Whenever time travel is brought up, people invariably talk about the things they’d fix. They’d end the Cold War before it started. They’d talk Mark David Chapman out of shooting John Lennon. They’d make sure Ashlee Simpson was never even born.
But no one ever talks about the things they’d break. I mean, you could streak at every major sporting event in history and never get caught or identified. It would be just like Groundhog’s Day, but with our entire history as your playground. The Earth would be your sandbox and you’d probably go bonkers with the power.
That is, if the Spacetime marines didn’t stop you first.
And if EA’s TimeSplitters: Future Perfect for the Xbox is any indication, they probably would.
This third installment of the TimeSplitters series dutifully follows the footsteps of its predecessors by emphasizing fast, smooth fragging set in a goofy, tongue-in-cheek atmosphere. And like its forbears, it seems content retracing a straightforward shooter path without straying much from the first-person formula.
In Future Perfect, you don the spiffy boots of a Spacetime marine named Cortez and spoil the fun of the maniacal Jacob Crow. He is hatching a diabolical plot to do what any sane person with limitless power would: go nuts and destroy everything. Your job is to go back in time and destroy the time crystals before he can take over eternity. Easy.
Your travels through time takes you back and forth between a number of eras, from the early 1920’s to futuristic 2401. At each stop, you’ll fight alongside a variety of sidekicks, including the R-110 model attack robot, a schoolgirl named Jo-Beth Casey, and even future and past versions of yourself. For example, some levels have you jumping through time hoops in order to save yourself from failure. When it comes to a critical key or some extra firepower, you are your own best friend.
Your adventures in Story mode also tend to poke fun at famous films, with levels and situations reminiscent of Austin Powers, Terminator and even Saturday Night Fever. Creeping up on guards also can result in overhearing some rather interesting conversations. The offbeat dialogue has its share of laugh-out-loud moments.
Which is good, because the combination of Future Perfect‘s chronic linearity and bad A.I. is no laughing matter. If you aren’t watching a cutscene, you’re running through hallways shooting brainless bad guys. The simple boss battles aren’t nearly frequent enough to keep the static action from going stale and the weapon selection is very standard, although a couple guns come with some interesting features. One has a built in electronic sensing visual mode that will pick up on security cams and stationary auto guns, just like the EMF vision in Splinter Cell.
But unlike Splinter Cell, Future Perfect features a very streamlined control scheme. So streamlined, in fact, that you can’t even jump. For the most part, the maneuvers available to you are shooting and running. Some might call this old school, and they would be right. Others might call it perfect for retards and apes, but a bit lacking for everyone else. They would also be right.
Both camps would also agree that TimeSplitters: Future Perfect isn’t trying to revolutionize the core of first-person shooting. Instead, it’s merely trying to offer a fun, relatively mindless assortment of scenarios in which gamers can blast away with little concern. And in that sense, it succeeds admirably.
The Story mode lasts under ten hours at the default difficulty setting, so there’s not a whole lot of meat to digest and not much reason to do it all again besides the ability to play co-operatively with a friend. Thank goodness for the quirky plot.
Luckily, Future Perfect offers much more than just the single-player campaign with a neat selection of tasty modes.
In Arcade mode, you can compete in what are known as League matches against bots for trophies. These usually contain special conditions, and winning almost always earns you an unlockable goodie, usually one of the game’s 150 characters. Yup, 150. Try that on for size, Master Chief. Each character has unique stats, and once unlocked, all are useable in online play. We love it when offline accomplishments have online benefits…especially if those benefits include 150 different skins.
While the League matches are great for unlocking unusual characters, they’re still just deathmatches. Nothing is more common in a first-person shooter than a deathmatch, but to Free Radical’s credit, they do manage to twist this common theme in some pretty weird ways. Take Monkey Assistant mode, a deathmatch where losing players gain armed, simian assistants. Things get even weirder in Challenge mode. One of the games, Cat Driving, has you racing a remote-control version of the evil villain’s cat. Another, presumptively titled Super Smashing Great, has you breaking stuff with a brick. Unusual? Yes. Good? Eh, not really.
A mapmaker is also available for those hellbent on creating their own TimeSplitters experience. It’s an unusual sight to see a console game offer up customizability like this, but gamers with the time and willpower can have some fun in this sandbox. If you manage to make a map you’re really proud of, you can then upload it to an online database, giving other players a chance to check out your handiwork.
If the Arcade and Challenge games sound perfect for basic online fragging, they are. Future Perfect also offers a couple Assault scenarios in which one side must complete objectives that another side must defend, but there are only four of these, and none are very satisfying or deep. In fact, nothing about Future Perfect is very deep. The best games in this genre are easy to pick up, but provide enough depth to actually transform casual gamers into hardcore gamers. TimeSplitters is easy to pick up, but it’s also easy to put down again.
The game generally looks good and clean with a wacky, cartoon aesthetic. There aren’t any sophisticated visual touches, but then Future Perfect is not a sophisticated game. Character animations are smooth and the models, all 150 of them, are well made.
TimeSplitters‘ music and sound effects are fittingly odd, while the above-average voice acting deserves credit for making the zany plot so fun to follow.
TimeSplitters: Future Perfect provides classic first-person gameplay with some entertaining twists. The Arcade and Challenge modes extend the life of the game somewhat, especially if you are new to first-person shooters. Vets, however, might find it hard to overlook the lacking A.I., inability to jump and brief Story. The future looks good, but far from perfect.