Review: Timesplitters 2 (Playstation 2)

In this review, we seek the time crystals as we play Timesplitters 2. We find out if this Playstation 2 FPS game is worth dusting off again.

This game was released in 2003 and would be a sequel to the game Timesplitters. Since the previous game got a pretty decent score, we thought we’d go ahead and give the sequel a play.

There are three main modes of play: Arcade, Story, and Challenge.

Story mode, while not the main attraction for many, is the main mode of play. The story is Sergeant Cortez and Corporal Hart are sent out to stop the Timesplitters from once again going back in time and corrupting human history. This story has its similarities to the prequel. This time around, though, you are to obtain the time crystal. When the two hero’s arrive, it is too late as the timesplitters have chopped up the crystal into 9 parts and escaped through the time portal. It’s up to Hart to monitor the station while Cortez goes in to the time portal to do some crystal retrieval.

Your mission will take you to a number of different locations and times. You can go traveling to the distant past, find yourself close to modern time, wind up in the near future, or even end up in the distant future. Each of the nine locations also have their own storyline, but you have to complete a set of objectives in each place before a time portal will open up and allow you to escape.

The first mission will allow you to choose between three difficulty settings. Easy, medium, or hard. If you beat the mission on any difficulty, you’ll unlock the second mission. The difficulties available on the second mission depend on which difficulty you beat the previous level on. If you beat the level on hard, all three will be available. If you beat the level on easy, then you’ll only have access to the easy difficulty on the next level. For those of you who played either Goldeneye 007 or Perfect Dark, it’s the same system of level unlocking in the mission tree. In all, there are 9 crystal missions to complete. If you complete all 9 of these levels, you’ll get access to the 10th and final level which is the mission to escape the station.

The objectives you get in the missions themselves, like the aforementioned similar games, depends on which difficulty you decided to choose. If you select the easy difficulty, you have to complete the fewest objectives to open the time portal. On the medium difficulty, you get additional objectives – some of which are optional. If you choose the hardest difficulty, those optional objectives become mandatory.

The difficulty you set also affects certain characteristics of the level. On the easiest setting, certain doors or areas are locked off. On medium and hard difficulties, additional areas become not only available, but many are required to explore to complete the level.

Throughout the missions, you’ll get a number of weapons. These include very standard weapon such as pistols, automatic weaponry, mines, and other explosive weapons. Worst case scenario, you are reduced to your fists to take down enemies. What these weapons are specifically depends on the location. If you find yourself in the Wild West, you might get a Garrett revolver for a pistol. If you end up in the future, that pistol might actually be the cleverly named sci-fi pistol. Also like the aforementioned games, a number of these weapons have a secondary fire button. Sometimes, this secondary mode offers new abilities for the weapon you have. Other times, it’s simply firing the weapon and there’s no real secondary mode. The only way to really find out which has an interesting secondary firing feature in-game is to just try them all out and see what happens.

Along the way, you can also encounter different usable items. In the atom smasher level, for instance, you can obtain a fire extinguisher. If you press the activate button, you can pull it off the wall and put out fires (which will, in turn, open up doors once said fires are put out).

You will also encounter a variety of switches that open doors. You can also take control of both cameras and sentry turrets in the process as well. There is even the odd key item here and there that you’ll need to collect.

For those familiari with the original Timesplitters, this game continues the tradition of launching an endless supply of timesplitter enemies at you once you reach a critical point in the level (in this case, though, it’s usually after you complete all of the objectives and have just obtained the time crystal.

One new element in this game is the ability to catch fire (which is not a good thing). If you ever catch fire, all you need is some water source to put out the fire. This can be the rain, a fountain, or wherever else there is a source of water. If you can’t find a water source, you’ll just keep burning until you run out of health and armor and die.

Along the way, you’ll encounter a large variety of enemies. This can include guards, aliens, bots, sentry turrets, and even the occasional aircraft that shoots at you from the sky. On some levels, you’ll be able to get into a gun turret and mow down hoards of enemies. You’re not invulnerable in these by any means, but you do get a significant advantage in one of these.

Inevitably, you’ll probably get hit by enemy fire. If you do, you’ll have a health ring that appears. The red half is your health. If it drains completely, you die. You’ll also have a blue half which represents what armor you have left.

Armor pickups can be found in this game. They can either fill half of your armor or all of it. While many armor pickups on easy replenish all of it, these same ones on harder difficulties could possibly be cut in half. While the opportunities are rare and hard to find, it is also possible to replenish your health in the missions. One example is finding a stall in a back alleyway in the Neo Tokyo level where your health is instantly restored if the guy gives you small soundbites of wisdom.

