Tomorrow never dies.
Everyone has regrets. I regret falling into the toilet as a child, and I regret calling for help even more. Was I simply leaning back too far, swinging my little cowboy-booted feet until I tumbled in with a splash...or was there a vast, intergalactic conspiracy at work?
Normally, I'd be inclined to bet on my own clumsiness, but TimeSplitters: Future Perfect, Free Radical's upcoming first-person romp through time, suggests something far more sinister. Indeed, I'm beginning to believe that aliens pushed me in.
While there isn't much I can do about that now, TimeSplitters: Future Perfect provides hope by letting you chase wicked aliens through time and kick their asses before they can cause such unfortunate "accidents." If this sounds familiar, it should - it was also the premise of the other two TimeSplitters games. The difference between those and Future Perfect, though, is that Future Perfect is going to have a plot, an online option for the PS2 version, and vehicles.
Just like its predecessors, Future Perfect bristles with cool features and extras. You can play through Story mode by yourself or with a friend cooperatively, or you can dabble in Arcade mode's preset matches and Challenge mode's wacky minigames. There are a slew of zany multiplayer match types, like David and Goliath where you shrink every time you get killed and grow every time you pwn, and as long as you own an Xbox or PS2 you can enjoy them online. Gamecube owners won't be completely left out in the cold however, since you'll also be able to compete against friends offline via four-player split screen, as well as create your own levels with the handy-dandy TimeSplitters level creator.
If you need good ideas for a level, play through some of Future Perfect's story mode- it's already full of them. One involved making our way through a futuristic canyon while battling weird, invisible aliens and aiding our comrades by shredding waves of alien infantry with thermal death, courtesy of a nifty cannon. In the next level we infiltrated a Scottish castle with the help of an eccentric, old fisherman. After pistol-whipping a ton of enemies, we manned a gun-turret mounted on a jeep driven by our NPC friend. Once we got our fill of shooting, we switched places with the fisherman and drove a little. Very cool.
There was also a pretty slick train level with impressively interactive environments. At one point we got harassed by a badass helicopter, which we had to lure into clearing an obstructed path for us. In most other games, we would've been expected to do something dull like blow the thing up with a rocket or snipe the pilot, but in Future Perfect environmental interactivity is wonderfully integrated into every aspect of the gameplay experience.
Future Perfect isn't the only first-person shooter the guys and gals at Free Radical have worked on, and it shows. Many of them were part of the Rare team that developed Goldeneye and Perfect Dark, and while Future Perfect won't revolutionize the genre the way Goldeneye did, it's just as easy to pick up and play thanks to a smart control scheme and thoughtful controller layouts across the board. Every button and pad on every controller has been used to its fullest, but in a sensible way that keeps the gameplay from becoming obtuse. For example, to toggle between weapons you simple press left or right on the D-pad. This may seem like a small thing, but it frees up a lot of space on the controller for other commands, and it makes good common sense. Thanks to such thoughtful little touches, controlling your character in Future Perfect is as easy as a jump to the left, and a step to the right. (Insert Rocky Horror Picture Show Time Warp link here)
While the multiplayer component won't reinvent the wheel, it will provide you with 150 wacky characters to choose from, each with different qualities, as well as around forty weapons with which to kill friends and strangers. We saw big and small, outdoor and indoor levels. Most were multi-tiered with good vantage points for snipers, but there were also lots of avenues to each point for potential sniper slayers.
One cool multiplayer game type we got to check out was called Gladiator. In Gladiator, one of the players begins the game as the Gladiator, and others can only score by killing him. Once they do, they become the gladiator. Sounds simple, but it makes for some interesting firefights and awkward alliances as you might help the gladiator kill one foe, to prevent him from getting your kill.
Future Perfect sports a clean, cartoony visual style with interesting bits of environmental ambience for a surreal but immersive experience. Their engine is remarkably fluid; the game runs at a solid 60 frames-per-second on every system and the explosions are out of sight. All of this is put to great use in the game's zany, themed levels. Instead of pitting you against the same enemies in the same environments over and over again, Future Perfect will regularly switch things up to ensure that their game never grows stale.
Timesplitters: Future Perfect is coming together as a solid and silly first-person shooter with excellent content, online and off. It looks like it will be the best game in a fine series, and provide a nice change of pace from all those serious, angry FPS's out there. While you may not be able to go back in time and right all of your past's wrongs, you can at least check out TimeSplitters: Future Perfect and have a great time pretending.