Free Radical, the team behind the TimeSplitters games, started out at Rare making Goldeneye and Perfect Dark. TimeSplitters was their spiritual follow-up series to those games, and Future Perfect was the last of the bunch before EA drove them right out of the gaming business (because EA ruins everything). It's a great swan song for the series, though, and also for Free Radical (though technically they did have one more forgettable PS3 game after this).

Samus is gonna be piiiiiiiiiiissed

We continue with the adventures of Sgt. "body of The Rock, eyes of The Terminator and voice of Vin Diesel / Bender" Cortez as he hops through time, looking to stop the intricate plot of some mad scientist who hopes to find the secret to eternal life. The campaign mode still allows you the option of having two people play at the same time in a split screen, but this time out Cortez's erstwhile partner Hart is on the shelf (except for multiplayer). This time, player one is Cortez, and instead of jumping into a character's body they simply show up as your partner - if you're flying solo, you'll get them as an AI-controlled companion.

The whole Goldeneye-TimeSplitters arc was about delivering a nice mix of compelling story campaigns and fun challenges to unlock an absolute slew of characters and weapons for an absolute slew of multiplayer modes. Future Perfect does not slack off in this regard, delivering not only the widest range of level types but also the best-looking and most polished ones seen from the team yet. Both solo players and multiplayer fans get a rich amount of stuff to enjoy.

The story mode is also much more cinematic than it was in games past. It also adopts a much more jokey and satirical tone, much more in line with the elements outside of story mode in the previous games. I've seen some people grumble about the shift from Dead Space Lite in the prequel to Cortez's Bogus Adventure here, but I actually thought this was the right move. It makes the entirety of the game's tone consistent, and it's a tonic if you're not into the Srs Soldier Man thing that FPS campaigns most frequently do.

Future Perfect also cleaned up some elements that I whinged about in the prequel. The story mode difficulty is much more balanced; maybe even a little too far to the easy side, but it's no longer a controller-chucking slog to try to creep through the Hard difficulty in them. The ratio of fun optional challenges to crummy ones is also better here. There are still some dogs; the crummy basketball one jumps out in my mind, and there's another of those terrible brick-throwing missions. But these are fewer and farther between.

There are some niggles that keep it from perfection. It was the first game in the chain to drop the practice of having more level objectives added to each difficulty mode; enemies now just do more damage and are a bit more numerous with each setting increase. I also did not care for the random timed Pipe Dreams puzzles that come out of nowhere once in a while, particularly the one incorporated into a boss battle where you have to do three in a row on a tight timer.

However, that stuff is far outweighed by everything the game gets right and the sheer amount of content it dumps on you. It even has the fun Map Maker mode return, with a slightly refined interface that makes it even easier to use. By GameCube standards of the time it looks fantastic, and Graeme Norgate (composer for Free Radical since Goldeneye) returns to deliver yet another excellent soundtrack. My roommate bought this back in 2005 right when it came out and I played the heck out of it back then, but never really noticed how great the sound work was until I replayed it for this review with some decent headphones on the whole time.

Having replayed this, I'd have to say it's my favorite console FPS and I think it also makes a strong case for the best of the genre in the 128-bit generation. And yeah, I know, Halo is in that mix - I think that's the one it really has to compete with. But for my money this was it. It just gives you so much to do in such a solid engine that has aged quite well, and then aesthetically it's really nice and varied on top of all that.


* Great article on the rise and fall of Free Radical


* Gameplay Video