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Retrospective: Timesplitters 2

Harder, faster, funnier: how the creators of GoldenEye delivered the ultimate Gamecube FPS

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There was so much etched onto that tiny GameCube disc that TS2 was a game of overwhelming discovery - we remember being startled to discover, hours after racking up a proud haul of Gold medals in Arcade mode, that there was an even tougher, secret Platinum target to beat for each challenge. With its full-on Map Maker, TS2 had worked out years ahead of the competition that customisable, shareable content was the future; and with its endless awards and treats, it also second-guessed a future of Achievements, where a long series of little rewards could keep us plugging away at a game for yonks.


So it's no surprise to learn that TimeSplitters 2, and the series in general, still has an active community in internet land. The Map Maker continues to inspire ingenious creations, and dedicated gamers are still digging out glitches and ferreting out forbidden map areas - testament to the endless appeal of the game's maps. There are hundreds of playthroughs on YouTube, all liable to melt your speakers as a generation of enraged modern-day gamers scream through Chicago's sniper-addled streets, or Robot Factory's lengthy skirmishes with laser-spurting robot gits.


And then there's the game's influence on the international synchronised skating circuit. "I'm quite into ice skating," reveals Doak. "And one day I was watching a Scandinavian synchronised ice team doing a competition routine - and realised they were skating to the music from the Circus level." It's absolutely true - search YouTube for 'SpringCup 2011 surprise' and you can watch and hear for yourself how the work of master maestro Graeme Norgate - another GoldenEye and Perfect Dark man - was used for Team Sweden's performance at the 2011 Spring Cup. They came first too.

Free Radical took TimeSplitters a step further with the follow-up, Future Perfect - but it's interesting that it's part two that makes its dads most proud. Doak calls it "one of the best things we ever did" and Ellis says it's "the one I'm most proud of - the one where we've been least constrained by release dates and publisher decisions. We didn't have to make horrible compromises in order to ship it".

That's odd in a way, because TimeSplitters hasn't had the game-changing influence of GoldenEye, or lingered in people's memories like Perfect Dark. And in a genre that soon became obsessed with World War II, and tried increasingly hard to emulate reality rather than mess around with it, it's not easy to find many games of TimeSplitters' ilk - the self-consciously fast and furious Serious Sam and Duke Nukem being the closest examples. Still, mention TS2 to 2002-era gamers and their eyes light up, recalling the one level they could never beat - not with frustration, but with happy nostalgia.


There are rumours of a TimeSplitters 4 in secret development at Crytek UK, the company that Free Radical became. Many TimeSplitters coders remain there, but it's hard to tell if they can work the magic without Doak, Ellis, Newman and others who've since left. Still, here's hoping that they too choose to bring TimeSplitters home to Nintendo.

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