previous adventures of theirs and you even become a participant in The Machine Wars that were a background detail before now. The issue is that the “feel” of the storytelling is all wacky all the time and the missions are much more linear. This might have worked, if the comedy wasn’t so cringeworthy to listen to.
For example: while a stage set in a haunted mansion comes close to matching the scary atmosphere of missions like Siberia and the Notre Dame from the previous game, you have to go through it with a whiny, teenage girl attached to you. Most of the supporting characters are like that, exaggerating a stereotype way beyond the point where it stops being funny, even when it means completely changing the personality of established characters. The rest of the humor mostly involved fart jokes, references to sex, and “haha, homosexuality is funny”. I often couldn’t even bear to listen to how awkward the dialogue was and would rush segments or break stealth just to interrupt it.
When I say the storytelling is more linear, I mean that in the sense that paths are constantly blocked off until you meet your quota for dudes killed and you are in constant contact with supporting characters. People just won’t stop talking to you, always eager to point out the obvious, make “funny” remarks, or complain when you are exploring too much or “not taking the adventure serious enough”. Whereas previously missions opened with a cutscene and then left you alone, here you are constantly getting interrupted, and while this does result in a story that feels bigger, it also makes it less fun to play.
Story score: 2/10
Improved, but not better. Somehow.
TimeSplitters: Future Perfect plays, in many ways, more akin to a modern shooter. Gone are the floaty aiming controls of the previous game, in Future Perfect you can reliably aim both while firing from the hip or when aiming down the sights (for the few weapons that support it). All the weapons also feel effective, from the powerful and accurate pistols to the dual-wield sub-machine guns and rifles, as well as the variety of exotic weapons like rocket launchers and the scifi guns. Weapon selection isn’t as crazy as it was in the previous two games, but it still has a worthy selection of arms to choose from.
New to the series are vehicles that you get to use on rare occasions, especially fun in co-op mode, and you get to use the uplink to manipulate switches at a distance, though this only comes in handy for the rare, few puzzles where you are likely to forget it’s even an option.
The missions, like the storytelling, are a lot more linear, with most dragging you through a simple path that AI partners are absolutely excited to point out to you. Doors remain locked until you complete the objective, so gone are the large stages that you had to explore to complete the mission. Exploration now only yields you some extra ammunition and health kits, if even that. Most painful of all is that the game no longer changes the mission depending on the difficulty mode; TimeSplitters the first expanded the level to make tougher difficulties a challenge and TimeSplitters 2 added extra objectives and allowed you to enter parts of the stage previously locked off. Future Perfect does none of that, opting to instead make enemies do and take more damage, which is just lame.
You have a health and shield meter to keep track off and which you can refill with rare items, so the only challenge here is whether or not you can make it through the stage, rather than whether you can do that on top of also figuring the stage out. Supporting the regular goons with guns are big boss battles and these tend to be pretty neat, if taxing on your health meter. I just wish the path to getting to these bosses was made more interesting because gunning you way through these levels and occasionally finding a switch just isn’t that fun.
Gameplay score: 4/10
Gold star for animation
If nothing else, I will at least admit that the animation both in-game and during cutscenes is some of the finest on the playstation 2. This a really good-looking game with large environments that are well-designed and use an appealing animation style. Putting TimeSplitters and Future Perfect side-by-side is kind of crazy when you consider both are on the same console. What I was especially fond of is that, when playing solo, your AI companion will do all sorts of stuff that uses fancy animations, though it will sometimes glitch out and ruin the moment.
The roster of characters has grown once again and though it isn’t as big a jump as last time around, it does raise the game to a total of 150 playable characters, most of which you do need to unlock. All of these characters look great with their personality, though rarely in line with what I would appreciate, made clear through their looks and animation.
The level design is equally impressive with countless little details worked into each area, with perhaps the most exciting stage being a level set entirely on the train of an evil mastermind. The music and sound-effects don’t stand out much, but the voice acting is spot on, which makes it a shame that the game had a lot of audio glitches. Dialogue would freeze up or fall out of sync with cutscenes, or in one case the game began playing two audio tracks for two different cutscenes at the same time. As far as I can see my copy of the game is fine, but this was a consistent issue I had throughout.
Presentation score: 8/10
The arcade league is back
As we have come to expect of the series, the story mode is accompanied by an elaborate and fun multiplayer mode that you unlock more stuff and characters for by playing the story mode and tackling the challenges in the arcade league. The multiplayer has never before been this expansive and for the content alone I’d say this is one of the best shooters to play with a few friends on the Playstation 2, GameCube, and Xbox. Still, for co-op mode I’d sooner recommend the less cringeworthy TimeSplitters 2, also because you lose out on seeing a lot of the fun animations when somebody else is controlling the AI companions here.
Extras score: 7/10
If you are up for a turn-your-brain-off kinda fun, then Future Perfect is not too bad. It’s stupid, sure, but it’s also a very competent shooter with fun and diverse weaponry. Not to forget the multiplayer mode which can be extensively customized to fit your precise mood. Yet, when you come into the game with a particular fondness for TimeSplitters 2, as is the case for me, it just sucks to see the many ways in which Future Perfect regresses and fails, and what the developers implemented to try and mask that.