The third installment of the TimeSplitters series isn’t a whole lot different from its two prequels. That’s not a bad thing though, because it’s a highly polished game, stuffed with humor, violence, and monkeys.
The story revolves around a Sgt. Cortez, the protagonist from the two first games. On what seems like a regular basis he’s put into the task of saving mankind; this time from a stark raving mad scientist. You see, the game begins in 2401, a time when devastating wars have turned earth into some post apocalypic battlefield – mainly because of the nasty timesplitter race. Fortunately, the military has figured out how to travel in time, so to trace the origin of the timesplitters you teleport back to 1914 and begin the search. Throughout the single player storyline, which should take you somewhere around ten hours to finish, you travel back and forth in time, making many allies, and blowing up a rather ridiculous amount of enemies. The storyline is told mainly using cut-scenes, which are actually quite nicely done, and over the intercom where your female soldier friend instructs you on what to do and what’s happening. Witty comments are exchanged on a fairly regular basis too, and with the downright weird things that occur you sit there either grinning or just thinking “wait, what?”
Each mission normally starts by teleporting you into some unexpected scenario – dropping you into water for example, or into a war in progress. Early on you normally meet allies – human, or otherwise. For the most part you’re chasing the time crystal, which need to be destroyed in order for the timesplitters war to be erased from history. This’ll prove to be a difficult, but in many ways fun task, in which you actually meet your past, present, and future self.
I suspect TimeSplitters is more so favored by semi-hardcore/hardcore of the first-person shooter genre than those new to the genre. The action is fast paced and your arsenal is probably beyond what most games in the genre have offered. During the single player portion of the game you’re given weapons related to the time period, such as 1914, 1969, 2401, or some of the other years you’re beamed into. Many of these weapons are awesome, but those that have played the first two will undoubtedly recognize some. You have plenty of ordinary weapons; similar to those you’ve probably used in a gazillion shooters, like pistols, sub-machine guns, rifles, and so on. The more exotic weapons are great though, and let me tell you, you’ll get plenty of chances to fire multi-colored projectiles at people. Surprisingly, most enemies are easy to take down if you have a half-decent aim. By firing into the chest or groin area may have to empty half a clip, but one to three shots to the head will normally kill just about any human, robot, monkey, or even zombie. There are exceptions to the rule though, and they come in the form of bosses. These are fairly easy as well, but spice up the action in a nice way – bringing back fond memories of Painkiller.
One of the greatest things about TimeSplitters 3 is that even if you finish the single player storyline you’ve only done about 20% of the entire game! Story Co-Op is fun, but a myriad of challenges are also available from the main menu. These are categorized into for instance “Behead the Undead”, “Cut-Out Shoot-Out”, “Cat Driving”, and more. Each category contains a number of different challenges, such as throwing boxes on zombies, fighting off waves of monkeys, racing a robot cat through some of the game’s levels, or throwing bricks on breakable objects in some poor guy’s restaurant. By reaching certain scores you unlock new characters to use in multiplayer matches, and even cheats of many kinds. I personally admire the creativity of whoever came up with all this stuff. Whether people will spend hours playing these challenges remains to be seen, but it’s definitely worth trying. If this isn’t enough there’s also a map editor that’ll let you whip out some fun maps in a mater of minutes.
In terms of graphics it’s definitely no slouch. All the levels are nicely done and polished to the point where you’ll have a hard time get stuck or doing something you’re not supposed to. It’s not as pretty as Chronicles of Riddick (although the protagonist does look like a relative of Riddick), but it holds its own in most ways. Performance wise it’s fluid for the most part, but some of the “larger” effects reduce the framerate by a quite a bit, such as when you’re running through major fires, or big things blow up around you.
Since you’re hopping back and forth in time on an hourly basis it’s a major plus that the levels vary from each other. Some share a few similarities, but few recent games in the genre have done much better. Texturing is on par with most games of this type, and the character animations even more so. In other words, a thumb up for the graphics and visual presentation.
Even though there aren’t a great number of important characters in TimeSplitters 3, I’d say most have been voiced nearly perfectly. The humor may not be profoundly deep, but the wit is delivered well and you’d be hard pressed to find a character that sounds as though he’s reading a script. The music, primarily done by Christian Marcussen, who some may know from the modding scene, is also decent in most respects. It doesn’t sound as ‘epic’ as it could have, because there are times when it sounds a little “normalized” – if you get the idea. It’s not packed with dynamic contrasts, so you’re not as likely to notice it as in various other games. Fortunately this means you’re less likely to get annoyed by it, something that’s all too common these days.
Finally there’s the multiplayer, which pretty much dots the i. Here you have a choice of going online using Xbox Live, using a System Link, or using the Arcade mode that’ll support up to four players in split screen. There are no less than thirteen modes to choose from, like the normal deathmatch, team deathmatch, and capture the flag, along with weirder ones like bagtag, elimination, and shrink. There are heaps of maps designed specifically for multiplayer, and every game can be customized in terms of weapons, bot difficulty, and more. Finally you have league, a sub-section of arcade, which lets you duke it out in something you along the lines of scenario based deathmatches, forming some kind of league. So yeah, there’s much fun to be had.
TimeSplitters 3 may not be an earth-shattering game along the lines of Halo 2, but it’s an admirable game in every respect. It should prove a solid purchase for just about any fan of the genre, and even more so if you liked the previous games and wanted more of the same – because that’s exactly what you'll get. Although the storyline could’ve been longer, you should have plenty to keep you busy during those boring spring days, thanks to the challenges and extensive multiplayer support. Due to the fairly heavy use of blood mature content I wouldn’t recommend this game to the younger generation, but those with a pulse, a few chest hairs, and a sense of humor should definitely put this one high on their want list.