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Time to split

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TimeSplitters: Future Perfect has been one of the most enjoyable games this reviewer has played in a while. At its core, Future Perfect is a typical first-person shooter. Free Radical Design, however, has infused an impressive amount of depth and humor into the game that elevates its status above typical FPSs.

The controls for Future Perfect are standard throughout all modes of play. There are only a few exceptions, such as when you are operating a vehicle, or a cat. We’ll get to that later. The game uses the analog stick for run/strafe, and the C-stick for look/turn. R shoulder fires and L shoulder goes into an aiming mode and zooms for various weapons. The A button activates switches, the Y button reloads, the X button does a melee attack, the B button ducks, and the Z button throws grenades. The control pad switches between weapons. The control scheme works very well, and certain aspects are customizable such as turn speed, look inverse, and auto-aim. My only real complaint about the controls is the lack of a jump ability, but Free Radical made sure to make fun of that flaw in one of the Challenges.

The Story Mode is the center point for the game. The player is the hero Cortez, a Vin Diesel look-alike and somewhat act-alike. The plot begins with Cortez returning to a war-torn Earth that is plagued by a race known as the TimeSplitters in the year 2401. Cortez has in his possession nine time crystals that will power the Earth force’s time machine. Your ship is shot down and after crash landing, you have to make your way back to base. It is here that you take control of Cortez. The remainder of the game involves jumping through time to various eras from the 1920s to the 1990s to the 2050s, trying to stop the war with the TimeSplitters from ever occurring.

The story world of Future Perfect is very rich. Usually you run into someone soon after you emerge from the time stream who will eventually become your ally. Free Radical imbued each NPC with a distinct personality ranging from a 60s swinger to a mysterious female spy to an aggressive robot who despises humans. Various enemies help advance the plot through random conversations that take place before they notice your presence. If you listen carefully and walk slowly, you will hear clueless guards muttering stereotypical henchman chatter amongst themselves.

There are two unique aspects to the adventures of Cortez. The first is that several times throughout the game you will run into past and future versions of yourself. During these encounters, you will have to help your other self accomplish some goal. For example, you the player may be solving a puzzle to open a door while your future self keeps the enemies at bay. To maintain the time loop, however, you must eventually become your future self. So sometime down the line, you will return to that place and keep the enemies at bay while your past self solves the puzzle. Some people may get annoyed at the repetition of particular scenes, with exact dialogue, but this reviewer enjoyed the creative approach. The second cool aspect of the game was Cortez’s possession of a device that gives him limited telekinetic powers. Switching to this device on his arm allows Cortez to manipulate various objects and retrieve weapons from afar. While you can pick up boxes and fling them at enemies, I believe that the game design did not fully utilize the potential of this ability in the storyline.

Future Perfect provides a wealth of other gameplay opportunities besides the Story mode. There are the typical multiplayer games such as deathmatch, capture the flag, and zone control, as well as a few other ones that aren’t as prevalent. In the Thief game, a dying player drops a coin. Points are scored by collecting these coins, not getting the kill. In the Vampire game, you restore your health by defeating your opponents. The great thing about the multiplayer mode is that the game allows computer controlled bots to fill out the matches. Therefore, you can play the different multiplayer games by yourself.

Various mini-games provide the final level of gameplay. These mini-games are separated into Challenges and Arcade League modes. Arcade League modes are specifically designed multiplayer games where the player achieves a particular objective. The Challenges are just plain nuts. These games range from throwing bricks in a restaurant as a disgruntled chef to sniping fruit out of the hands of monkeys to driving a cat. Yes, you heard me correctly: DRIVING A CAT. Based on your performance, you can earn medals and unlock content to expand the game.

The graphics in Future Perfect look really solid. Expository cutscenes are nicely animated, showing subtle character nuances and expressions. The environments are fairly immersive, allowing you to move boxes and barrels. It is most impressive, however, when a gigantic explosion throws the screen into a massive tremor, which is probably what it is like to experience such an event. While the visuals aren’t at a level of detail of say MP2: Echoes, everything from the character models to the levels looks well done.

The audio design is excellent. The score for each stage fits nicely in the background, providing the level’s foundation. The character voice work and report of gunfire occupy the player’s primary audio awareness. Your NPC companion chatters constantly. A scientist from the present, Anya, frequently whispers in your ear via a communicator, giving advice and explanations. As mentioned above, the enemies talk amongst themselves or call out instructions to each other during the firefights. And then there are the weapon sounds. The roar of bullets whip through the air and explosions create impressive cacophonies. Only one stage really has any periods of quiet and that is the haunted house stage. A mournful voice provides the backing track, heightening the tension for the next attack.

All in all, there are two things that make TimeSplitters: Future Perfect a great game. One element is Free Radical Design’s sense of humor. While this reviewer has not played the other games in the series, Future Perfect has an air of irreverence towards the genre. The story almost purposely falls into the various traps that occur when dealing with time travel and in the end, you as the hero sort of end up causing the very catastrophe you are trying to avert. The characters add a great deal to the feel of the game. Cortez strikes some classic action hero poses while delivering his trademark phrase, “time to split.” A worse pun on the title probably does not exist, but Cortez says the line in complete seriousness. The swinger from the 60s traipses around the battlefield as if he were walking in a drug induced stupor. Your robot partner in the future catches a virus that turns him into a human-despising badass who makes the best delivery of the game as he dispatches an enemy: “I’m sorry, was that your face?” The game in its irreverence touches on almost all settings of the FPS genre: the sci-fi war-torn future, the historical European war, even a haunted house with zombies. Plus many of the challenges are absolutely hilarious. In case you didn’t hear me before, YOU GET TO DRIVE A CAT.

The other aspect that makes Future Perfect a great game is the replayability. There are three difficulties to run through in Story mode, all the multiplayer games, as well as the arcade leagues and challenges. The opportunity to use bots allows you to enjoy the multiplayer portions of the games without needing multiple players. There are ways to customize each multiplayer game by changing weapon selection, opponent models, or basic rules of the game. Completing the various difficulties, arcade leagues, and challenges unlocks further content for the game. There are 150 playable characters to choose from as your multiplayer model as well as cheat codes that change certain rules like big hands or cardboard players. Furthermore, there is a map editor where you can create and play through your own levels. Future Perfect is a game that you can keep coming back to again and again.

If you love first-person shooters and are looking for something with all of the quality of other examples of the genre, but with a slightly different tone, then TimeSplitters: Future Perfect is that game. The shoot-?em-up action is nonstop, and the character acting is hilarious. The varied modes allow for almost infinite replay value. There won’t ever be a time when you look at this game and think, “time to split.” Note for the humor impaired: the absolutely horrible pun in the previous sentence was delivered in the spirit of Cortez; to fully understand it, you should play the game. NOW.

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