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TimeSplitters Future Perfect

TimeSplitters 2 was a) hard b) easy to hate and c) brilliant. Some folk resented being shot to ribbons for split-second forays into no-mans-land, while others adored the pixel perfect targeting and softly, softly approach.

Hit/Miss. Love/Hate. Retry/Fail. While PSM2 Staff Writer Andy thought the characters were "the work of genius", others complained that they were "too French" and "wearing hateful flares".

So how does Future Perfect - now under the supervision of Electronic 'let's-sell-lots-of-games-to-the-widest demographic' Arts - compare? By being a) easier b) harder to dislike and c) ...well, we're not sure. After playing through 80%-ish complete preview code - all ten levels - we've been though a rollercoaster of emotions that we've never felt with 'Splitters before.

Joy. You've got a Gravity mitt, which lets you throw around static objects - culled from developer Free Radical's telekinesis powers in Second Sight, no doubt - with realistic physics. You can use it to pull weapons off walls, suck health packs across rooms and fling gas canisters as makeshift grenades.

In the Mansion of Madness level, you can use the mitt to levitate pool balls from the table and launch them at zombie's heads like bullets. Better yet, you can then use the zombie's detached head as an impromptu projectile and use it to behead another foe. Genius.

Pain. No, that's the wrong word. Nothing about Future Perfect is painful. Some elements are functional, possibly peripheral, but never a chore.

The character design is more likeable with some funky robots, unnaturally chesty heroines and metallic monkeys but a minimal reliance on flared pantaloons or characters with faces like aging Siberian refugees.

It's harder to get killed. There are more checkpoints and weapon pick-ups, but less annoying puzzles. It's all a bit, err... it's hard to define. No, wait - safe, that's it.

Cosmetically, it's much more varied, but there's the nagging sensation that nothing really matters. It's hard to die. Your AI buddies rarely need protecting. The vehicle sections feel anodyne. There's always a checkpoint just inches away.

Delight. You've found the harpoon gun. It launches sharpened wooden logs that impale the enemy and, best of all, stick to their body. A zombie launches towards you with two huge rods jutting out of his torso until, squish, you nail him in the head. You can even run along picking up used logs to conserve ammo.

In the co-op sections (more of that later) you can even shoot your buddy, mentally mock-apologising as they waddle along with a wooden pipe in their thigh. And we haven't even mentioned the Future Shotgun - reloaded in vintage Terminator style 360? swoops - or the Future Rocket Launcher, or the... no, we'll spoil it.

Relief. The controls are as tight as ever. While buffoons might complain that your aiming arm is too springy, and the guns look like they're being balanced on handle tip by your mincing little finger, the targeting is as crisp as morning meadows.

Pop. A revolver blast hits a guard's shoulder, causing him to flinch but lurch forwards. Bang. A direct shot to the hand causes him to hop and hold his arm. Squelch. A direct shot to the head ends his virtual misery in a mess of claret.

Yes, for the first time TimeSplitters features blood splats. Nothing too gory, mind, if you excuse the hammer-on-raspberry-milkshake-carton explosions as you tranquilise the shambling mutations in the You Genius, U-Genix level, but a welcome veneer of realism.

Delight (again). The visuals are stunning - roaring along at 60fps in defiant high resolution. Is this really running on the machine that laboured with Killzone? Lightning scorches the sky of the Mansion of Madness, rain blots smear the lens and fire crackles translucently from torched zombies.

The Terminator-aping Machine Wars level sees giant Hunter Killer-style flying bots clot the smoking air like bees, while laser fire slices the screen with radiant menace. The Sentinel bots are just huge. Glass cracks as you shoot it. Barrels explode. Walls scar with gunfire. Action. Reaction. Delight.

Curiosity. One of the major new additions is the ability to fight alongside allies including old pals like Harry Tipper and Captain Ash. In Tipper's level, there's even a neat section where you need to protect him with a sniper rifle from a distant rooftop as he infiltrates a heavily guarded base.

At other times, you need to wait for your buddy to open doors, like your robot pal R-110's ability to interface with computers using his trouser attachment or cower behind them as they exhibit genuine intelligence and flank the opposition.

There are even sections where you protect a past version of yourself (time travel, see) leading to some cute story loops where you replay the same scene as present-day Cortez and then the Cortez from the past. You don't command your team (thankfully) but it's an atmospheric touch.

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