Also in the process of these missions, you’ll encounter bosses. These bosses have a damage meter that appears on your screen. Reduce the damage meter to nothing and the boss will go down. Definitely harder to take down than most common enemies.

On some of these missions, there’ll also be security cameras looking out for you. If they catch you, the light will flash red and an alarm will sound. You can either shoot the camera or simply bi-pass it. The choice is yours.

If you complete the 10th and final mission on any difficulty, you’ll get the closing cut scene and the end credits of the game.

One thing that these missions can unlock are new characters for multiplayer mode. Which characters and what level on which difficulty varies, but unlockables do exist in the main mission tree.

The second mode is challenge mode. This mode requires you to complete a certain objective. Whether its racking up points in a survival mode, evading detection, or whatever else the game throws at you, it’s up to you to get the job done. Your performance is based on trophies. Bronze means you completed the challenge with the minimum requirements. This unlocks the next challenge. If you complete all three challenges, then you unlock one of the locked challenge sets. Silver and gold, in the mean time, also unlock new multiplayer characters as well as the next challenge/challenge set. Generally speaking, some of these challenges may be the hardest missions in the game.

The final mode found in this game for single player play is what a lot of players have enjoyed about this game: Arcade. Arcade is essentially a series of challenges based on multiplayer rules. You can go ahead and try custom arcade or challenge the league. If you choose league, you have a choice of three leagues to play in: Amateur League, Honorary League, or Elite League. At the beginning, you can only challenge the Amateur league. If you get a trophy in every round in this league, you’ll unlock the Honorary League. If you get a trophy in every one of these challenges, you can get access to the Elite league.

There are at least 16 kinds of multiplayer modes – most of which can be seen (and many of which can be unlocked) via this mode. A lot of these are standard fare multiplayer modes. These include death match, team death match, capture the flag (in this case, capture the bag), hold the bag, one hit kills, and king of the hill (zones). Some of these modes are a little more unique to players who only have the experience of older games to go by.

One of these modes is assault. In this mode, you get to be in a team of bots trying to take on a gauntlet of obstacles, gun turrets, and, of course, enemy AI. Generally speaking, taking out the turrets can be key to your success if you are a newer player as this enables your own team mates to be able to reach further into the level, giving you cover fire and distracting the bots. Your mission is to physically make it to a particular checkpoint in the course. If you get to that checkpoint, then you’ll respawn at that location. In shorter assault missions, you only have one checkpoint to get to. In longer ones, however, you’ll be required to make it to multiple checkpoints. Once you’ve reached the final checkpoint, this is where the game mode gets confusing. Now what? It turns out, your objective is typically destroying the explosive barrels. Destroy all and you complete an objective. Sometimes, you win if you do so, but other times, you have to destroy something in addition (in one case, computers in the enemy base). You’ll typically get a lot of time and unlimited lives, but completing these missions can prove to be very challenging.

Shrink does what it says. You or the enemies shrink based on your ranking in the game. If you are in first, you’ll remain your normal size. However, as you lose ranking, you begin to shrink. While the person with the lowest ranking becomes the smallest, that player will have the advantage of being particularly hard to hit. Your speed won’t be compromised if you shrink, but your voice on the other hand…

Thief mode is where kills themselves don’t count for anything. Instead, killed enemies will drop coins. Collect these coins to get points. The person with the highest point count wins the match.

Flame tag is basically just tag. The person who is on fire is it. It’s up to that person to tag someone else to light them on fire instead. The person who has been on fire the least wins the match.

Virus also deals with flames, however, if the one who is on fire tags someone else, then both light up. The player who manages to stay untagged the longest wins.

Gladiator is another hard to understand at first game. If you kill someone, you may not have that kill counted because only the player designated the gladiator can add to their kill count. To become the gladiator, you have to kill the gladiator yourself to become the gladiator. After that, every kill counts until you yourself get taken down.

One other mode worth noting is Monkey Helpers. In this mode, you have your standard deathmatch. However, the person ranked last will have monkey helpers assisting them.

The thing about single player arcade mode is that some of the objectives you get can help spice things up a little. Even if you win the match, it doesn’t mean you will also get rewarded as well. In many missions, you have to get a certain score (or even a certain score within a time limit) to even get a trophy on top of it all. Some of these are quite straight forward in that you just get a certain number of kills. Others are a bit more complex like having to have your team not only win, but also be ahead of the other team by a certain margin (ala bags of fun). This can be what makes the harder arcade levels more difficult.

