Timesplitters: Future Perfect

"Time is an illusion, lunchtime doubly so" - Douglas Adams

Welcome to 4tomsm4sher's review of Timesplitters: Future Perfect. It's currently out for the PS2, Gamecube and Xbox so be sure to check it out!

Timesplitters: Future Perfect is the third installment of Free Radical's quietly successful Timesplitters series. With an engaging story mode and extensive single and multiplayer options to explore, there's more to the Future Perfect than you'd expect, especially if you're unfamiliar with the series.

The game's story mode follows time-hopping hero Cortez, as he bounces back and forth between the present, near past, and distant future, hot on the heels of mad scientist Jacob Crow. Crow, in typical evil genius form, is determined to achieve immortality, even if it means wiping out the human race in the process. The storyline is standard sci-fi fare, and while relatively well-conceived, it's primarily an excuse to throw the player into as many classic shooter scenarios as possible.

Over the course of the story campaign, Cortez fights through a war-torn city besieged by renegade robots, clears a haunted mansion of an army of zombies, fights mutant freaks in an underground laboratory, and much, much more. The game's standard run-and-gun gameplay is interspersed with frequent rail, turret, and sniper shootouts, driving segments, and even some puzzles. The sheer variety is terrific, and although a few moments are lacking in polish or come off as stale or derivative, the game switches gears so quickly that even the duller scenarios are over before they can become too tedious.

For much of the story mode, you (as Cortez) will find yourself fighting alongside a diverse cast of characters, including alternate versions of yourself. Future Perfect takes full advantage of its time-bending plotline to include bizarre scenarios, like one where you're tasked with protecting a future version of Cortez while he attempts to take out a helicopter with a rocket launcher. Later in the same level, you'll encounter the same situation, only this time, you're the future Cortez, trying to shoot down the helicopter while your past self (in the scenario you played minutes ago) provides the cover fire. They're interesting situations, and grow increasingly complex as the game progresses - at one point in the game, there are as many as five Cortezes on screen at once.

Despite its constant, fast-paced combat, Future Perfect's tone is decidedly wacky. Throughout the game, Cortez is accompanied by goofy, likeable characters like a hipster combat droid, jaded goth teen Jo-Beth Casey, and swinging 70's spy Harry Tipper. Free Radical has always tended toward more abstract, exaggerated character design, and Future Perfect is no exception. While the game's characters are slightly cartoonish in appearance, they're expertly animated, with incredibly emotive expressions and gestures. The dialogue is well-written, and the voice acting is superb. Cortez, with his action-hero enthusiasm and defiantly optimistic outlook, is particularly likeable, and some of the game's best moments are those when he encounters past or future versions of himself.

The story mode is pretty easy, and definitely on the short side, probably clocking in at about eight hours for most players. While it's definitely entertaining, it's the other aspects of Future Perfect that really deliver the goods. First, there's the multiplayer. Future Perfect is the first in the Timesplitters series to feature online play, at least for Xbox and PS2. Gamecube owners will have to be content with the four-player split-screen multiplayer, which, though decidedly old-school, runs at a nice high framerate.

Future Perfect's multiplayer options include standard deathmatches, elimination, and capture the "bag," as well a slew of unique modes, like Shrink (where player models grow or shrink based on their score), Virus (where one player starts the game on fire and tries to set everyone else ablaze), and Vampire (where damaging other players increases your own ever-diminishing health). Each map features a variety of power-ups, like cloak, high speed, and max damage.

There's a decent number of multiplayer maps available, including locations like Siberia, a Martian prison, a Tron-esque virtual reality level, and even a flashy disco. While they're not on par with, say, Counter-Strike classics like Dust or Office, they're all pretty good. It's not a huge selection, but Future Perfect also comes with its very own map creator. It's definitely remedial by PC mapmaking standards, but for a console it's pretty robust, and has the added benefit of being practically idiot-proof.

Future Perfect has an amazing selection of character models, which includes all the characters from the story mode. With the added unlockables, there's a total of 150. You've got evil henchmen (and henchwomen), robots, soldiers, femme fatales, zombies, monsters, mutants, and plenty of others that simply defy categorization. In the character browser screen, each character, when selected, displays a nifty animation and sound bite, many of which are hilarious or unexpected (like the scientist who yells, "It's time to bust out the ass-kick-ulator!" before doing the backspin).

Then there are the weapons - all 35 of them. Future Perfect's arsenal includes conventional weapons like handguns, shotguns, SMGs, sniper rifles, chainguns, and rocket launchers, many of which can be dual-wielded. You'll also have a variety of grenades, mines, plasma-based guns, and a bunch of quirky, experimental weapons. Nearly every weapon looks and performs well, and they all sound convincingly powerful.

All of the mutliplayer games can be played with bots, in case you can't get online or don't have any friends. The bots are top-notch, at least when they're busy running and shooting. They're a little less on top of things in game modes that require more coordinated action, like domination or capture the flag, but even then, you won't see any inexcusably bad AI. Each game character has its own stats, including speed and health attributes, which can be individually adjusted for custom games.

