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TimeSplitters: Future Perfect
Score: 85%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: EA Games
Developer: Free Radical
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 4 (1 - 16 Online)
Genre: First Person Shooter/ Action/ Online

Graphics & Sound:
Iíve seen enough movies involving time travel to know itís risky business. If youíre not careful you could create a time paradox, the results of which could start a chain reaction that would unravel the very fabric of the space time continuum, and destroy the entire universe! Granted, thatís a worse case scenario. The destruction might in fact be very localized, limited to our own galaxy. Despite these risks, Free Radical still seems hell-bent on messing with the space-time continuum. TimeSplitters: Future Perfect is the third game in Free Radicalís time-traveling FPS series, and though it improves on many of the past gameís faults, itís still not perfect.

Future Perfect carries the same cartoon/comic book look of past TimeSplitters games. Though this helps to give the game its own style, it may disappoint the ďreal look = good gameĒ crowd. Each level reflects the time period theyíre supposed to take place in, albeit in the more satirical manner that has become a trademark of the TimeSplitters games. Some levels even take whacks at other big-name games, like a zombie-infested mansion atop a research lab or a futuristic society complete with a doctor named Gordon. The real eye-catchers are the design and look of character models. Like the levels, each has its own personality that really comes through thanks to excellent animation.

Music is more of a side note throughout much of the game. It does what it needs to do, but there isnít any catchy, memorable tune that youíll find yourself humming while in the shower. Itís really just there to let you know when something big is about to happen. The up-beat style fits with the gameís quick tempo. Voice work, on the other hand, is very strong and, when added with the over-the-top animations and excellent script, makes the game that much more enjoyable. It also makes you wish the Story mode were a little longer, but more on that later.

TimeSplitters has never been a story-driven series. Instead of a time-consuming single-player experience, past games have instead focused more on multiplayer options; the single-player game was just a way to unlock new characters, which is what makes TimeSplitters: Future Perfect the odd-man out in the franchise. Though the game still leans heavily on multiplayer, there is actually a decent story to go along with the single-player mode.

Story mode finds you, as the series' long-time protagonist named Cortez, traipsing through time in an effort to track down stolen time crystals and a madman in search of eternal life. Admittedly, the story isnít that deep, and follows a setup similar to ďBill & Tedís Excellent AdventureĒ (that is, if Bill and Ted had guns). Each time period has Cortez dropping in on key characters of the time and getting involved in their activities. Conveniently, their activities also tie in with Cortezís mission, so it all works out in the end.

During missions, Cortez also teams up with himself, or at least, his future... err, past... present self. Regardless, the tense points in the story require Cortez to cover his own back while solving puzzles or taking out bosses. The catch to all the help is that you eventually have to go back and provide the help for your past self once youíre your future self. In other words, you have to play a few portions of each level at least twice, each time with different goals. Even though it sounds like it would be an annoying time-filler, the concept is actually enjoyable. The only time I got really frustrated with it was one scenario towards the end that had me solving a very poorly planned puzzle sequence multiple times.

Story mode is an improvement over the past two games, but still doesnít hit the mark. The entire story clocks in at about six hours total and can easily be completed in one day. The time periods you travel to arenít as diverse as past games, and you actually end up visiting the same time period more than once. This is a shame because the story is enjoyable and keeps you playing, if just to see Cortez try to get away with his corny ďTime to Split!Ē catch phrase or one of the gameís other jokes.

Stepping away from Story mode, Future Perfect offers all of the bells and whistles youíd expect from the series. Arcade mode is essentially a single-player version of multiplayer that puts you up against bots instead of real players, while Challenge mode presents a list of wacky stunts to compete in. Both modes are worthwhile to play through if youíre looking to unlock all of the gameís characters, but they still feel unfinished and at some times tacked on. Online gameplay is the most exciting of the gameís extra modes and one that has been sorely missed in the series.

Multiplayer offers several play types like Vampire, Capture the Flag, and the ever-popular Deathmatch. Compared to other FPSs, Future Perfect offers more up-tempo gameplay that feels a lot like Perfect Dark.

Rounding out the different play modes is the seriesí trademark Map Maker mode. The mode is very easy to use, and gives you as much, or as little, freedom as you want. The number of tools available enables you to make simple models of your house or office, or full blown scenarios if youíd like. Iíve even noticed some re-makes of GoldenEye maps floating around.

As Iíve already stated, Story mode wonít take long to complete. The only stumbling blocks I came across were due to either poor A.I. or bad planning. During episodes where youíre covering your back, the A.I. for the ďother CortezĒ isnít the brightest and likes to take the long road in doing things. This leads to some hair-pulling moments as you watch your other self go out of his way to get into trouble while youíre trying to protect him.

Later in the game, you also come across a series of puzzles Ė well, itís more like the same type of puzzle, only with repeated variations depending on which tense Cortez youíre playing as. The puzzles arenít that difficult to solve, itís just that theyíre poorly planned. For whatever reason, someone decided the thin, dark green lines on a black background looked good, so they planned the entire puzzle around it. On top of the difficult-to-read patterns, a short timer is thrown in just to add frustration. The first time I solved the puzzle, I was fine; once the third or fourth puzzle came around... well, letís just say the atmosphere in my den became much more colorful.

Game Mechanics:
Smooth controls have always been one of the high points of the TimeSplitters series. The same effective control scheme is found in Future Perfect and has even received a little refinement. One of the complaints leveled towards the game has always been the ďtwitchyĒ turn control that moved your gun a little, and then caught the camera. This made fast-fire fights a bit of a pain. This system has been replaced with a more conventional system, making the controls even more precise than past games. Fans of the old system can still rest easy since the old-style can be turned on in the Options menu. In addition, the entire control scheme can be fully customized to meet your particular needs. The style may feel dated to some, but at the same time itís simple enough that more casual fans can jump in and have fun without dedicating their lives to learning all the intricacies needed to get good.

All in all, TimeSplitters: Future Perfect is a good game that just feels incomplete. Story mode is too short and the additional play modes donít offer nearly the replay value as past games. Mapmaking and the addition of online play help the game out, but the dated play-style might turn off FPS fans who expect a little more. Future Perfect is still a fun game, but donít expect more than a trigger-happy shooter.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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