Recently IGN broke the news that Time Splitters 2 is coming to GameCube. Can the aptly named Free Radical Design raise their game to the status of "Goldeneye Killer"?
For those who don't know, Free Radical Design (FRD) was founded by many important ex-members of Rare's Goldeneye team. The managing director of FRD is David Doak who many gamers may recognize as the name behind the fictional Dr. Doak in the second level of Goldeneye. FRD has released only one game in its life span so far, Time Splitters. Since GameCube gamers haven't had the opportunity to play this title, we'll take a quick look at it so that you know what to expect from its sequel.
Time Splitters was a Playstation 2 launch title in the United States. Barely. The designers at FRD freely admit that the game was rushed for launch and ended up being less than they intended. However, despite the rush, they made a commendable effort. For example, Time Splitters, unlike so many other PS2 launch titles, has a rock solid framerate. Unfortunately, the game's single player campaign was neglected in favor of perfecting its multiplayer mode. The single player game is about as bare bones as you can imagine. You simply start in a level with one goal that is invariably to secure some item from deep within the level and bring it back to somewhere else in the level (where you started from usually). When you secure this mysterious "item", weird zombie-creatures start warping into the level to kill you. The instruction manual doesn't even spare more than a sentence to give you the "story" behind Time Splitters (it isn't really a story actually).
However, the single player mode does have a co-operative mode, a big plus in my book. The game features a solid FPS engine (even if the controls are a little too slippery) and the inspiration that FRD has gotten from their previous work is very clear. For example, Time Splitters has no jump button and unlike most FPS's, it has a Goldeneye style floating aimer. I also noticed that like Goldeneye, Time Splitters has very good in-your-face music that fits the time period you're fighting in. Atmospheric "music" is nice, but good old-fashioned tunes are always welcome here. Perhaps the most unusual feature that Time Splitters has is its map editor. You can choose from tons of prefabricated room pieces to make up a sprawling multi-player death trap, and then tweak the item placement and even the lighting. Despite the mish-mash of brilliance and imperfection demonstrated in Time Splitters, I'm confident that the team can make a great title if they're given a little more development time.
Enter Time Splitters 2. In the initial press release that announced the existence of the PS2 version, David Doak, the managing director of FRD had this to say: "With Time Splitters, we were just finding out feet. Now we can go to town and show people what we're really capable of doing. Time Splitters 2 will be an exceptional game." How can you not trust a guy with speech as cultured as all that? The press release goes on to promise that TS2 will contain such things as a single player story mode with objective based missions and optional co-operative gameplay (sounds like Perfect Dark eh?), a blistering framerate (never mind), and an even better map editor. The story apparently centers on a female hero who travels through time to stop the Time Splitters (not sure what those evil Time Splitters are up to). The interesting thing is that the female hero somehow inhabits the body of a person from each time period, and of course, his/her arsenal of weapons is limited to whatever was available at that time. TS2 will have a layered objective structure as in Goldeneye and Perfect Dark where higher difficulty settings will require you to complete more objectives and in different ways than the easier settings. It's also said that stealth will play a part in many levels; another throw back to Goldeneye. The game should feature 10 levels (not sure if these will be broken into missions as in Goldeneye) and also 10 multiplayer maps in addition to whatever you create with the wonderful map editor.
Graphical effects for the PS2 version include bullets ricocheting off of walls, atmospheric effects like sun glaring off of snow, the excellent glass breaking effects (which were also featured in the original game) and heat shimmering effects from your fancy flame thrower (kind of like the effects in Rogue Leader on Tatooine at noon). All of this and more should be easily replicated on GameCube and hopefully will get added deflickering or anti-aliasing along with tri-linear filtering to improve things.
According to IGN Cube Time Splitters 2 will be released alongside the PS2 version in the third quarter of this year. If FRD can expand on Time Splitters with just a little polish, a more detailed story mode and adjustable analog sensitivity, they should have a major hit on their hands. If you'd like to see some screen shots of the PS2 version, check out Free Radical's Website.