TimeSplitters Future Perfect review

Everyone likes a good paradox, but is this a step forwards or backwards? Xbox World finds out

And talking of bloodlust, for the first time ever, TimeSplitters contains gore. Yes, seems that the BBFC has altered its stance on classifications and as the game contained severed heads and bodies on fire, it was going to get an 18+ rating.

Instead of changing the content, Free Radical decided to go the whole hog and make Future Perfect as mock violent as a camping holiday organised by Wes Craven. The new rating means it reaches a narrower audience, admittedly, but the blood does give it an extra edginess.

Challenge mode also returns and there are some cracking mini-events to compete in and unlock. The variety is exceptional and the challenges range from the outright daftness of electrocuting monkeys in a discotheque to the grisly prospect of beheading zombies with packing crates.

There are superb assaults on fortresses, short Story mode missions and even matches that pit you against a team of vicious assailants. But probably best of all is the slightly disturbing cat racing.

It's difficult to fully describe just how surreal this is, but paint a picture in your head using the words 'cat', 'stuffed', 'castors' and 'ramps' and you'll probably get closer than a thousand words can.

Then comes Mapmaker, a player-creation tool, and the kind of thing too few developers explore. Pah, who's interested in Lego when you can build virtual arenas of death and destruction and even - and this is brilliant - take them online?

It's a magnificent achievement and being able to put together story levels with simple game logic and messages is a step on from what we've seen before. It would have been better if these levels could be linked together, but you can't have it all.

It's not going to be clear just how powerful a tool Mapmaker is until player-created-levels start showing up online, but we suspect it's got the potential to extend the game's life considerably over the barren, wet weather summer months.

Mapmaker is also a unique concept for console gamers but it is disappointing to find that it's not quite as versatile as we'd hoped. In particular, the tiles from one theme cannot be mixed with tiles from another and there's a distinct lack of options when it comes to giving your creations any kind of distinct personality.

Additionally, there are fewer tile types on offer than we'd anticipated as well and although architecturally it's possible to build grand constructions, there's no getting around the fact that - in terms of interior decoration, at least - Mapmaker levels all tend to look a bit sparse and a bit uniform.

Which, of course, leaves us with one last area to discuss: the multiplayer. It's unquestionably TimeSplitters' strength. Get some friends around for system-link play or split-screen matches and it's an absolute joy.

The super-fast pace, humour, characters, weapons and arena designs are conducive to the most intense virtual competitions you can imagine. It's also a very different kind of experience to Halo or Pro Evo or Project Gotham or Ghost Recon.

TimeSplitters is so anarchic, yet fair, that it has a dynamic and personality all of its own. And - whisper it quietly - as a multiplayer experience some will even prefer it to Halo 2.

As a gaming package, then, Future Perfect really does rate as superb value. However, to our minds, it hasn't drastically moved on from its predecessors.

The Story mode is still less than captivating and though the Arcade and Challenge modes are damn good fun you'll get a distinct feeling of deja vu as you go through and unlock everything.

As this review is focusing entirely on the offline aspects it's important we point out that it treads no new ground.

A few more game types and some new arenas will not shake your suspicion that there's quite probably too much re-purposed material here. Which means the Future may be bright, but it's not quite perfect.

TimeSplitters Future Perfect is out for PS2, Xbox, and Gamecube on 24 March

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PlatformXbox, PS2, GameCube