Trust me, that becomes quickly visible from the intriguing single player experience to the absolutely goddess multiplayer aspect of TimeSplitters 2. Combining a much more stunning visual presentation, steady audio and tons of replayability, the sequel reigns above its forerunner by a long shot.
TimeSplitters are alien creatures who have discovered the capability to control time and space to modify past events using a hole in the center of the universe. Through this form of tampering, TimeSplitters have been able to turn mankind into a large race of no good for nothing slaves. As humans figure out how to seal the time hole, two TimeSplitters manage to steal the crystals which are crucial to the operation. It is now up to the player to step into the shoes of a marine and follow the creatures across the galaxy hoping to track down the crystals before the world at its entirety is destroyed.
Story mode allows gamers to either play through a single player campaign or take a friend and do it cooperatively. Throughout the mode, the player(s) will visit diverse and very unique environments such as historical eras like the gangster-ridden 1920's, the abundant jungles of Aztec temples, soviet military installations of the cold war and extremely futuristic robot factories based in the outer space. TimeSplitters 2 is mission-based, every level containing its own distinctive set of objectives and tasks to complete.
TimeSplitters 2 also features an Arcade mode that can be played either alone or with friends. The mode consists of a three-stage tournament filled with dozens of different little missions such as "get 50 kills in 4 minutes", "burn 30 people in 2 minutes" and so forth. There's also a few Capture The Bag, Team Deathmatch and regular Deathmatch game types within the arcade mode. The stages consist of Amateur, Honorable and Elite. Completing one unlocks another. Each stage works with a medal system; gold, silver and bronze. It's beneficial to get gold awards because they unlock a bunch of new characters and levels for use in multiplayer. If you're just looking to play against computer opponents or friends in a specific game type of your choice, you can also do that using another setting within the Arcade mode.
The real core of TimeSplitters 2 lies inside its multiplayer. Right off the bat it's evident Goldeneye served as a stepping stone for the development of this title (there's even those individual awards for each player when in multiplayer). The addition of computer bots makes TimeSplitters 2 highly entertaining even when friends aren't around. This is where Bungie's Halo fell short. In addition to the four-way split screen capability, TimeSplitters 2 also supports System Link. In the mood to connect Xboxes together and go head to head in a 16 way Capture the Bag bout? How about a Deathmatch between 8 friends? TimeSplitters 2 makes it all possible with its first-rate game types. The only downfall here is the lack of an Xbox Live component.
The MapMaker section of TimeSplitters 2 didn't exactly amaze me. It's a very smart concept nonetheless, allowing players to build their own levels, with a storyline and characters to make it even more realistic. After having fooled around with it for an hour or so, I still had a hard time getting anything done. There's a beginner and a novice setting, but I found both equally nerve-racking. There should have been a deeper tutorial or something. On a general note, I found the MapMaker more frustrating then anything else. I'm sure once I get the hold of it I might have fun though, but so far, I haven't been able to fully enjoy it.
The Artificial Intelligence (AI) in TimeSplitters 2 is jaw-dropping. Computer opponents hide behind walls, use corners to their advantage, run for cover and hang in groups. In the demo we played a few months ago from the Official Xbox Magazine, this wasn't the case - the odds were actually reversed. Characters would watch each other get shot down in packs and then come alone and expect to be victorious. It seems Free Radical worked out its problem before the game's launch, a very smart move indeed; TimeSplitters 2's AI is great.
Controls, controls, controls, *shakes head*. TimeSplitters 2's general layout is almost identical to Halo's, which is a really good thing keeping in mind how amazing that scheme works with this sort of game. The triggers serve as primary and secondary weapon shots, Y manually reloads, the X button respawns the character when needed while opening and activating things as well, the left analog sticks moves the player side to side while the right analog stick serves for aiming (also available are a few other layouts, the one above is default). Unfortunately, the button layout is not where the problem lays. The aiming system is the victim of lack in effectiveness. The default setting has an auto-aim activated, something I like to use here and there when I play first person shooters. On a negative note, the auto-aim is so unrealistic it goes against the law of gravity. The player can be aimed to the left and still manage to shoot the gun at an outrageous angle to kill the character all the way on the right. Sure, beginners will love this touch since killing just takes the tap of the trigger and no aiming whatsoever, but hardcore first person shooters probably won't be very fond of it. Other then this rather large complaint, the rest of the control scheme is great. The learning curve is of about an hour or so, depending if you've had previous experience with Halo or not.
Audio has quickly made a major splash in video games. Players now expect much more from this aspect of the game; a few music tracks and generic sound effects won't cut it. TimeSplitters 2 delivers a generally outstanding sound department though overrun by repetitiveness in the long run. Starting with the positive, the music suits the game situations in story mode very well, speeding up when the going gets tough and slowing down for the more relaxed occasions. The soundtrack also tends to get the player in the mood to spill some guts, which is great for this type of game. On the same level, the voice acting is good stuff as well. Now, onto the only complaint I have as far as audio goes. Even though being rather amusing, the character sound effects -- monkeys chirping, animals growling, things blowing up, humans dying, etc -- could have been better. They are simply average compared to some of the other titles on the market, sporting a tendency to get swiftly repetitive (not surprising). On the whole, there's a lot of good for the ears in this title, but with it comes a touch of disappointment.
The graphical aspect of TimeSplitters 2 is strong. The environments vary in size and design, each tending to deliver a different game atmosphere. From the snow based level to the Notre Dame cathedral, the concepts get two-thumbs up. Up close, some of the textures and edges are a little rough, but it's not a big deal. Similar to the environments, the character selection in TimeSplitters 2 absolutely rocks. There are over a hundred characters to pick and choose from. There's a monkey, an alien, a few military soldiers, a scantily clad women as well as a thong wearing jungle boy. Each is diverse as far as attributes and physical appearance goes. The variety is stunning.
The weapons medley is also top-notch. The shotgun, tommy gun and sniper rifle were my favorite. The more futuristic artillery didn't interest me all that much though. We all have different tastes, and let me assure you there's certainly something in the weapons selection for everyone. On another positive note, even when blowing things up and having 10 characters on screen, TimeSplitters 2 doesn't suffer from any slowdowns. The game runs at a steady 60FPS in single player, and not too much lower in multiplayer. The cut-scenes are also done very well, but unfortunately, there's a big lack of them. Generally speaking, TimeSplitters 2 is a sweet looking shooter, but not exactly as mouth-watering as Bungie's.
Even though being entertaining and simply a blast to play all around, you'll never in a million years hear me say TimeSplitters 2 is any better then Halo. I find the games on two totally distinctive levels. Multiplayer wise, I think TimeSplitters 2 comes out on top, but on every other aspect, it falls a little short. Don't get me wrong though, it's a great product nonetheless. TimeSplitters 2 is among the best console shooters I have yet to play, period.