It's been a good year for games with 7 consoles releasing some truly brilliant games. What is my choice of the year? Shadow of the Colossus? Gears of War? New Super Mario Bros? Or have we been bunged a load of cash to say Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter?
No lady and gentlemen my choice for game of the year 2006 is Timesplitters 2, the finest FPS on any format, possibly excluding all the Residet Evils which are RTS anyway.
Why is it so great?
Timesplitters 2 is so great because it had everything and it was birthed during the happy phase of gaming before age of cynicism of advertising, bugged to fuck game releases and mediocre copy catting. Go ahead whack it on now remind yourself how good it is, no gangstas, no Halo health system, no EA trax and no episodic releases.
The story mode (although lacking a strong plot) is still highly enjoyable now, putting the "acclaimed" story modes of Half Life 2, Gears of War and Final Fantasy XII to shame. The levels are excellently designed and the layouts of each one has seemlessy wormed it's way into my long term memory from the opening snipe-snipe-move of the excellent Siberia level to the daunting endless firefight of the Robot Factory. The story mode was better experienced 2P Co-op without any watering down of objectives or sections unlike other FPS that offer "Co-operative play" albeit minus secondary objectives, unlockables, mutiple routes and set pieces . Beating the story mode on hard was no mean feat either, the first level (still) proving one of the most challenging.
The game would also load profiles from both (or from all 4 with a multitap) memory card slots at the same time too!. A feature that a lot of current games still don't include which means many a trip to the memory card browser to see where all your save games are. It sounds like a small point but in the age of ADD, during group game sessions the ordeal of finding old save games can mean that some games just simply won't get played because by the time you've opened the disk tray reset the console and checked three memory cards the initial desire to play rapidly fades.
The challenges were both fun and, umm challenging lengthening the replayability and also generating a mild amount of competition between TS players (see the Timesplitters World Records for the sickest acheivers). The player statistics and arcade awards were genius too especially the Surf Time stat. (the amount of time spent riding the crane on the Hangar level) and the Cartographer award. In our circle the behead the undead challenges became the one to beat friends' scores. Sergio's Last Stand was my favourite pitting Sergio the Strongman in the ring of the big top facing wave after wave of flaming zombies armed only with a shotgun and a fire extinguisher. The tonne of unlockable cheats, extras (including the addicitve Anaconda, Astrolander and the racing game for use on the Temporal Uplink in story mode) and characters meant that many a night was wasted on that perpetual "one last go".
The game is full of humour with hat-tipping to popular culture and the original TS throughout. Challenges and Arcade league matches entitled "Dead Fraction", "Golden Thighs", "Aztec the Dino Hunter" and "Half Death" were the more obvious references to other FPS, particularly Rare games. The Akira-inspired Neotokyo level (set in the same year and city as Akira) and the Half life-esque Atomsmasher also spring to mind. A read through the character bios on the gallery screen still gets a chuckle at some of the more subtle references. It's these kind of obscure features that will us to believe that the makers of this game love games as much we do and in a silly kind of way rewards us for wasting our time with this looked-down on hobby that is playing games.
The multiplayer is amazing all who disagree are wrong or have "shit between their brains". 4 player is an absolute must and the 16 player link up mode was nearly fautless with enough players (us and the three other people that played it over an ilink think so) but bots were disabled which meant that unless there were a decent number of players matches would get tedious with me winning all the time. The 16 multiplayer maps were highly awesome as well as being strong across the board which is quite unique for FPS. Levels such a Ice Station, Chinese, Mexican Mission, Training Ground, Hospital, Construction Site and Streets bring back many happy memories of hours of fun, be it an epic capture the bag tournament on the Ice Station or a close run Gladiator match in the Nightclub.
TS2 offered 16 different game modes from standard deathmatches to brilliant virus, gladiator and elimination to the hit and miss leech, shrink, thief and vampire modes. We ended up playing virus mode the most (approximately 98% of the time) in specially constructed levels made with the mapmaker. Even though most of our levels had the odds stacked in our favour with strategically placed gun turret batteries and various fall-back positions we only ever made it to the full ten minutes on a handful of occasions; even less so as a completely "clean" team.
Despite the fact that there were 126 selectable characters, including most of the cast from the first Timesplitters, many of them are memorable, reminding you of their related levels and challenges, from the brilliant R One-Oh-Seven to the annoying Robo Fish. We grew to hate Harry Tipper (We used to call him Harry Potter we hated him that much) who seemed to take on a god-like toughness once he contracted the virus. My personal favourite was Lady Jane from the first timesplitters. Being able to keep "a character" throughout a series is underrated especially if you think about the complaints that arose when characters couldn't be transferred from Baldur's gate 1-2 and the troubles that many MMORPG players have because they can't transfer characters over servers.
