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Yeah, I’ll never forget this game. TimeSplitters 2 was my first PlayStation 2 game and I sunk hundreds of hours into it. I can remember seeing advertisements for it and although I had never heard of the series, I knew I wanted it. I finally played the first game not too long ago and quickly realized that TimeSplitters 2 and Future Perfect are really what define this series. The first game feels more like a straight up arcade shooter and while it’s fun, the sequels improve everything. Developed by Free Radical Design and published by Eidos Interactive, TimeSplitters 2 was released for the PlayStation 2, Xbox, and GameCube in October, 2002. For this review, I played the Xbox version and I also teamed up with Jeremy to tackle the story mode and enjoy some arcade action.
Unlike the first game, the story mode actually makes an effort to tell a story complete with cut scenes and everything. The story starts in the year 2401 where the humans are at war with an alien race known as the TimeSplitters. They use time crystals to travel through time and change history. Sergeant Cortez and Corporal Hart set out to retrieve the time crystals and use a time portal to follow the TimeSplitters through time. If you’re playing solo, you’ll play as Cortez. If playing with a friend, I’m assuming they take on the role of Corporal Hart. Although, according to the story, she stays at the time portal to defend it. Anyway, every level is set in a different year and location and upon arrival at each location, Cortez takes on the form of different characters. His goal is to retrieve the time crystal in each level. I can’t say the plot is incredible but I do like how it exposes you to different themes and time periods. It feels like the story was designed to fit the gameplay instead of the other way around. The voice acting is not amazing but its sometimes comical and fits the game’s cartoon-y style. The Story mode is okay but the Arcade/Multiplayer is the real highlight of the game and even when I was younger, I only played through the Story just to unlock shit and afterwards I never looked back.
The story mode contains three difficulty modes and it can be completed solo or with a friend. No matter what character you play as, whether it be in the story or any other mode, they all play exactly the same. You can walk, run, crouch, and interact with things in the environments. Beating story levels will unlock different characters for the arcade mode, and completing the story will unlock cheats and arcade levels. The higher the difficulty, the more stuff you unlock and the later levels can be quite challenging. I think the difficulty was toned down a bit compared to the first game but make no mistake, that doesn’t mean the story mode is a breeze. You can die and die easily if you’re not careful. Each story level has a checkpoint that isn’t always placed in an idea spot which can become annoying, and the completion of some levels may just boil down to memorization.
This time around, the story levels contain varied objectives and optional secondary objectives. You’ll have to deactivate things, rescue Maidens, shoot down escaping UFO’s, and one level includes a very trial and error stealth sequence where you need to follow an NPC and avoid security cameras. In my opinion, this level is one of the worst and it really sucks if you’re playing with a friend. Player one is always equipped with a device known as the Temporal Uplink which allows you to view a map of your surrounding area and it also shows you the locations of security cameras. Player two is not equipped with this device, making any stealth objectives unnecessarily difficult for the second player. Not every objective is easy to complete and some are just tedious. There’s a few that require to find or destroy a set amount of specific items in a level and they just make some levels drag on. Some objectives are timed and you need to rush to complete them before time runs out. It’s not always clear where you need to go or what you need to do to complete an objective so it can be very easy to get lost or stuck but you can bring up a list of your objectives at any time during gameplay. Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice that the game doesn’t hold your hand like many modern games do but it can be frustrating running around in circles trying to figure out what to do. Most levels end in a boss battle with bosses that are not really difficult to take down. I would say the challenge comes from dealing with all the enemies throughout a level. They’ll shoot at you, snipe you, shoot from cover, many times you’ll have no idea where they are, they’ll launch grenades at you, you’ll encounter robots equipped with homing rocket launchers, monkeys, undead enemies, auto turrets which can be a real bitch, and several other types.
Unlocking everything the story has to offer is only a small portion of the all content you can unlock in TimeSplitters 2. A good majority of content is unlocked through the Arcade League. The Arcade League consists of three leagues; Amateur, Honorary, and Elite. You must start in the Amateur League and complete the different scenarios to unlock more and progress to the other two leagues. Each scenario require you to complete a specific goal and depending on how well you do, you’ll be rewarded a trophy; bronze, silver, or gold. The better the trophy, the more content you may unlock and if you do extremely well, you’ll unlock the hidden platinum trophy. The scenarios just consist of the different multiplayer game modes seen in the Arcade Custom mode and not only will you unlock characters but you’ll also unlock the different game modes for the Arcade Custom mode and that is one thing I do not like. I don’t like how game modes are locked behind the League. Characters and levels, fine, but game modes seems unnecessary. I would say the Arcade Custom mode is the heart of the game and to experience everything it has to offer, you’re forced to play through the Arcade League. Luckily, unlocking the game modes isn’t that difficult. Sadly, you can only play through the Arcade League solo. Some of the scenarios can be very tough and it would be nice to have a buddy with you to help out. The Arcade League will most likely take you a while if you’re trying to go for all gold or platinum in every scenario. You will probably be repeating many of the same scenarios over and over until you master them and earn the gold or platinum trophies which may prove to be very frustrating but rewarding in the end.
