Some of you out there, like me, may have been lucky enough to buy a PS2 when it was first launched. If you cast your mind way back there were two great games available, SSX and Timesplitters. Timesplitters took a lot of us by surprise. Now a long time has passed since then, but the big question is will Timesplitters two make as much of an impact as its predecessor?
The answer is yes, yes, yes and then some. The story behind TS2 is quite simple, in the future a group of marines are attacking a space base, and the last two marines make it to a room with a time portal in. Only to find that the Timesplitters (a kinda evil zombie race) have stolen a handful of time crystals and spread them across different time zones in different areas. Your task is to visit each of these time periods, and under the guise of a local you must return the time crystal (among other things).
The game is your standard FPS affair, with the big difference being there is absolutely no link between different levels. So unlike many games out there you won't be able to carry weaponry over from one level to the next. Each level gives you a series of objectives to meet, so for instance on Planet X you will have to find the downed UFO. Along the way you will be given further objectives to achieve, such as repel the beach attack, where you sit in a gun turret trying to gun down the wave of attacking foes and UFO's. This is quite a departure from the original game where the only objective was to find an object and return it to the start. The game definitely has a Goldeneye feel to it in places, but it's not surprising, as some staff have worked on both games. Difficulty drastically affects the levels, instead of it just improving enemy ai, the levels are very different. Going back to the Planet X example, on easy once you find the UFO you get inside pick up the crystal and leave the level via a portal. On the normal difficulty setting, once inside the UFO you drop through a hole in the floor to reveal a huge section of the level. On some levels a change in difficulty can double the size of a level.
What's more on some levels stealth is ultra important, for example on Neo-Tokyo, you have to follow a hacker to her base and watch her enter a password into a computer, along the way are police patrols cameras and one of her buddies. Get seen and its game over.
The games controls work in the same way as the original, with the thumbsticks being used for movement and looking and the shoulder buttons are used for shooting, aiming and ducking. Though if you don't like the default controls, you can configure them to suit your needs.
The original game was known for its multiplayer mayhem, the game truly stood out and in many people's eyes was never beaten as a multiplayer FPS game. That is until now. The multiplayer option on TS" is simply amazing, up to four players can compete on one screen across a variety of modes. Why do I say 'one screen' I hear you cry? Well that's because TS2 can be played via I-Link. I made sure I was ready for this by buying a 5M Firewire cable, so I could link two ps2's together. If you're willing to fork out for a hub its possible to have up to 16 players on 8 ps2's all linked together. I'm assuming that this would be frantic but it's highly unlikely that I'll fit 16 people in my house. On 2 ps2's you can still play 4 v 4. One minor annoyance is that you cannot include bots if you play via I-Link.
One of the big pulls of the multiplayer mode is the variety of modes which it can be played in. I agree some of these have been 'borrowed' from other games, and so many of the modes will be familiar with the new introductions. The thing is, it's all executed so well that you shouldn't really care at all. The one thing different to all other games is the monkey assistant mode. In this mode the player with the lowest score has a group of space monkeys helping him/her out. This level is great fun, though you'll find yourself cracking one too many spank the monkey jokes. Other multiplayer modes include, capture the bag (a capture the flag style game), death match, team death match, gladiator (only the gladiator can score points for kills, kill the gladiator to become the gladiator), thief (when a person dies they drop a coin, whoever collects the most coins wins) amongst many, many others. The multiplayer mode is customizable as well, you can set time/kill limits, the number of bots, bot skins and also what weapons are available during the level. One criticism I will make is that capture the bag can only be played with two teams now instead of four in ts1. One great addition is player stats. Characters are assigned a stat in each one of three skills, agility, aim and stamina. So for instance the stone golem has a hugely high stamina, making him difficult to kill, but he's so and so easy to run away from and an easier target. If you don't like these stats you can turn them off.
In addition to story mode and multiplayer are arcade and challenge. Arcade puts you through a variety of multiplayer style levels against computer opponents. This introduces you to all arcade modes. For each challenge you can achieve gold, silver or bronze which will unlock extras such as game modes, levels and new characters. Real hardcore gamers will try and strive for the hidden platinum challenges which are awarded for exceeding the levels requirements by a certain amount. Challenges put you through a series of, well, challenges. Challenges normally entail you meeting a criteria in a certain amount of time, such as smash all the windows in the dam complex in under so many minutes. These challenges also unlock things to be used in the game such as cheats and extra characters.
Graphically the game is fantastic, and shows that the ps2 is capable of doing a lot more than some X-Box owners will give it credit for. Environments are large, frame rates are high and generally steady. Textures are great skins are detailed and the whole presentation of the game is spot on. Level design is clever, generally original and very well executed. Sound too is well done, background music always suits a level and sound effects are of a high quality throughout.
The game also features a map-maker that improves on its predecessors'. The map maker allows you to create single player missions, including triggers and keys. Unfortunately you're limited to placing ten enemies in a map, though you can set them to re-spawn and if you're clever with your level design it's slightly less of an issue. It would have been nice to be able to create larger levels, so if the Hard Disk Drive unit was out in the UK we would probably have benefited from this, though the mapmaker as a whole is a worthy addition to the whole TS2 experience.
Many people have been bitching and whining about online play being left out. Now I agree this may have given the game more sway and slightly improved sales, but the game doesn't need it. It's fantastic in its own right. TS3 may have online play, cos I strongly believe there will be a TS3, and by that point in time we will have the infrastructure to support it, such as broadband in a large percentage of ps2 user's homes.
On the whole the game is a must have for any console owner. The story mode will pull you in (especially co-operative story mode) and the multiplayer mode will keep you coming back for more again and again.