Future perfect is still a phrase that injects a cold concentrate of pure school directly into my spine. Whenever I hear it I'm back in French class on a Monday morning having totally forgotten to revise verb declension over the wistfully departed weekend. If only I'd had access to TimeSplitters' wormholes then, my homework worries would have quit with even greater alacrity than my teary supply teacher.
But Riddick-style hardman Cortez in TimeSplitters: Future Perfect has greater worries and a more noble purpose for these rents in the fabric of the universe and must flit through temporal anomalies to foil the Earth-threatening advance of a new and even more ferocious wave of gruesome TimeSplitters. Try to imagine the original cast of Star Trek as they would look now. Imagine them in the transporter room when Scotty's false teeth get coughed out into the beam, recombining in an unholy act of dentistry with the Away Team who are also turned inside out and bounced like learner drivers about the surface of an inhospitable planet, screaming in fear and deadly rage as they materialise and disappear again. This is how TimeSplitters look and act. Oh, they also fire nasty bolts of rebounding electricity, definitely not set to stun. We really don't want to give them our planet for a litter tray.
But TimeSplitters are just the sharp end of the adversarial iceberg. Cortez, and various companions from the advancing eras through which he chases elusive time crystals, must also take on zombies, ghosts, giant worms, bad boffins, uniformed henchmen, killer droids, helicopter gunships and genetically modified hybrids. Future Perfect really is the variety pack of shooters, although more Sainsbury's own than a unique brand, being perhaps the most derivative game ever made. Somehow though, this TimeSplitters sequel turns derivation into inspiration without breaking its fast gait. It's like a day trip to a fantastic amusement park. You know exactly which thrilling rides are going to be there and you've ridden most of them a few times before, but this doesn't stop you from running between their themed delights (ghost, medieval, space, runaway train, waterworld, etc) with childish anticipation and afterwards stepping off into a solid cutscene with the pleasant afterglow of adrenaline well spent.
Unfortunately there are more than just temporal anomalies in Future Perfect and it's a shame the developers themselves don't have the benefit of time travel to iron out a few niggling gameplay wrinkles. It's more than a little galling to lose most of your weapons without explanation as you move between areas of the same level in a lift, this obvious conceit dragging you heavily out of the game world. The big boss fights are too basic and it's far too easy to exploit level design and defeat them from behind cover. Where this is impossible it's still just a question of pounding them with all you have until they drop, and a few target overlays, or weak spot areas, do not make these battles tactical enough.
This future isn't perfect and occasional technical glitches such as harpoons embedding their arrowheads in surface textures of deep water and significant slowdown during busy fights leave the game with an unpolished finish. The decision not to include a jump button, a terrible reverse camera when driving vehicles and the erratic positioning of some guards adds to the sense that this sequel needed to feel just a little more love.
There are even one or two level-breaking bugs where forcefields that should power down sometimes remain stubbornly alert, barring progress or retreat and necessitating a reload from the last automatic save point. These auto-saves are not always best positioned and in one or two places where the difficulty curve suddenly points as heavenward as a monk on Viagra (sniping invisible TimeSplitters for example), you're punished further by having to try and try again from way back down the road. These are the tiny stones in the new trainers that aren't painful enough to stop you running, but are irksome annoyances that should really have been shaken out before you started. And they are enough to keep Future Perfect from joining TimeSplitters 2 in the ranks of the OXM Elite.