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Classic game appreciation section: TimeSplitters 2

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I’ve never understood why anyone was surprised when Perfect Dark Zero turned out to be a bit crapcrap. In fact I never understood why anyone ever expected it to be any kind of a genuine follow-up to Rare’s classic FPS era of Goldeneye and PD at all. And I’ve never understood why anyone was even still waiting for one by that point anyway. Talk about missing the boat.

You see the thing is, the Rare that made Perfect Dark Zero was not the Rare that made Goldeneye. A good proportion of that Rare had left to form Free Radical Design long before the Xbox 360 came around. And at Free Radical, they had already created the successor to Rare’s biggest N64 successes years before anyone ever bandied about the phrase “HD remake”. Or in fact, the phrase “HD”.

You want the sequel to Goldeneye and Perfect Dark? You come to TimeSplitters 2. That’s where you come. Let me tell you about it.


Golden memories

So it’s 2003. I’m talking to a friend about games one day, and he’s very excited about something. “Holy crap, have you played TimeSplitters 2? It’s from the people who made Goldeneye and it’s full of film references and it’s brilliant. You’ve got to come round and check it out” So I did. And then I immediately bought a copy of my own.


Above: The most important box art on my shelf for a good few years

I’d been dubious at first. Not distrustful, you understand. This was, after all, the same friend who unwittingly instigated the £180 purchase of F.E.A.R. I detailed in last week’s Appreciation Section. But to an FPS-loving, film-geek Nintendo fan like myself, TimeSplitters 2 just sounded too perfect. And besides, Rare had nothing to do with it. I’d checked. My friend was getting confused and over-enthusiastic about a new game, that was all.

But he wasn’t. After two minutes with TimeSplitters 2’s opening level, everything made sense. This was Goldeneye 2, from the Goldeneye team, but way better than an actual sequel to Goldeneye could ever have been. TS2 you see, was designed by David Doak, who also designed Goldeneye and Perfect Dark. The soundtrack was composed by Graeme Norgate, who also composed the soundtracks to Goldeneye, Perfect Dark, Killer Instinct, Blast Corps and Jet Force Gemini. It had the same clever and imaginative level design of the Rare FPS of old, and the same fast, twitch-friendly action. Hell, the pause screen was even accessed by looking at a physical, in-game gadget, just like pulling up Goldeneye’s magical spy watch. In fact even the damn health and shield system looked almost exactly the same on-screen.


Above: Where did they get that design from?

TimeSplitters 2 proudly, cheekily, almost ostentatiously displayed its true nature and origins right from the first playable screen. You found yourself outside a huge, militarised dam on the edge of a vast Siberian snow field. A small encampment of out-buildings lay just ahead of you, patrolled by a currently unaware set of guards. In front of you lay a silenced pistol and a sniper rifle. Your objective was to infiltrate the complex before making your way to your final goal at the top of the dam. Sound familiar? Of course it does. That one level was the best combined tribute to and remake of Goldeneye I could have ever dreamed of. And it certainly wasn’t just about the setting.

You see where the first TimeSplitters was a fairly simple smash-and-grab time attack shooter, TS2 was the real deal. It was a sharp, immaculately paced FPS with personal player input right at the forefront of the design. You could play it like Bond or you could play it like Rambo, and that first level was a flawless introduction to its design philosophy. You could, if you wanted to, go loud straight away, mulching through the initial camp in a whirlwind blaze of glory. But it was also entirely possible to Metal Gear through it, using trial and error to master a carefully-planned cover route, using silent and precisely-timed one-shot takedowns to butcher the entire squad and complete four objectives (three optional) without ever being detected.

Above: Not a bad run, but it's possible to get right to the other side of the river without being spotted  

Nothing was handed to you on a plate of course. In fact it took me a good hour of experimentation to perfect my run, taking into account the tight timings of patrol patterns, the correct order in which to take each guard down, which guns to use when, and the subtleties of the cover, security camera effectiveness and safe shooting angles. Not to mention dealing with that barely-visible sniper in the tower about half a mile away, across the other side of the map.

The first few metres of that level were a meta-game in themselves. And inspired by my victory there, I took my newfound tactical skills into the level proper, where I discovered (with a lot more digging) that it was entirely possible to get through around two-thirds of the stage with a 100% bodycount without being spotted once. That my friends, is some serious game design right there. Doubly serious when you consider that once you work out how to do it, you’ll discover that said initially implausible stealth run requires barely less ammo for each of the required weapons than is actually available on the level. Clever bastards, Free Radical, clever bastards indeed. You rarely ever get that kind of depth and thought in the design of modern console FPS.

But the best was yet to come. And I could not imagine how much of the best there was going to be.

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63 comments

  • Darkwun - August 1, 2011 9:55 p.m.

    think i preferred FP more because of the more involving story but i loved TS2. not to mention i loved on a MASSIVE FLUKE rubbing my friends noses in in it, the one medal they couldnt get a gold on... where u were the muscle man and you had to beat blaming zombies... half an fucking hour a survived to get my platinum... my eyes burned... and by the end i was actually glad to be killed because i thought the adrenaline was going to kill me... but the bragging rights were short lived as i still needed a mate to collect the bananas for me on the monkey maze. bastard.
  • machupichu1992 - August 1, 2011 6:41 p.m.

    I agree with everything on this article. I think I enjoyed Future Perfect more, but I think they just built on what TS2 already had.
  • gilgamesh310 - July 26, 2011 12:03 p.m.

    Indeed, one of the best games ever made. I have no idea why it wasn't included in their top 100 best games list though. No idea at all.
  • CitizenWolfie - July 24, 2011 11:44 a.m.

