Greetings, ladies and gentlemen!
I want to open a discussion about a video game series that is near and dear to my heart. A series that had a great impact on me growing up, and would be the one game I compare to all future games within the first-person shooter (FPS) genre. At least, compared to this series, many modern FPS games don’t possess the same creativity, simplicity of design, and character. I want to discuss TimeSplitters, a series of games that were released for the PlayStation 2 that harkened back to a better age of the FPS genre. It included elements of time-travel in the story, gave players access to a vast array of weapons, had a massive cast of playable characters, and more ways to play than any of the current popular FPS games combined. It is for these reasons, and more, that I believe a next-gen TimeSplitters is the FPS game we (gamers) deserve.
A Long Lost Golden Age
One of the most important reasons I believe TimeSplitters had such an impact on me was that it played very similarly, if not identically, to GoldenEye 007. GoldenEye was, and still is, one of my absolute favorite games on the N64 console. This was one of those games my friends and I spent many hours playing, especially in multiplayer with the four-player split-screen. When TimeSplitters came around, it was a game capable of recapturing the enjoyment I once had from playing GoldenEye, but it also offered so much more. The gunplay was well-designed for a console shooter, and it didn’t require an aim-assist feature like many modern FPS titles. Additionally, each new title in the series expanded and improved on the elements of the last without changing what worked. Unfortunately, some of the popular FPS games just release more of the same.
Originality in Concept
TimeSplitters had a fairly simple narrative concept involving the use of time-travel, an evil race of monstrous aliens (after whom the game is named), and nine time crystals as the core plot device. One amazing aspect of this premise was how the developers used it. During the Story Mode, each level sent players to a different moment and place in time. They were introduced to a new set of characters, an additional narrative, as well as a different set of weapons. The use of time-travel affords the developers the unique opportunity to take players anywhere in time and space. It’s similar to the Assassin’s Creed series, except TimeSplitters can visit several eras in human history (real or fictional) instead of being restricted to one. I find that to be awesome, not just from a story standpoint, but from a visual standpoint as well. Each level could have a vastly different look and feel to it. If a next-gen TimeSplitters were to be built using the CryEngine, all of these aspects could be explored further, and the game would look gorgeous.
Characters with Actual Character
In the MOBA genre, it has become rather commonplace for games, like League of Legends or Heroes of the Storm, to provide a large roster of unique characters that give players loads of choice in appearance and playstyle. Over the last decade I have yet to see a game in the FPS genre provide the same level of choice. Although, Blizzard’s upcoming Multiplayer FPS, Overwatch, could easily expand its roster post-release beyond its already extensive cast. By the end of its run, TimeSplitters had well over 300 characters across all three games. Starting with just 64 total characters in the first game, and offering over 160 in the final game, Future Perfect.
Granted, the significant difference between each available character was the appearance, but the fact that a game at the time could have that many characters available at once is amazing. You could play as a riot officer, jungle queen, a monkey, a vest-wearing bear, a giant gingerbread man, a dinosaur, and more crazy, awesomely weird and hilarious characters. My absolute favorite of the series has always been Mr. Giggles. As far as Future Perfect is concerned, each character did have stats (Speed, Stamina, Shock Proof, and Fire Proof), but I can’t recall if they had much impact on gameplay. I usually played with them turned off. Additionally, the playstyle of each character was dictated by the players in control, and the weapons they had available. There weren’t any special abilities like the Overwatch characters have, but it wasn’t necessary. The gameplay was in the gunplay.
For a next-gen release of TimeSplitters, this could easily be one of the game’s selling points. The base roster could be at least 60 characters at release, and players could gain access to new characters by simply playing the game. The idea of character stats (or character abilities as they are called in TimeSplitters) could be reworked into a set of passive skills/traits/talents. For instance, the Stone Golem, from Future Perfect, could have a passive skill that increases his total Health while sacrificing movement speed, a skill that increases the damage he does with melee weapons, and another skill that makes him resistant to fire and shock damage. These are just a few examples of possible passives the cast could have, and matches can be played with these turned off, but in those moments where they are active, experienced players will be able to play to their chosen character’s strengths.
The character traits mechanic presented here could also be further explored and become an additional layer of gameplay.
The Weapons Locker
TimeSplitters had no shortage of weapons. The armory of each game was filled to the brim with a wide variety of melee weapons, hand guns, shotguns, sniper rifles, explosives, and more. I was partial to the remote mines. There are many different types of weapons to suit a variety of map themes, from vintage to modern to futuristic. Additionally, players were able to customize the weapons they would find during a match. So, if a player wanted to run a melee-only map, the option to do so was there.
