Patrick Hope: It's 'Time' to 'split' up
It's not much of a secret that "Goldeneye" kind of redefined how first-person shooters worked on consoles. It was also a sad eventuality that Rare could not keep up its crazy run of quality games from the mid-'90s until 2002 when its last Nintend...
It’s not much of a secret that “Goldeneye” kind of redefined how first-person shooters worked on consoles.
It was also a sad eventuality that Rare could not keep up its crazy run of quality games from the mid-’90s until 2002 when its last Nintendo offering, “Star Fox Adventures” came out and the company got sold to Microsoft and pretty much did nothing of note until it released “Rare Remix” last year. And that game really only gained popularity entirely because it contained most of the big Rare games back when they were awesome. But this column isn’t about Rare.
It’s about some of the old “Goldeneye” developers, who broke off and started their own company, Free Radical, which started a totally original first-person shooter series which still captures the imagination of gamers everywhere - “Timesplitters.”
Here’s the basic idea behind “Timesplitters.” Make “Goldeneye,” but updated and with more options and pretty crazy. And it works like a charm. The game, and the series in general (there are three “Timesplitters” games) are a hodgepodge of weapons, maps, and playable characters from various eras and walks of life. And we’ll be focusing on the second game in the series, as that’s the one I dropped several hundred hours on back in high school and undergrad.
Do you want to play as a cowboy or a cyberpunk hacker? You can! How about a guy wearing cardboard boxes who thinks he’s a robot? Or a duck? Or a monkey? Or a dinosaur whose character description is “He breathes fire and has vestigial forelimbs?” Because they’re all in here.
As far as maps go, there are Mexican missions that look like they’re right out of a Sergio Leone movie, a World War I-looking military hospital, Aztec ruins or the closest thing to “Halo’s” Blood Gulch as you could get without running afoul of copyright. And if you don’t like any of the maps, you can create your own, which was a huge draw. My friends and I spent many hours on what had to pass for a trench warfare map that I made. There were lots of turrets.
And those are just the multiplayer options - not even including the weapon sets which, due to the premise of the game, include everything from revolvers to sci-fi blasters. Or flamethrowers. You haven’t lived until you’ve had an all-flamethrower match.
Anyway, there is a rather robust single-player portion of the “Timesplitters” games, especially starting with the second in the series. The campaign features a lot of going around to various time periods - using period weaponry and getting put in a local’s body, Quantum Leap style, which can range from a private eye in 20s Chicago to a Buck Rogers-looking space captain to a bell-bottomed spy named Harry Tripper. The story is really silly but incredibly fun, staying in line with the general mood of the game - have fun blowing stuff up and killing aliens and bad guys.
And like “Perfect Dark” before it, the “Timesplitters” games feature a ton of single-player challenges in multiplayer settings with goals like not getting set on fire or killing a certain number of guys with rockets in the time limit. And these will eat up a ton of your time as there are a bunch of challenges which range from pitifully easy to mindblowingly difficult in the upper levels. Plus there are definitely parody missions of “Turok” and “Half-Life” in there. And there’s one where you have to assault a fortress that’s been taken over by lawyers and accountants, giving new meaning to the “let’s kill all the lawyers” thing. Seriously. They are an absolute blast even now, some 13 years after “Timesplitters 2” came out.
I’ll be the first to admit that, in some areas, especially shooters, games have gotten to take themselves way too seriously. Aside from a select few like “Borderlands,” they’re all about being gritty and realistic and feature people yelling and BIG SERIOUS ISSUES like drones or terrorists or Commies or whatever. It’s nice to have a series to go back to that is silly and fun without going into the territory of trying too hard to be quirky. The games still play fabulously today and if you like shooters on any level, you owe it to yourself to check them out.
Hope is a local attorney and video game enthusiast. When playing in high school, he could not understand the irony in the assault mission where his opponents were entirely lawyers and accountants.