After seemingly being lost in a wormhole for the past 10 years, the brilliant and hilarious arcade-tastic Timesplitters series has resurfaced once again. German industry giant Koch Media, who publish video games under the Deep Silver label, and have a history of buying and reviving popular gaming series (Saints Row and Metro for example), have now secured intellectual property rights to the cherished FPS franchise, and it certainly sounds like they’re planning on doing something with it:
“We are hugely excited to have acquired Timesplitters” Koch Media CEO Klemens Kundratitz proclaimed. “The original games gave fans a massive content offer and provided a pure and genuinely fun arcade-shooter experience. We have many fans of the Timesplitters series among our own staff who are passionate about creating a product that will thrill today’s gaming audience.”
Despite achieving enormous success on consoles back in the early 2000s, the genre-defining FPS series seemed to encounter a horrid string of bad luck following the release of its third game, Future Perfect, in 2005.
Development of a fourth entry in the franchise was indeed confirmed to be underway in 2007, but faced sudden cancellation after the original developer, U.K-based Free Radical Design, went into administration that following year. Fortunately the studio was bought out by Crytek in 2009, but development on Timesplitters 4 was nevertheless sadly put on hold until there was once again a ‘high industry demand’ for such a game.
A few years later, whispers began to circulate that production of another TS game was in the works at Crytek. The developer soon confirmed these were simply rumours, however, and declared there were still no plans to revive the franchise. As a result, a group of fans finally decided to take matters into their own hands and, thanks to a 75,000-strong petition, in November 2012 were given permission by Crytek to develop a Timesplitters mod using CryEngine 3.
They announced the project would be titled Timesplitters Rewind and would feature a mix of original and remastered content. Happy days right? Unfortunately, due to work on the game being a part-time undertaking, production was a decidedly slow-process – while the team had originally intended to upload a playable PC demo as early as December 2013, they soon were forced to push the demo’s release date back to 2017! If you’re interested you can see how work on the project is progressing in this short video:
It is unclear how the acquisition of the license by Koch Media/THQ Nordic will impact the Rewind project, but on their latest Facebook post the development team promised to communicate the future of the game to fans ‘as soon as possible’.
Timeplitters – The Future is Now
So what might a current-gen Timesplitters game actually look and feel like? The franchise’s fundamental popularity can no doubt be attributed to the unique presentation of its simple yet addictive multiplayer gameplay. Often considered an unofficial spiritual successor to the N64’s Goldeneye (in part due to several ex-Rare developers having worked on the game) Free Radical’s Timeplitters (2000) became one of the PlayStation 2’s most successful launch titles in large part thanks to its ‘Arcade’ mode, which allowed 4 players and up to 10 computer-controlled bots to face-off in a variety of competitive multiplayer modes.
The core appeal, however, actually stemmed from the time-travel dynamic the game’s premise was built around; which served to guarantee an unequalled level of variety in terms of both characters and weapons. One team could be composed of a horde of undead Egyptian mummies sporting WWII-era Mauser Pistols, while at the same time another could be made up entirely of giant ducks brandishing Sci-Fi era rayguns. The whole dynamic was simply genius.
The multiplayer formula remained essentially unchanged for the most part; with each game subsequently adding more characters, weapons and levels. While the original Timeplitters had 64 characters –which itself was a lot – Future Perfect came with a roster of 150!
But how might such a dynamic be adapted to the current generation? It’s been 13 years since the franchise’s latest entry, during which the FPS genre has evolved considerably – particularly with regards to multiplayer. Like a man trying to re-enter society after awakening from a decade-long coma, Timesplitters must consequently figure out how to resetsblish itself in an age shaped by the likes of Battlefield, Call of Duty and Halo.
It seems logical that Dambuster Studios (the company Deep Silver set up in 2014 to succeed Crytek UK, which itself was the successor to Free Radical Design) are the developer most likely to spearhead the project. The only title Dambuster has under its belt thus far, however, is the 2016 FPS reboot Homefront: The Revolution, which was met with a tepid reception and released without any kind of PvP multiplayer attached. To be fair, though, the project was heavily disrupted when Crytek closed down its U.K studio and sold the franchise rights to Deep Silver, so technical/polish issues and the absence of an elaborate multiplayer might be forgiven in this respect.
So will Dambuster (or whoever is eventually selected to govern the reboot) opt for a complete gameplay overhaul, or settle on a faithful return to the classic Arcade mode? To be honest, I’m not sure which one I’d even prefer. Is it too much, perhaps, to ask for both – fans have already been crying out for a remaster or 2[hint], although this seems fairly unlikely. Perhaps they could coordinate with the team behind Rewind, however, or just snatch the baton away completely.
Whatever the case, Timesplitters coming back from the past is reason enough to start doing spontaneous cartwheels. And however it’s integration into the new age of video games will be handled, any shooter that lets you play as a Gingerbread Man with a Tommy gun will always be destined for greatness in my book…