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Foul Magazine
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Platform:  Playstation 2
# of Players:  1-4
Developer:  Free Radical
Publisher:  Eidos
Features:  Digital/Analog Control, Vibration Function, PS2 Mu
Ratings:  Teen
Memory Req.:  PS2 Memory card, 8 MB
One usually doesn't think of the word "Wacky" when you think of first-person shooters, and the only one that I can think of that fit that description and worked was PO'ed for the 3DO (don't even mention Cyberdillo!). Programmer Free Radical (made up of ex-Rare coders and artists) has created an amazing little shooter, Timesplitters, which will eat hours of your time once you pop it into your PS2. The game has a simple single-player story mode as well as some really cool multi-player games as well. The main draw here is the fact that you can create and save your own multi-player levels to a PS2 memory card and play them with friends (or enemies, as the case may be).

You can play the story mode with two players at the same time, which not only is cool, but some sort of console first, I think. While it isn't particularly deep, story-wise, it's good practice for the arcade and multi-player modes. If you've played and enjoyed the N64 classics Goldeneye or Perfect Dark you'll be able to jump right into things right away. The control is a bit different, focusing on your mastering the PS2's analog sticks. You can configure your controller any which way you want, and it takes about a half an hour to an hour before you get comfortable with things- by then the game gets really challenging. And ridiculously fast, as well: things get hectic on hard mode, and only those with quick trigger fingers will survive. For the most part, levels are simply designed- large, open areas connected by a few maze-like corridors. The wacky part is the enemy design, and the sheer amount of them the game throws at you on the higher difficulty levels. When you see a bunch of ducks with guns coming at you in one area, you'll get a good laugh at first, until they start shooting at you! You can dispatch them in a number of ways, from a simple punch in the jaw, to ventilating them with a number of projectile weapons. Par for the course in FPS games, most will cough up ammo, a health kit, and sometimes, a much-needed item you'll need to advance to the next level- once you grab the item, a small army of mutants will chase you down while you head on back to the exit. If you have a poor sense of direction, you'll have a hard time winding your way back, and running like hell is a bit more preferable to getting in a firefight every few seconds.

The real meat of the game is in the many arcade and multi-player modes, plus the aforementioned level editor feature. Once you learn how to use it, you can put together a nice sized arena, complete with some wild lighting effects and weapon pickups galore in about 20 or 30 minutes. The really great thing is how fast everything moves with a very tiny bit of slowdown with 4 players on screen. Graphically, the game has a really clean look to it (almost a bit too simple, in some areas), and the colored lighting effects and explosions are pretty amazing. The enemies look almost like stretched-out Gerry Anderson puppets as designed by Tim Burton- lots of odd, twisted faces, weird mecha/mummy/zombie beasts, and cleavage galore on the ladies. You can unlock and play as any of them, and there are at least 55 characters in the game. It's too bad there isn't a third-person mode so that you can actually see whom you're playing as, but you can live without it. There's also no blood when you shoot enemies, who just disappear after they get shot- this keeps the frame rate up, and the rating at a manageable Teen level. I can see some parents getting heated at their kids shooting off a bunch of zombie heads, but that's what rating systems are for, no?

The only problems I can find with the game are the linear feeling of a few of the levels, and the lack of any real interaction with the environments. It would have been nice, for example, to actually head up to the rooftops and leap across to another part of a level here and there, but I guess that's for games like Tomb Raider and the like. Those of you out there who dislike first-person games will probably avoid it, and you're missing out on a great title, is all I can say. For a first-generation PS2 game, it's all very solidly put together, and more than good enough to warrant a sequel, if Free Radical is up to the task.

Greg Wilcox

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