The Challenge mode is a game mode that returns from the first game except it’s accessible from the beginning here and the idea behind it is basically the same. You need to complete a set of challenges and you can earn a trophy for each challenge based on your performance. Sadly, this is another game mode that can only be played solo and the challenges become more difficult as you progress. The Challenges are presented in sets with three challenges of the same type per set. You’ll have to break all the glass within a time limit, collect bananas, shoot monkeys, and you’ll have to survive waves of zombies and I remember these challenges very vividly because there’s just something addictive and rewarding about landing those head shots. Much like the scenarios in the Arcade League, some of the challenges can be fun, others can be frustrating, and the only reason I ever wanted to play through them was to unlock everything for the Arcade Custom mode.
The Arcade Custom mode is basically the multiplayer mode that supports up to four players but it can be played solo with bots which is how I primarily played it back in the day. Whether you’re playing with other people or bots, this mode is very customizable. You can can choose everything ranging from the weapon and bot sets to the background music. You can set the pace of the characters and choose the level or map, some of which are from the first game. After choosing your game mode and map, you can then customize the match. You can disable or enable friendly fire, if you want the radar on or off, the time limit, score limit, and you can also enable or disable power-ups and character abilities, among other things. In both the Arcade League and Arcade Custom modes, power-ups will be lying around the environments to temporarily aid you in battle. One shrinks you, another will turn you invisible, there’s one that boosts your movement speed, and one that boosts your damage dealt. Character abilities are interesting because each character has different stats in accuracy, agility, and stamina, which do affect their performance during gameplay. With Character Abilities enabled, you may want to think about what character you choose. With the feature disabled, all characters are identical in terms of performance.
The amount of game modes available in Arcade Custom is impressive. You’ve got the traditional ones you’ve probably seen in other shooters and even the first game like deathmatch, team deathmach, capture the bag, and bag tag. But there’s a ton more. I really enjoy the Assault mode but sadly, there’s only a few official maps for it. One team needs to complete a series of objectives and the other team tries to stop them. There are several game types that are variants of Deathmatch like Elimination, Leech, Regeneration, Shrink, Monkey Assistant, and Vampire, and modes like Flame Tag and Virus have you trying to avoid getting “tagged”. Thief is a mode where kills don’t grant you points but they do result in coins that you must collect and whoever acquired the most coins at the end of a match, wins. Gladiator is a mode where only the character designated as the gladiator can earn points for kills and whoever kills the gladiator becomes the next gladiator. In Zones, there’s a set amount of zones scattered around a map and your team needs to capture a zone to claim it and earn points. The team that scores the most points at the end of the match, wins. At the end of a match you can view any awards you’ve earned. As mentioned before, there’s an impressive amount of game modes in Arcade Custom and it’s only a shame most of them need to be unlocked in the Arcade League first.
I love the TimeSplitters games for a variety of reasons but the two biggest reasons are the roster of weapons and the bots. There are all kinds of weapons at your disposable like handguns, plasma weapons, rocket launchers, a grenade launcher, sniper rifles, explosives, a flamethrower, shotguns, the ElectroTool which fires a continuous stream of electricity, and others. The Arcade Custom mode allows you to select your own set of weapons for a match or choose from a pre-set list. Some weapons can be dual wielded and many of them have alternate fire modes. The Soviet S47 is an assault rifle that can also fire grenades. The grenade launcher can fire both grenades and incendiary shells. The Laser Gun’s alternate fire can produce a shield to block incoming attacks. And the Plasma AutoRifle can not only fire bolts of plasma but also plasma grenades. No matter what game mode you play through, ammo and weapons are always scattered around a map or level and if you ever run out of ammo, you can always rely on your two fists. The Arcade Custom mode allows you to select from a pre-set list of bots or create your own custom bot list for a match. The bots are just the various characters you unlock in the other game modes. The Undead Priest was always my favorite character but you can select from different types of soldiers, robots, undead characters, the different types of Splitters, and even more wacky types like a snowman, gingerbread man, Duckman Drake, and a dinosaur. The bots do perform well enough during combat. They will attempt to complete objectives, they’ll attack and kill each other, they’ll sometimes slide and roll out of the way, they’ll go for health, armor, and power-ups, and they put up a decent fight. We did notice they’ll often run into walls and sometimes not shoot at you if you’re an obvious target like a bag carrier in capture the bag, but for the most part, they prove to be good allies and foes.
