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I’m praying TimeSplitters won’t take inspiration from modern competitive shooters

Ignore Valorant and Overwatch, a new TimeSplitters should be the multiplayer FPS designed for party mayhem.
I’m praying TimeSplitters won’t take inspiration from modern competitive shooters
What do a monkey, sentient gingerbread man and human-sized calamari have in common? They’re all experts with a plasma rifle in TimeSplitters, the multiplayer extravaganza from the early 2000s which became an essential shooter series in the PS2 era. 

After 16 years since TimeSplitters: Future Perfect, a fourth instalment in the franchise is officially on the way. Publisher Deep Silver, who purchased the IP’s rights, announced last week they have reformed Free Radical Design with two of the original studio’s co-founders to bring TimeSplitters “back to life” at a new Nottingham studio. 

The game is years away (with development still yet to start) but it’s hard not to relish in the possibilities. Even now, TimeSplitters feels distinctive in the first-person shooter landscape. The gunplay is frenetic, loose and imprecise, rewarding strafing and spraying over Call of Duty’s stop-and-pop. It made matches less aggravating as the time-to-kill is higher — especially if you’re stacked with armour pick-ups or other power-ups, like speed boost and shrink, found in the maps. 

TimeSplitters is an arcade shooter at its core (Picture: Free Radical) 

We know nothing about how a new TimeSplitters might play, but it’ll be interesting to see if they take influence from competitive shooters like Overwatch or Valorant. In my mind, TimeSplitters isn’t a vessel for esports ambitions but a shooter for parties. It doesn’t need meticulous attention to competitively viable mechanics, but a bonkers co-op friendly story mode, dozens of multiplayer options, map maker tools, and gameplay which generates absurd laughter over frustrated yells. 

My favourite part of TimeSplitters is the Arcade League, where you play challenges tied to comical scenarios to earn medals. In TimeSplitters 2, these range from avoiding being set on fire inside a disco, chasing down calamari for a Chinese chef, or working a night shift at the robot factory where damage inflicted from rocket launchers replenishes your health. This idea has been replicated in other games, but never as extensively or with the same level of personality — right down to the pun-tastic mission names.

The time-jumping story mode is another tentpole, bouncing from laser battles on alien planets to gang shootouts in 1930s Chicago. Even the annoying missions, like NeoTokyo (set in 2019 with plasma pistols and flying cars, wishfully) from TimeSplitters 2, are memorable because of their sound and visual design. You can see the Goldeneye and Perfect Dark DNA running through it; a style which doesn’t need to pull control away in rigid scripted sequences to be cinematic. 

These modes are just as important to the identity of TimeSplitters as multiplayer deathmatch, so I hope these won’t be sidelined for what sells in the contemporary landscape. There arguably hasn’t been a shooter which straddles single and multiplayer well since 2016’s Titanfall 2, with the majority now split between your Doom Eternal’s and Apex Legends. The success of TimeSplitters was how varied, flexible and replayable the entire package was, which could be a steep financial and logistical investment if replicated with modern expectations.

Instead of other shooters, the success of co-op games like It Takes Two, which has sold over one million copies, might be a better field of interest for TimeSplitters. There’s clearly a thirst for accessible local and online co-op experiences, and with past TimeSplitters titles offering a vast split-screen suite, a shooter angled as a throwback could fill a similar void. 

TimeSplitters Future Perfect was largely a refining, familiar retread of TimeSplitters 2. After all these years however, a fourth entry might only need an overhaul in presentation to feel anew. By maintaining its simple gameplay sensibilities, vast options, and playing up its goofier qualities, TimeSplitters’ return is the perfect vessel to put multiplayer shooters back in the living room.