The bot AI figures prominently in Future Perfect's non-story single-player options, which include an arcade league with 9 game types and 27 different scenarios. There's also a challenge mode with 21 bizarre minigames, like The Cat's Out of the Bag!, where you race a robotic cat around a track, or Avec Le Brique, where you smash up the contents of a Chinese restaurant with bricks. Each completed challenge or league level unlocks more characters, cheats, and weapons that can then be used in multiplayer mode.

Curiously, with the exception of the story mode, little monkeys seem to pop up everywhere in Future Perfect. A bunch of monkey characters are selectable, including zombie, robot, and ninja variations. There's a multiplayer deathmatch variant called Monkey Assistant, where every so often, a team of monkeys, armed to the teeth, teleports into the map to hunt down the highest ranking player. And in Electrochimp Disco-matic, one of the challenge games, you use an electricity-based gun to keep robotic chimps powered up so they can keep on dancing. Why so many monkeys? Who knows. But be forewarned: the monkey character stats are pretty high, so don't be surprised when you get pwned by a chimp.

Just about all the game types are fully customizable, so the variety of matches you can put together (with bots or other players) is pretty much limitless. Want to infest an ancient temple with super-powerful monkeys, armed only with baseball bats and shotguns? Or shoot it out with rocket-launcher-toting mummies and scantily clad voodoo queens in Vietnam? Or play capture the flag on a giant zeppelin with dual-machine-gun wielding zombies? Go ahead! Nobody's stopping you.

Future Perfect's graphics are quite good. As previously noted, the art design tends slightly toward abstraction. It's a nice touch, in my opinion, though it might not be appreciated by everyone. The overall sound quality is great, and the understated, slightly techno soundtrack adds to the mood without being obtrusive.

Most players will immediately notice that Future Perfect is lacking in a few standard first-person shooter features: there are no weapon or head bob effects, you can't hear your own footsteps, there aren't any ladders, and you can't even jump. As a result, the feel of the combat is decidedly old-school, and the game is completely devoid of any platforming elements. They're all odd omissions in a title that offers so many other bells and whistles, and will probably be missed by fans of modern shooters.

The Free Radical design team includes former lead designers from Rare, the developers behind the revered Goldeneye and Perfect Dark for the N64, so it's no coincidence that Future Perfect's combat plays a lot like an updated version of those games. This isn't necessarily a bad thing - despite its somewhat dated approach, it nails that subtle balance of gameplay elements, like character movement, field of view, and game speed, that make for a great first-person shooter.

Future Perfect's vintage shooter sensibilities may come off as dated, but it's core gameplay is otherwise pretty solid. Given its great sense of humor, entertaining story mode, incredible assortment of single and multi-player options, and monkeys, it's one of those games that shouldn't be overlooked.

- 4tomsm4sher

Comments

Ahhh.. my favorite FPS franchise. Pity I'm boycotting EA.

Nice review 4tom.

Sounds like a great game to get at $30, but at 50? Pass for now. When it drops though, sounds like would be fun to play on live.

I just finished this the other day, it was short and sweet, the way I like them! Will try the multiplayer on the dueling Xbox's this weekend, I really enjoyed the light hearted TS2 deathmatches.

There are some geniuinely creepy parts in the haunted house/zombie level (antlers.. on the wall.. ahh..) and some moments where I actually laughed out loud, it's nice to see the usual TS charm and humor is back.

Don't buy it for the single player, I think I clocked in under 8 hrs. Here's hoping the MP rocks.

Sanjuro wrote:

Ahhh.. my favorite FPS franchise. Pity I'm boycotting EA.

Get it 2nd hand. Half.com, etc.

After having gone through Second Sight, Free Radical is on my list of "Developers I have some affinity towards" so i'm going to try and find this one.

I loved the first one on the PS2, but the controls felt different in the second one and it completely neutered the multiplayer portion of the game for me.

I may grab this one someday on the cheap, but there's just too many other games I'm trying to get through right now for me to add another one to the mix.

I loved the second one. It was great because I love coop. Anything coop is at least "decent" though in my book.

Hmm. Sounds intriguing but a short SP component is a turn off for a gamer on a budget, like myself. Damn shame too. I likes me some good monkey action.

What I like about your reviews, [url=http://www.gamerswithjobs.com/index.... Fly[/url], is that they make me feel as if I've played the games myself, which in this case is good because I'm not actually going to.

Big hand for The Fly!

Yep, awesome series and a great review. I never cared for the single player, but Time Splitters 2 was super fun with a friend. We didn't finish the goddamn aztec level, tho

Time Splitters: Future Perfect is like a quality steak. The portion is small, but you're guaranteed to enjoy each bite. The problem is: you walk away hungry.

I finished the game with my GF in Co-op on the second day. That's far too early for any FPS.

-- K-rig