The weapons were also formidable from the grenade launching S47 rifle to the flammable arrows of the crossbow (you could use fire from the environment to turn normal arrows into fire arrows). The use of secondary fire for weapons like the minigun, S47 and plasma autorifle meant that even when you were armed with just one gun there were still plenty of options for beating opponents; go in guns blazing? Nuke the room with grenades first? Or go for the tag and run approach with the plasma autorifle grenades? The inclusion of the fire extinguisher and the return of the brick were much welcome for the occassional silly deathmatch or a desperate last resort.
The music was also supreme. The Goteki TS remix, the Nightclub theme, the Anaconda themetune being the best but the haunting Notre Dame track and cyber punk Neotokyo tunes featured on most of our custom levels. Go to this superb site Timesplitters music box to download or hear them.
There were only two downsides to my Game of the Year 2006. Firstly, they removed team starts in deathmatch for mapmaker constructed levels which meant that team deathmatches weren't as "us vs. them" as in the original. Some levels were a bit shite because there was a chance you'd start next to 3 opponents. Secondly, there were no character animations on the charater select screen which was a really nice feature in the first one (memorable quotes including "Ok we leave"-Ghost a reference to the Cube, "Who's your daddy?"-Tuxedo Cyborg and "Wheee Doggy. Looks like we got some shooting to do"-The hillbilly mutant guy. Other than that; get, play and love this game.
The comments above reflect a mere tip of the iceberg of the stuff in this game but I'm hoping that 2007 brings a worthy sequel. Certainly a hard act to follow especially with the emphasis on today's FPS being online play, vehicles and all the other Halo suff. What makes this game Game of the Year for me is just the fun you could have and the humour that shone through regardless if your playing on your own, 2 player story or 4 player mode. Harry Potter's cry of "Ai, it burns", the shame of getting Pathetic Shot award after an intense deathmatch or the joy of beating your record on the Nikki Jinki Bricky match in Arcade League.
UPDATE we have had a flurry of emails about the 'so called' sequel to TGAM Game of the Year Timesplitters 2, Timesplitters Future Perfect. Calling this a sequel to the brilliant TS or TS2 is akin to murder. I don't mean metaphorically or hyperbolically, it actually carries the same weight as killing another human being. I will hear no further discussion of this point less you want to be a murderer in mine eyes. The game is playable but don't ever ever tarnish the legacy of TS and TS2 by mentioning Future Perfect within a month of mentioning TS and TS2.
Why saying that Timesplitters future perfect is a sequel to Timesplitters 2 is like actually killing another human being:
1) The announcer. This one feature alone requires the death of another jesus to bring human kind back to zero on the sin-o-nometer.
2) Four kinds of monkey. Anyone playing as the monkey is a total cunt. Don't encourage cuntness in games there's already too much of it.
3) The pointless zeep.
4) There was no Lady Jane and most of the new characters were more generic than a Boing Boing post. Chuff_72 adds: they took away Jaques De la Morte's hat too
5) The annoying EA "Have you played as the monkey" messages that appeared during the menu screens. Most annoying was the "Have you swapped maps online yet?" message. Ha ha ha the PS2 online.
6) They ruined the gun turrets. Essentially, it was decided that you didn't need to be able to see where you were shooting whilst on the gun turrets. As much fun as a screen full of muzzle flare is, the reticule on the TS2 version was infinitely better.
7) Harry Potter was one of the main characters.
8) The virus looked rubbish. Before, infected guys would be neon green head to toe. In FP only the top half was a pale greenish which meant that on some levels it was hard to see the virus and it was always difficult to tell if you had caught it for a while.
9) The multiplayer levels were shit. The good levels were Mexican Mission, Chinese and Training Ground even then they managed to ruin Chinese by linking the level up. Venice was generic and confusing, the Temple was mediocre, Zeppelin is too big, meaning half the time you are looking for opponents, Bunker was too confusing, VR is perhaps the worst looking level in world history, Disco was too small, Siberia was too big and Spaceport was too restricted. The big shame is that some of the story mode levels would have made great multiplayer maps.
10) Character selection animation was brought back but oh god (see point 5).....
11) Somehow the fun was stolen from it. It was too easy to die and it was too easy to kill opponenets. Somewhere a fundamental change between TS2 and FP changed the whole dynamic of the multiplayer game. /cry myself to sleep.
12) The weapons were shite. Because the flexibility of weapons was removed (see below) if you get stuck with a mag-charger or revolver you might as well give up until you respawn.
13) After the release of TS2 many FPS adopted the same control system with fire and primary fire buttons in the same place. In FP secondary fire was changed and controlled with the d-pad this meant that guns were no longer as flexible because of the 1-2 second break between modes. Also the decision to map grenades onto a button for itself was ill conceived. Even now when playing FP I have to really think which button throws grenades. Why they didn't stick with the TS2 setup keeps me wide awake at night, crying like a menstrual hypersensitive young women with a cold and peanut allergies working as an onion peeler in a peanut processing factory just after the deaths of everyone she knows watching that 'somewhere over the rainbow' cancer awareness advert.