    Words cannot describe how much I loved this game as well as Future Perfect. The art design, the movie references, the level editor, the campaign levels, the multiplayer levels, the monkeys, the characters. Everything about it oozed quality and if any game deserves a HD update or even a straight up remake (so long as they kept every aspect the same) it'd be TimeSplitters 2. Actually sod that, the artistic style means the graphics haven't even aged at all. I'm not sure if I've still got it but if not I'm totally getting it again. Anyone up for a 16 player, brick-only-bouncing-bullets-monkeys-galore deathmatch?
  • colbztweetzout - July 24, 2011 1:32 a.m.

    I wish all the games and older machines I have bought over the years worked. Dont we all. Playing GTA 2 would be good for a rehash. go to the corner of the sand box and get the tank. COP KILLER.
  • Onieros117 - July 23, 2011 10:57 p.m.

    Oh man.. loved Timesplitters, both 2 and future perfect. Made loads of maps with the editor. From claustrophobic deathmatch arenas, horde mode style defense maps, to even a singleplayer campaign that I almost finished... great times.
  • Nishi - July 23, 2011 2:08 p.m.

    Kickass game with a lot of fond memories; wish my PS2 hadn't died...although (*spots Gamecubee version beside 'Cube*) Result!
  • harrypeter - July 23, 2011 2:04 p.m.

    Well if they don't make a Timesplitters 4, at least remake it in HD for the Xbox, PS3 and the PC!!
  • crumbdunky - July 22, 2011 2:23 p.m.

    TS , a a series, is amazing and TS2 holds a special place in many people's hearts. Having replayed, and been let down by, the original G'eye last year(just hasn't aged very well) I went back to TS recently fearing the same outcome but me and the wife spent days reliving our PS2 reverie! It was a great series and TS2 the best of that series and the sad thing is that Crytek appear too stupid to realise exactly why they bought FRD which CANNOT have been Haze and must SURELY have been(the nearly finished then taken away) Battlefront game and TS4, no? While Dr doak has already gone and is on a second post FRD company(the first being Pumpkin Beach IIRC making casual fluff)surely there are enough Crytek UK folk knowing how to take TS to the next level? Better than Halo in it's day and more deserving of success than a million CODs. BRING IT BACK , CRYTEK. Crysis is meh and TS amazing. LEARN this.
  • stevrduffy - July 22, 2011 1:05 p.m.

    Great appreciation section for a great game Dave! Boy, what a game this was, one of the reasons I still play my gamecube! The depth of the game was unreal, I remember creating a multiplayer level in the editor, a massive room with no lights so you were in complete darkness! Absolute carnage!
  • Pruman - July 22, 2011 12:58 p.m.

    I remember playing the first one when it came out (it was a PS2 launch window title, right?) and thinking it was very blah except for the fact that you got to use a Blunderbuss. I skipped this one based on that. After reading this, it's clear I made a mistake. I'll be picking this up the next time I'm at my local GameStop. Which version would you recommend? The XBOX one isn't on the 360 backcompat list, so that narrows it down to PS2 and GameCube.
  • philipshaw - July 22, 2011 12:12 p.m.

    Spot on Dave, this game has to one of the best FPS games of all time. I must have played it for a solid 3 years, even played it this year at uni
  • VermithraxDagon - July 22, 2011 10:08 a.m.

    Like many others have already mentioned, I'd rather play TimeSplitters over many modern shooters any day. It had such incredible and unique characters and art in its settings. I'm also a huge fan of Second Sight, another incredible and very underrated game developed by the same group. Played them all on my GameCube, which I still preferred over the PS2 to this day. Really hoping that TS4 isn't vaporware and if it is released, sticks to and makes proud the cherished TS legacy. Man I wish it was still '02 though...
  • Azralph13 - July 22, 2011 9:24 a.m.

    I still remember this being the best Ps2 game out there. Biggest shame...you cant play the xbox version on XBOX 360!! So how about in Microsoft...lets se it on Xbox live Arcade.
  • Austin_SJ - July 22, 2011 8:30 a.m.

    I remember going through every challenge to get the top score possible. But there was one level I couldn't beat, ice station capture the bag 4 v 2.
  • Zeb364 - July 22, 2011 7:58 a.m.

    I completely agree. I wrote a similar article back in September that said essentially everything you did and it warms my heart to see I'm not the only one who feels this way. I kept my Gamecube specifically because I had TS2 and TS: Future Perfect on it. You're completely right about the XBLA and PS3 release. It needs to happen now. Not just TS2 but also TS: Future Perfect. I would buy them both on day one. In any case, I'm off to hook my Gamecube up again and play some TS2. Probably all night.
  • DrizztP - July 22, 2011 7:42 a.m.

    Sadly if they had to make TS3 all that cool stuff that was included on the disc has a 90% chance of being charged for in DLC. The good old days when games had to offer as much as they could are gone. Now we get incomplete stories, content locked on disc, extras that used to be in games now have to be paid for.
  • pin316 - July 22, 2011 3:07 a.m.

    This, along with Soul Calibur 2, was by far and away the most-played game on my Gamecube. As well as three of may mates having it on their PS2s and another couple having it on their GCs as well. I wholeheartedly agreed with everything written in this article! Personal favorite, we used to have free-for-all, one-shot-kill elimination matches in the Wild West multiplayer map (the one with the courtyard), with 4-players, the maximum number or bots (I think it was 6/8), and everyone starting with 20 lives. That shit got intense
  • elmaropwnz - July 22, 2011 2:17 a.m.

    Wow, I thought I was literally one of the few who played this game, great to see someone else appreciates it, and thanks for reminding me I owned this wonderful game!
  • RabidCabbage - July 22, 2011 1:49 a.m.

    Loved this game. I would kill (probably. Well. maybe) for an HD remake, or for TS4 to be ressurected.

Showing 1-20 of 63 comments

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