Timesplitters: Future Perfect is a game unafraid of wearing its influences on its sleeve. At times you'd swear you were playing the fun-sized younger brother of Halo 2 (Issue 36, 10). And then the smoke clears and you're thrown, yelping and panting, headlong into a furious Half-Life 2 premonition. Seconds later you're sneaking through what appears to be Castle Wolfenstein, then the original GoldenEye, then Resident Evil. ?In effect what you're looking at here is a Greatest Hits compilation of first-person shooting. Now That's What We Call Disembowelment: Volume One, anybody?
Where Future Perfect really comes into its own is in its ability to tie these separate strands together into a cohesive whole. Previous TimeSplitters titles have been weighted very much in favour of (offline) multiplayer yucks at the expense single-player action. But not so Future Perfect. The addition of a much chunkier storyline, allied to the inclusion of decent cutscenes for the first time in the series' history, helps massively to prolong its shelf-life for solo gamers.
The result is an engaging, fast-moving playing experience that leaps from setpiece to setpiece with barely a pause to reload. A gunfight on top of a speeding train gives way to a shoot-out with 20-tons of angry helicopter; a chase through a haunted mansion leads you by the gun barrel into a scrum ?of groaning zombies, then face-first into a semi-impossible rescue mission. Like a plutonium-powered toy rabbit marooned on a giant Chinese hot-plate, Future Perfect never stops moving. Frankly, it's exhausting.
The multiplayer component is every bit as demanding. Of the dozen or so modes we've been able to play thus far (the alluringly named Monkey Assistant remains tantalisingly out of reach), Shrink is comfortably the most pleasurable. Here, players are punished for poor performance by being shrunk down in size for every injury sustained, while crack-shots are rewarded by sudden growth spurts. It's evil, it's grossly unfair, and, for the time being at least, it's keeping us from our lunchtime games of Pro Evolution Soccer 4 (Issue 35, 9.4). Excellent.
In soundbite form, Future Perfect is Halo 2's slightly uglier, slightly funnier sister. Though unlikely to represent a serious long-term challenge to Master Chief's total domination of Live servers worldwide, it clearly has the potential to establish itself as a viable alternative for the non-Halo-minded.