One of my favorite weapons, besides the remote mines, was this crazy, futuristic gun called the Mag Charger that could be placed in a unique “Piercing Mode”. While active, players were given a sort of predator-vision. The screen would go blue and all enemies would be highlighted in orange. On top of that, this weapon could shoot through walls, allowing the person behind this weapon to potentially take out their enemies in relative safety. This variety in weaponry is something that is missing from a lot of FPS titles. Games like Team Fortress and Overwatch limit their characters to a small set of weapons. A next-gen TimeSplitters would change up this model by giving players more options than they are used to from other games. Though, given the limited scope of most games, that’s not too hard.
Play, Create, Share
My absolute favorite feature of the TimeSplitters series was the Map Maker. Through this feature, players could create their very own maps using a collection of preset room tiles. The layouts could be anything the players could think of, and their maps could be tuned for any of the dozen or so game types. If done properly, a player could create a map that works for Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Capture the Bag, Zones, and Monkey Assistants. Players could also create story maps that play out similarly to the levels found in Story Mode.
This would be a great feature to expand on for a next-gen TimeSplitters. So many more tools and components could be added onto what already exists. This would allow a budding TS community the ability to play the game, create their own levels, and share them with everyone else online. Additionally, with this feature in place, the developers could easily take more time on developing the bigger updates and DLC for the game. Major selling point? I think so.
An Experiment in Folly
If you haven’t heard, Crytek has given their blessing to the development of a fan-made multiplayer game based on the TimeSplitters series, which is called TimeSplitters Rewind. I’ve read their FAQ, and the idea sounds cool, but if the only mode available is Team Deathmatch, then it would only be a shallow representation of the original series. In Future Perfect, there were more ways to play the game than the Call of Duty series could ever dream of having. If limited to just talking about multiplayer options, there were at least 13 different match types, and most of them just added an extra layer to the standard Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch. If the team behind TimeSplitters Rewind can manage to capture the heart of the original series, then I’ll probably be all over it. However, my preference is still for a fully developed, next-gen TimeSplitters rather than a version limited to a single game mode. I’ll be keeping an eye out to see how it progresses, though.
A Lack of Vision
In TimeSplitters history, at least as far as its Wiki page is concerned, there once was an attempt to bring forth a fourth installment to the series. What was the big reason for the fall of TimeSplitters 4? A failure on the part of the marketing people and publishers that the title was brought to. However, the story written on the wiki page could be interpreted in a couple ways. The first, as mentioned before, was that the marketing people who looked at the game didn’t have the imagination, or the brains, to come up with a way to sell the game. This is why I was bringing up this idea of “selling points” earlier. On the other hand, however, it could be that the people working on the game didn’t present the right features to the people they were hoping to publish the game. In either case, there was a failure made on someone’s part and my dreams of seeing the series continued were dashed.
A Plea For Action
The one thing I wish would happen is that Crytek would put a team together to make a next-gen TimeSplitters a reality. I would love the opportunity to lead the team myself, because I want to maintain the soul of the original series, but also continue to expand on the number of options this series offered its players. There is a chance to bring back to life a series that was designed to be fun from the moment the player started the game. I foresee that a lot more can be done with TimeSplitters than anyone would expect to see from games like Call of Duty. Then again, Activision seems perfectly fine with releasing sequels that are barely distinguishable from each other. Unfortunately, there are plenty of people who are dumb enough to keep buying them every single year.
TimeSplitters could be more than that. Each title could be supported with updates and DLC post-release for three to four years, and not see a sequel released until four or five years later. This would reduce the risk of diluting the series with annual releases. There is a great deal that can be done with this series, but it would take someone with an actual vision and imagination to see what that is. I consider myself someone with a vast imagination, and I do have a vision for what TimeSplitters can be on next-gen consoles and PC. However, I don’t expect to get a call from the people at Crytek should they decide to take another crack at TimeSplitters (if only).
So, until the day TimeSplitters is given the opportunity to make a triumphant return, Activision will continue to ruin the genre. They will keep siphoning the money of poor saps who buy the annual releases of Fail of Duty. They will keep those people who still play Destiny chasing an ever moving carrot and praying to RNGesus for that next big drop. I, on the other hand, will refrain from playing games that waste my time.
Have you played any games from the TimeSplitters series? What would you like to see in a next-gen TimeSplitters title? Have you looked into TimeSplitters Rewind? What would you do for a Klondike Bar? Join the discussion below.
If you want more TimeSplitters related content, check out this post over here by The Chi-Scroller.
If you want to check out TimeSplitter Rewind, hop on over to their home page. I just started looking at their work very recently. The headsprouter they showed off is creepy as shit, but is pretty damn awesome (check it out here).
Also, if you have any questions, or have some ideas for topics you’d like me to cover, you can leave a comment below or head over to my shiny semi-new-ish Contact page.
Thanks for reading to the end. I hope you’ll be back for the next one.
War Fist out.
Dec 14, 2015: This post was edited heavily. There were many large paragraphs that I broke into smaller chunks. I made very few grammatical changes, and altered some sentences for clarity.