The month was October; The year, 2000. The new video game company Free Radical Design were about to start something special. They were about to make a game that, at the time, wasn’t too bad – pretty fun, but pretty forgettable; TimeSplitters – a first-person shooter which would received pretty good reviews across the board, scoring around 8/10 from most journalists, but more importantly would start one of the best video game series of all time. The storyline included 9 levels spanning 100 years from 1935 to 2035. You could play through alone or in co-op play. Standard stuff.There was also an “Arcade” multiplayer mode, with matches which were fully customisable, allowing you to choose everything from the game mode and map to the guns available and winning conditions; a “Challenge” mode, making you complete certain goals on a certain map within the time limit; and a “Mapmaker”, letting players choose from a selection of pre-set tiles to create their own battlefield where they could blow their friends apart with various rockets, missiles, mines, guns, plasma weapons.
Its only problem now is quite a big one – it hasn’t aged too well. I first played this game 6 years after its release, and couldn’t motivate myself to get past the second level – or motivate my brother to play multiplayer with me. Not a great start to what I’ve just called one of the best game series of all time then. That’s where the sequel comes in.
TimeSplitters 2 adds more in the way of single-player story. Although each level still essentially boils down to “Grab the Time Crystal. Get to the exit!” gameplay, they were much more fleshed-out, with plenty to do while controlling space marine Sgt. Cortez on the way through the 10 expansive levels which take you across time and space. Each level’s a thinly-veiled movie parody, with staples like the Wild West, spy films and sci-fi (complete with a huge Robot Factory to explore) covered. It offers the game a unique humour that no other series I’ve ever played has managed to pull off.
The multiplayer modes were expanded with more characters, game modes, maps and weapons and as well as Challenge mode, TimeSplitters 2 gave players the Arcade League – single-player challenges played out just like a multiplayer game. It was not only the highest-rated first-person shooter on the PS2, but it also offered hundreds of hours of gameplay with seemingly endless content, even without DLC. Those were the days!
The third game in the series, TimeSplitters: Future Perfect was released in 2005 and built upon the foundations of its predecessor with a campaign that not only parodied movie genres, but played out like a movie itself. Players controlled a goofier version of Cortez who spoke for himself much more throughout the story. The comedy this time comes more from his interactions with the characters he meets on his journey through time to chase down and finally destroy the Time Crystals.
Although it never quite matched the heights of TimeSplitters 2, Future Perfect was a great first-person shooter and still essential to anybody with any sense of what a good game consists of. It builds upon the second installation in the series with hundreds of trophies to unlock in the Challenge and Arcade League modes, giving you more characters than you could shake a stick at. And monkeys! So many monkeys… If you still need convincing how awesome this series is, here’s a picture of a monkey holding two Uzis.
So here’s the start of my plea – what this has all been leading to. After the release of Future Perfect, gaming company Crytek bought Free Radical and began developing a TimeSplitters 4. Then they stopped. I know right… What a kick between the legs that was! Fans have been trying to get them to restart development ever since, to no avail… Until now! Crytek have expressed interest in re-releasing the original trilogy on HD consoles, and if they sell well, continue development on TimeSplitters 4. They said they’d work on the HD re-release if they get 300,000 people to sign an online petition, and it’s looking increasingly likely we’ll hit that number before long. There are just over 50,000 signatures so far and every time I’ve checked the site that number’s steadily growing. So please, take just a few seconds out of your time and click here and we might just get more monkey-blasting, robot-smashing, time-travelling adventure from the TimeSplitters universe! Everyone owes it to themselves to play these games, and they’d look great with a fancy new coat of HD paint slapped on, and even better with a proper sequel – it’s been far too long.