to join the CVG community. Not a member yet? Join now!
CVG
Features

30 in 30: Free Radical / Crytek UK

The former Rare developers who spawned a classic

The studio formally known as Free Radical hasn't produced quite as many titles as some of the other developers in our 30 list, but it undoubtedly lays claim to one of the most loved franchises in gaming.

TimeSplitters was an FPS favourite for its cartoon styling, quirky comedy and incredibly satisfying shooting.

In 2000, Free Radical created a refreshing break from the genre norm that brought something that the traditional set of military and straight sci-fi shooters never quite managed. Perhaps we should have seen it coming; those behind the new studio were former GoldenEye developers at Rare, after all.

Zoom

Rich character designs, and a wealth of weapons and environments mean almost every gamer has their own unique fond memories of TimeSplitters.

At a time when gamers once again seem wary of an ever narrowing FPS genre, the prospect of TimeSplitters 4 is still an exciting one.

OVERVIEW

Founded: 1999
Location: Nottingham, England
Killer quote:

KEY PEOPLE

Zoom
David Doak

Steve Ellis, David Doak and Karl Hilton

Steve Ellis, David Doak and Karl Hilton founded Free Radical and directed the studio during its lifespan before it was acquired by Crytek.

All three had previously worked together at Rare and, most significantly, on GoldenEye 007 and Perfect Dark before deciding to set up their own studio in 1999.

Hilton is now the studio head at Crytek UK, while Steve Ellis and David Doak are not currently in frontline game development.

Hasit Zala

Zala was Free Radical's first ever employee and team lead throughout the TimeSplitters series.

Zoom

Funnily enough CVG and Hasit Zala go way back. With one of Zala's first games, Pipeline 64, featuring in the pages of CVG's Book of Games in February 1985. We caught up with him to rekindle a few memories:

"I think Free Radical was something a lot of developers at the time wanted to emulate," he told CVG. "It was a successful independent studio with a strong identity, started by people who'd left their jobs to setup on their own because they thought they could do things better than their bosses had done.

"It showed that if you had good people and went about things cleverly you could have great success and retain control of your own destiny as well."

Zala now acts as executive producer at Crytek UK and is in charge of development.

FREE RADICAL GAMES WE LOVE

Zoom

TimeSplitters

TimeSplitters arrived as a PS2 launch title in 2000 when the likes of GoldenEye and Perfect Dark were far fresher in the FPS multiplayer mind.

Ask any shooter fan to list their all-time favourites in the genre today, however, and the original TimeSplitters is likely to be up there with the best of the golden gunners.

As far as its single player campaign was concerned, Free Radical had come up with a concept that allowed players to visit all kind of eras and environments, working with an eclectic cast, firing a whole host of weapons from crossbows to laser guns.

The real selling point, however, was TimeSplitters' multiplayer offering. With incredibly satisfying shooting mechanics and oodles of quirky load-out options and weapon stashes to get competitive with, it quickly became a genre favourite.

The built-in Map Maker allowed players to design their own Deathmatch, Bag Tag, Capture the Bag or Knock Out arenas adding to a multiplayer suite that many credit with kicking off the popularity of the Multi-tap.

TimeSplitters 2

TimeSplitters 2 made advances on the single-player offering of its predecessor but still gained most of its recognition for superior multiplayer.

And that recognition was significant; it was the highest rated first-person shooter on the PlayStation 2 with a 91.67 percent average review score.

Zoom

The words that came with those reviews, however, often took the applause to another level with critics calling TimeSplitters 2 not only the best multiplayer shooter of the generation, but one of the best ever.

While the lack of online play was considered a drawback (even though online functionality wasn't as compulsory in 2002 as it is today) the split-screen multiplayer was treasured for its fast-paced action, careful balancing and advanced visuals.

Team lead Zala recalls: "The studio's most influential title was clearly Timesplitters 2, indeed such was its cult following that people still hanker for the series to be revived, and the monkey became inextricably linked with Free Radical's identity.

"It's interesting to look at the development of the title because it contrasts so starkly with modern games production. There were no design documents, no concept and discovery phases, no producers... It was real old school, where a bunch of developers just got together and tried to think up fun things to do in a game.

"I don't think anyone questioned how well the game would do, there hadn't been any attempt to identify a target audience or exploit a gap in the market or anything like that. It was all about making a game that was fun for us.

"But that did include a technically accomplished engine, a polished game with clear mechanics, a unique art style and a fast paced arcadey split screen multiplayer which people loved to play with their friends.

"The sheer variety of characters, the different era weapons and the number of modes meant that it never got boring, and what better thing to do after coming home from the pub with your mates than to cram onto the sofa and fire up Timesplitters."

  1 2
  Next

Comments