TimeSplitters 4: Nine things it needs to do to guarantee a gleefully amazing sequel

So once again the TimeSplitters 4 rumour has kicked up, this time via a murmur out of Official PlayStation Magazine, that an announcement is coming soon. And you know what? I believe it this time. Crytek UK (once TS developer Free Radical) still love the series and have often talked about wanting to bring it back. Hell, they've even said it to my face. They're all done with Crysis 2, and now that they've proven themselves with a successful, high-profile, current-gen shooter, it's surely time they got a project of their own. We know that TimeSplitters 4 was already well into pre-production when Free Radical went under, before its rescue by Crytek, so surely it's the most obvious option for the studio's next one?

And Gamescom, Europe's E3, is just around the corner, and TimeSplitters has always been a huge Euro-hit. So yeah, I think it's happening. But if it is, there are nine things it absolutely has to get right. And as a massive fan of the series (as hopefully evidenced by my big TS2 love-in feature a couple of weeks ago), I decided that now was the time to write those nine things down.

1. Don't try too hard to be funny

Seriously. No-one is more hateful than the "wacky" guy at a party. You know the one. The lampshade-wearing, arm waving, loud-talking, self-confessed "bit of a crazy one" whose self-conciously crazy behaviour is simply a grotesque pain-shield to mask his inner inadequacy; one which will fall the instant he gets home to reveal nothing more than a torrential veil of tears which will not stop until his eventual vodka-induced blackout. Yeah, TimeSplitters 4 doesn't want to be like that guy.

Above: Do not be him

And there's a danger of that. After so long in the wilderness, and such a powerful reputation as last-gen's big comedy shooter, it would be easy for TS4's identity to become too concerned with living up to a precent that never really existed, suffering from a precedent skewed and twisted through the lens of time and reputation. The fact is, TimeSplitters' humour was always subtler than you remember, at least in campaign.

It was all about personality, style, and knowing, beautifully-observed nods to film. Obviously things became gleefully insane in the Arcade challenges, and they should in TS4, but the main story itself need rely on nothing more than character design, animation, and warm, jovial reverence for whatever it pokes fun at. And speaking of which...

2. Let's not have too many game parodies

The last we heard (and that was admittedly a long time ago), the rough idea of TimeSplitters 4 was to parody other games instead of films. Could be fun as a few isolated, really well-observed gags, but over the course of a whole game? Could get a bit trite and annoying. The fact is, film parodies can be pulled off a lot more successfully in a game because we're talking about two different media. When a game pokes fun at another game, it's all too easy to come across as mean-spirited or a bit lazy.

Above: Also, Duke has done it to death  

And more than anything else I want to play a new TimeSplitters game. I want it to look and feel like TimeSplitters. I don't want to launch into a TS campaign only to find myself playing the joke Gears of War level, followed by the joke Dead Space level, followed by the joke Call of Duty level, followed by the joke StarFox level, etc. etc. ad infinitum.

3. Bring back player choice

Above: But you don't have to

This was something sorely missing from the disappointing TimeSplitters: Future Perfect. You see where TimeSplitters 2 often gave the player a raft of tactical options with which to approach a level or objective, FP lost a lot of that by way of the forced hand-holding of its always-there, always annoying co-op AI partners. They were constantly instructing you and they were constantly setting the pace, making it feel like the player was just along for the ride. It reduced what had once been an inviting, explorable world of meaningful player interaction to the level of a Call of Duty-style semi-automated shooting gallery. And sadly, Future Perfect wasn't half as fun as TS2 as a result of it. So let's have level design with loads of options this time around, and let's do what TS2 wisely did in regards to co-op characters and get rid of them unless we're actually playing in co-op. Because...

4. Quantum Leaping was awesome. Let's have it back

Yeah, another Future Perfect mistake to fix here. TimeSplitters 2's general conceit was that Sgt. Cortez was leaping into the bodies of characters throughout history in order to collect the artifacts necessary to repel an alien invasion. When he leapt into a character, he essentially became them, taking on their physicality and their voice and having to play through whatever their own personal narrative was in order to continue his own. It was a brilliant concept. Each fantastically sketched world contained enough detail and individual personality to carry a whole game on its own, and each one  managed incredible immersion despite its brevity, maintaining internal narrative integrity by co-existing alongside Cortez' over-arching story.

Above: I love Harry Tipper, but I want to be him, not be shouted at by him

Future Perfect steamrollered over all of that by making Cortez travel in time as himself. It tried to up the comedy by re-writing him as a big lumbering goofball, and attempted to play that off for even bigger laughs against TS2's cast, who now operated as NPCs (the previously-mentioned, bloody irritating co-op characters). Unfortunately, none of it worked very well. It was all a bit too try-hard and not overly funny, and the series lost a lot of heart as a result of it.

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  • jamie-nicolson - December 23, 2011 5:15 p.m.

    If they make a HD timesplitters they should just combine both Future Perfect and TS2, cus personally I preferred Future perfect both in multi and SP to TS2, I also thought the character selection was bette, ROBO COP MONKEY, and NINJA MONKEY, the sp campaigns felt cooler too cus it was like playing completely different shooter games in each level, from the resident evil type level with the zombies and ghosts, to the Terminator like world of robots and vehicle combat in that giant futuristic tank, to the fights in WW2, to the James bondish mission with harry tipper. TS2 s sp was kinda forgettable, and both's multi seemed relatively the same with future perfect just having different offerings in levels. either way they deff need to offer these games on the current gen systems, I miss playing timesplitters with my friends. Definitely a classic. I do agree about TS4 tho, too many game parodies will ruin it, though I do kinda like the idea od Master Chimp and the mini Halo Assault rifle.
  • bar1scorpio - August 2, 2011 6:48 p.m.