One thing to note about trophies is that requirements for bronze, silver, and gold are all laid out for you before you take on that level. Platinum, however, has a certain requirement much more challenging than gold, but you only know if you meet that requirement if you win it. Suffice to say, platinum trophies are often a very difficult thing to obtain. Still, the more higher ranking trophies you get, the more stuff you get to unlock.

Generally speaking, how well this game plays is also evenly divided into the three modes of play. Story mode was certainly greatly improved over the previous game. Now, there is some back story within the game where, previously, there really wasn’t much in the way of storyline. Having said that, once you get to the second level, you’ll quickly realize that the storylines of each mission are simply independent from one another. As a result, the missions have a disjointed feel to them even though the crystals are what ties them together. While not reviewed here yet, Duke Nukem: Zero Hour had a plot that spanned through time. However, I would argue that the story was far better handled in this game than this one because what ties them all together goes far beyond the broken time machine pieces. Duke Nukem has to fit in in minor ways with the period and only limited pieces of equipment can be transported to where he goes. While the plot nicely weaves its way through every level beyond the time machine pieces, this game only has the time crystals connecting them. Each level has its own set of characters and villains. As a result, it was hard for me to really care about the characters throughout the game – even the two main ones. Overall, I found the difficulty curve was a little on the difficult side, though you’d never know it playing easy. I get that this game needs a challenge, but once I hit a level that was a little bit too difficult for me, it was basically game over for that run. The harder difficulties could stand to lighten up a little on the difficulty, but it wasn’t overly so.

Challenge mode, for me, was probably the worst mode in the game. I could only really pass a small handful of levels, but after that, it was difficult for me to really get into it because it just doesn’t take that long for me to just say, “Meh, not worth my time”. If you didn’t bother with this mode, I don’t think you really miss a whole lot.

Some people say arcade mode is the best of the modes. I pretty much agree. I feel like I spent hours on that mode and continually getting plenty of entertainment value out of it. Even if I didn’t complete every single one of them with a trophy, I left that mode definitely satisfied that my time was well spent. I wished story mode was this satisfying, but it unfortunately was not. I thought the references to Red Faction, Half-Life, and Turok – Dinosaur Hunter were a very nice touch at the end.

One thing I will praise challenge mode and arcade league mode was the writing. I thought the writing was, while to the point, often amusing and generally entertaining. The most absurd of stories were found here. What led to the events of that particular gameplay can be quite ridiculous. Some of the characters found in this mode are equally as absurd.

While the graphics weren’t as jaw-dropping amazing as Super Mario Sunshine, the comic book or cartoonish style of the game really worked well here. The atmosphere for the levels themselves worked quite well. The way the characters were animated both in cut scenes and in-game were all nicely done. The creativity of some of the characters was also something to give a thumbs up to. While this game does lack a bit in the effects department, the style makes up for it in this case.

A strength in this game was definitely audio. The music was well done. Of course, what sets the music apart from other games is the massive amount of music found here. While some games simply re-use the music found in the main story mode, this game not only re-uses that music, but adds a whole library of new music just for multiplayer mode. It also takes the soundtrack from the previous game and adds it to this game which was quite an impressive thing to hear. The change in music mid-level was an very big added bonus as well. The large contingent of voice sample banks were great. The other sound effects worked well in this game including the ambient sounds and weapon fire.

Overall, your experience may vary depending on which mode you play. If you play the arcade mode, this game is actually a fantastic game. If you play the story mode, this game is pretty solid, but not amazing my any means. If you play challenge mode, this game is one of those games where you spend an afternoon playing, get bored, and move on. So, your mileage may vary depending on how you play it. The graphics were great – especially given the artistic style was risky, but quite successful. The audio was a real shining point for this game. So, while all the modes of play had their moments of stumping the player, this game turned out quite well after the 3 or 4 prods from a guide. Definitely gets a thumbs up from me. Worth the play.

Overall

Furthest point in game: Story: Finished on easy. Died while trying to pull the final reactor switch after defeating the boss of Atomsmasher on medium. Made it up to the other side of the dam, but died after running to the door to head to the second part of the interior portion in Siberia on hard.

Challenge: Couldn’t complete 9 of these challenges (includes the only challenge set I couldn’t unlock). Beat the rest.

Arcade: Unlocked Elite League, and got all but 6 trophies.

General gameplay: 20/25
Replay value: 8/10
Graphics: 9/10
Audio: 5/5

Overall rating: 84%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.



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