Free Radical’s TimeSplitters is more than just a first-person shooter. It stands as a reminder of just how great video games can be when played together and of the virtues of split-screen gaming. With TimeSplitters Rewind long in development, I take a look back at the series’ past, and look forward at what’s to come.
From 2000-2005 we were spoilt with the release of three TimeSplitters games, each with an increasingly expert delivery on a finely tuned formula. Blasting your way through time with a varied and colourful cast of characters, bots and maps, the series was a joy to play. By the time the third entry, Future Perfect, hit store shelves in 2005, Free Radical had managed not only to carve out a superb single-player/co-op story mode but also some of the best competitive multiplayer options available at the time. Bots galore = maximum frantic fun.
And it’s the multiplayer where much of my own personal time on TimeSplitters was spent, in particular with the sequel games. Remarkable level design, a bombastic, gigantic cast of characters and non-stop frenzied shooting, it was the perfect storm for split-screen winner stays on games with friends. Multiple days and evenings each week were gobbled up by the game, each player honing their skills with their favourite character (just don’t pick the devilishly short Monkey!).
By far it was at its best when played together. The multiplayer series of my youth, it could do very little wrong.
Talk of TimeSplitters 4 loomed large in the wake of Future Perfect, on again, off again until seemingly being put to bed for good upon Crytek’s purchase of Free Radical in 2009. Until, that was, in 2012, when Daniel Wesoly launched the ultimately unsuccessful 100,000 Strong for TimeSplitters 4 petition in an attempt to convince Crytek to relaunch the beloved series. And though the signature target was not to be met, the wheels began turning on the latest incarnation of the classic series.
With the blessing of Crytek and utilising CryEngine, the franchise revival, dubbed TimeSplitters Rewind, moved into development late in 2012, to be developed on a voluntary basis by fans of the series. Built from the ground up using original TimeSplitters assets as reference, Rewind was to be a free, online-only multiplayer experience, acting as a HD ‘Best Of’ for the series, bringing back classic characters such as Harry Tipper, Cortez, and the dreaded Monkey. But even that was to be somewhat of a false dawn, followed by years of struggles for the development team, which were detailed in a YouTube interview with ex-developers:
So here we are, many moons later, and Rewind has yet to see the light of day. But still, development rumbles on!
A March 2019 update saw new details on plans for the fan project. Single-player, multiplayer and arcade modes were shown off, and more importantly, it brought talk of an intended game by game release plan (albeit with no solid release dates as of yet). So yes, perhaps one day soon it will once again be time to split!
For the time being, we can be safe in the knowledge that Monkey lives on in our hearts.