TimeSplitters Future Perfect review

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

Can we ask you a personal question? How many friends do you have? Well, more to the point, how many friends do you have that also like to play videogames?

This is the most pertinent thing to consider when deciding if TimeSplitters Future Perfect is for you. Because, put bluntly, if you're William Z. NoMates then you aren't going to enjoy this anywhere near as much as if you're Jeffrey T. Popular.

Sure, you can go online and get stuck in with complete strangers, but the game's dynamic fundamentally relies on those heated team games and deathmatches where you can sling insults at people sat in the same room. Victory is sooo sweet when it's personal.

As this review focuses on the offline aspects, it's fair to point out that there's nothing remarkably fresh here. Chief among the disappointments is an anaemic single-player Story mode.

Now, there's no question that it's above average, has some neat plot twists and wonderfully madcap characters, but it suffers from severe tunnel vision.

You know the kind of thing: enemies that appear at the same points every time you replay the level, on-rails event scripting and linearity that borders on obsession.

Each level sees you working alongside a temporary colleague, or - crazily - often meeting yourself due to wormhole paradoxes. These are mostly cleverly woven into the plot but by the end of the Story mode there's an overwhelming sense that it's over-engineered.

Like the previous TimeSplitters games, you feel as if you're just running through a shooting gallery.

Even though the odd bit of physics has been thrown in and there's the occasional switch to pull, most of the time you're running through soulless corridors, gunning down enemies that materialise out of nowhere, and dematerialise after you kill them.

In the multiplayer games this kind of transience is appropriate, but in a single-player campaign you end up wanting something a little more satisfying and a lot more visceral.

It all comes back to friends again. If you can hook up with a mate and play through the Story campaign in co-op mode then you're going to get so much more out of the experience.

But if you're the awkward, gauche kid at school with the white socks and half-mast trousers, or a middle-aged alcoholic loner then you might find yourself having to endure the single-player game on your tod, which is less of an inspiring prospect.

We don't generally mind games copying ideas from superior sources and, in Future Perfect, Halo's influence is everywhere.

Most obviously there are the grenades and new vehicle combat. Yet the narrow focused TimeSplitters philosophy is most apparent when you climb inside a car, jeep or tank.

Many games - such as the up-and-coming Pariah and the excellent Mercenaries - have included the commandeering of vehicles as a main feature but such a dynamic only adds something if it grants the player extra freedom.

In Future Perfect, vehicles can only be driven for a short time and you're very restricted as to how far you can travel. What's the point in that?

If you're going to put a vehicle in a game then design the level to maximise its potential. And, as lush as the visuals are, it's also a bit of a drag to find yourself running into slowdown problems.

Now, admittedly it's not enough to completely ruin the experience, but were we wrong to expect a super smooth framerate throughout? You'll be pleased to hear that this only affects the Story mode, but we did expect better from Free Radical.

Gladly, Future Perfect begins to shine when you start exploring the other modes. Arcade offers some of the most frenetic and addictive deathmatch and team games ever conceived.

Fully customisable and tweakable (you can adjust the aggressive difficulty of the bots, for instance), it's a feature that offers some truly memorable arenas in which to practice your sharp-shooting skills.

All the old favourite game types return and the new single-player leagues will keep you going for hours, especially if you're the type to go for all those platinum awards in order to get that elusive 100% completion record.

It's the kind of mindless, cathartic, frenzied and exuberant pleasure that many FPS arena games promise but never fully deliver.

In fact, the variety is exceptional, while the balance is spot-on, and it's a testament to the Arcade mode's brilliance that you almost forget you're playing against bots when the bullets start flying.

The instant materialisation and dematerialization of foes is appropriate here and the artificial looking landscapes and environments have little relevance when you're in a berserker rage and extending your killing spree record to new levels.

More Info

PlatformXbox, PS2, GameCube