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TimeSplitters Future Perfect

The story mode's been radically overhauled. You play as Vin Diesel facsimile Cortez for the entire game - rather than hopping Quantum Leap-style between characters as in earlier titles - for greater continuity.

The game kicks off with a ludicrously easy battle against mankind's greatest enemy, the TimeSplitters, in the year 2401 (complete with vintage EA chump-cuddling on-screen prompts) as Cortez rushes to deliver the time crystals and save humanity.

Naturally, things go bendy and you need to warp back in time to save the day - uncovering the origin of the nefarious TimeSplitters and fighting alongside some familiar faces.

The plot's deftly interwoven, occasionally funny (Cortez's desperately unfunny "It's Time to Split!" one-liner becomes a running joke) and riddled with in-jokes for fans of the series.

Sadly, the time-hopping dynamic feels like a cheap way to impart geographical variety and leads to a fractured, less involving, experience - you don't spend long enough with your AI buddies to develop genuine attachment and the tone is too knowingly comic and self-deprecating to engender sympathy for your allies or genuine hatred for your foes.

Still, Splitters is a multiplayer game at heart and Future Perfect doesn't disappoint. The big addition is, finally, 16 player online death matches, but you can always divvy up players into Eight vs Eight Capture the Bag team battles.

We're yet to play the game online (full report next issue) but the game's up and running on 16-player wired-up LAN, and it's indistinguishable from the story mode and velvety smooth.

You can't beat the tension and rush of lining up with seven human allies, taking cover positions and tactically sharing weapons as eight human rivals come charging across the Vietnamese swamp in a manic charge for your team flag.

The four-player split-screen is as frantic, and balanced, as ever including classic levels like the Training Ground, Chinese, and Mexican Mission plus great new levels like the fluorescent vectors of the VR room, the twisting narrow alleys of Venice, or neon caked dance floors of the Disco.

And then, of course, there' the ability to create your own levels on MapMaker and post them online for the world to see, dissect and discuss, while you download other people's levels and sniff, "Nah. It's not as good as mine."

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

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