The MapMaker returns and has seen some significant additions. The MapMaker still allows you to create custom maps for the Arcade/Multiplayer game modes but now you can actually create story missions. You place the tiles, choose light colors, and place items like weapons, ammo, spawn points, zones, health and armor, bags and bases, and keys throughout your map. You can place turrets in your map, fill it up with crates, and make all the lights flicker or pulse if you want. Creating a story map is a little more involved but with a little time, anybody can figure it out thanks to the very user-friendly interface. You can place story enemies in the map and set up Game Logic. You can name the story enemies, decide what weapons they carry, set their behavior, and even set up different triggers for not only enemies but timers, locations, objects, counters, and scores. You can easily spend up to an hour or longer on just one map. You can, of course, choose your map’s theme, weapon set, bot set, music, give it a description, and even give it a briefing. You are limited to creating only indoor maps but still, the amount of control and customization you’re given is impressive. And you can preview your map so you can see if it’s to your liking or if you want to tweak something. The only thing holding you back is the amount of memory. Almost everything you place in your map takes up map memory and there is a limit so while you may not be able to create anything super massive, you can still create different small-to-medium unique maps.
Visually, TimeSplitters 2 looks much better than the first game. It retains the cartoon-y visual style and we thought the animations were very impressive, especially for its time. The game does support widescreen, it’s filled with plenty of color, and there’s a good amount of detail in the environments. The only real negative thing I can say about the visuals is all the jaggies but I assume that’s a sacrifice that had to be made for a smooth frame rate. The soundtrack is filled with songs that match the different themes of the levels which means you’ll get to hear orchestral, electronic, haunting, and jazzy-sounding tunes, among others. The sound effects are pretty great for the most part. Some weapons sound a bit weak but most sound loud and powerful. Characters will scream and moan when they take damage and they’ll scream in agony when they’re on fire. Depending on the level or how you set up an Arcade match, you’ll hear bullets ricochet, robots malfunction when defeated, and lasers bounce off walls during firefights. On the technical side, the game ran smooth throughout my single player playthrough and I experienced no bugs or major issues. When playing with Jeremy, we did notice the frame rate dip in specific maps, but did not encounter any serious problems.
Over the years, I’ve definitely put more hours into TimeSplitters 2 than the other two games and despite some of its issues, it’s a big improvement over the first game. I think it’s still one of the best first-person shooters for consoles to date. I had an absolute blast with this and all the memories I had playing it on PS2 years ago came flooding back. The Arcade Custom mode is where I spent a majority of my time back then and I often found myself playing for hours on end just losing track of time. I would lose entire afternoons to this game. The gameplay is just so much fun and it can be very fast-paced. It’s nice to have an actual story mode with some substance even if some of the levels are a bit aggravating. It is unfortunate that most of the Arcade Custom game modes are not unlocked from the start. The Arcade League scenarios and the Challenges more or less seem to just teach you about the different game modes and mechanics and some of them really border on frustration but if you want to unlock everything, you’ll have to complete them. And you’ll probably attempt some of them countless times.
TimeSplitters 2 is one of the best first-person shooters for consoles you can play and it’s also one of the best sequels to any game ever. Even though I’ve played this one the most, I do feel the sequel, Future Perfect, is the best game in the series. I didn’t acquire it until years after it released which is why I didn’t play it as much as this. If you’re looking to get into the series for the first time, I would suggest playing this first if you’re interested in the story but if you’re just in it for the Arcade/multiplayer aspect, this or Future Perfect should suffice. Honestly, you can skip the first game and not lose a beat when it comes to the story elements. Plus, everything established in the first game is just improved here on so many levels. The first game isn’t terrible by any means but I think TimeSplitters 2 and Future Perfect are far superior. TimeSplitters 2 retains the arcade gameplay, refines the established mechanics, and includes more content. If you’re a fan of action games or shooters, this is one game you should certainly play before you die.