    #10 Jump/dodge button. The AIs could dodge annoyingly, why not the players? #11 Bring back Cortez, and have Vin Diesel voice the galoot.
  • philipshaw - August 2, 2011 3:03 p.m.

    This is all spot on, I want TS2 HD now
  • deded - August 2, 2011 8:43 a.m.

    You nailed it, besides not mentioning mapmaker at all. It might be a feature many didn't use (as would be true of any mapmaker) but it's still a major element of the TS series and would gain new vitality on this (or the next) generation of systems, especially in light of Create, Share, Play and the like. 1 and 2 are probably most important - don't push the comedy over the edge and avoid games parodies too often. Some games are damn near self-parodies anyway (go on, parody space marines if you can), so it just ends up looking foolish and clumsy unless you really know what you're doing. Do not put level-grinding into multiplayer - Word. Unlockable chars, weapons, etc, were already in their and work perfectly. Character-specific special attacks I could maybe stretch to at most. And a TS HD remix (with online MP surely?) is a good plan, especially if TS4 isn't going to be here until next-gen. If the series proper is to miss an entire generation and we're talking 2013 before TS4 then surely reminding people what the series is all about now in some digital download remix is a great - and realistic - idea...
  • dpowers - August 2, 2011 3:45 a.m.

    YES YES YES....i want this to happen and have been waiting years for it!
  • FollowTheReaper - August 2, 2011 2:58 a.m.

    Literally jumped out of my seat the moment I learned that there will be a TimeSplitters 4. I love the series and actually finished the past 3 games. I also like the fact that they put bots on multiplayer mode. Can't wait for the 4th installment? What kind of insane plot twist will it be this time around?
  • NightCrawler_358 - August 2, 2011 midnight

    You got me so freakin' excited.
  • Syncmaster - August 1, 2011 11:35 p.m.

    agree on most things except... yeahh.. the future perfect ones. I respect your opinion, but to me, FP was just vastly superior simply for having a real timetravel story, with cortez interacting with people and making multiple versions of himself show up to solve puzzles, it was pretty clever. And overall, all that made a way better, continuous story. The AI partners never bothered me, I cant remember they ruining anything, and they just gave an excuse to the second player character. Also, cortez was hilarious on every scene, he need to come back for the full game.
  • LordZarlon - August 1, 2011 9:17 p.m.

    I love all 3 Timesplitters games. I beat all three and I thought they got better with each installment. I loved the multiplayer and would love to have both local and internet capabilities. By the way, Timesplitters 1 had pretty complicated stat tracking all the way back in 2001. Suck that Activision!
  • Zeos - August 1, 2011 9:08 p.m.

    God I used to play the shit out of TimeSplitters 2 an HD remake would be one of the coolest things ever.
  • Dman3981 - August 1, 2011 8:42 p.m.

    I agreed with most your points except for all the hate you had for Future Perfect. The story by far in that game was better than TS2 and you wouldn't be able to have that if you kept it by having Cortez taking over a characters body. I mean admit it, there was barely a story in TS2, although very fun that was the one thing it lacked.
  • manateesta - August 1, 2011 7:59 p.m.

    Awesome article I always enjoyed the splitscreen multiplayer aspect of the TS2 and TSFP. I would love to have a sequel and an HD remake of TS2. I would buy six copies.
  • SausageLozenge - August 1, 2011 7:51 p.m.

    I want this.
  • Stabby_Joe - August 1, 2011 7:50 p.m.

    Urg... I can now see them doing the opposite of all of these.
  • fetalspray - August 1, 2011 7:37 p.m.

    As long as theres bots and map maker I'm sold!
  • 510BrotherPanda - August 1, 2011 7:35 p.m.

    I still haven't finished all the difficulty levels in TS2 (GameCube), but it sure was fun playing it back then.
  • D0CCON - August 1, 2011 7:25 p.m.

    Yes to all points. I'm so thrilled that it looks like we are getting a new one.
  • jackthemenace - August 1, 2011 7:17 p.m.

    Well, I've played Future perfect, and enjoyed it, but it never seemed much beyond a basic shooter. Is everyone saying that TS2... Was BETTER than FP? I really do have to play it.
  • jackthemenace - August 1, 2011 7:17 p.m.

    Well, I've played Future perfect, and enjoyed it, but it never seemed much beyond a basic shooter. Is everyone saying that TS2... Was BETTER than FP? I really do have to play it.
  • Darkwun - August 1, 2011 7:02 p.m.

    i think its just my obsessive compulsive nature in terms of physics and the glaring plot holes it left behind, but i couldnt stand the fact cortez quantum leaped in TS2, it just irked me! its for the same reason i recently got annoyed watching old episodes of dragon ball where the moon got blown up... which technically would destroy most life on earth lol i just cant suspend my belief enough for clearly non serious material enough to have fun! these are my issues, not theres though, as im the kinda guy that screams at disney cartoons like the prig i am screaming "THATS NOT PHYSICALLY POSSIBLE! EVEN IN THE REALM OF REALITY IN WHICH YOU'VE GIVEN ME!" lol its a wonder an uber geek like me has a mrs and kids XD