If you asked me what my five favourite games were, and gave me about a day to mull over a definitive answer, very near the top of that list would be Timesplitters 2. I cannot tell you how many hours I have played that game with my brother, back when we were in school, on our Nintendo GameCube (a console that sported a gnarly battle scar from the time our Dad knocked it off of the media centre in a fit of rage whilst playing Red Card). I never thought I'd see the franchise return after the death of the studio, the latest news has me shook.
Timesplitters was brought to us by Free Radical, a UK based video game company in Nottinghamshire, and spawned three titles in the series. The best of the bunch, is pretty widely recognised, and coincidentally my personal favourite, Timesplitters 2. I also enjoyed the narrative and the gameplay of Future Perfect which was the last entry, released in 2005 and winning a "IGN Best of 2005" award for the "Best First-Person Shooter" category. The series itself was endlessly entertaining because it wasn't afraid to be silly with a good serving of troupes and cheese. Timesplitters 4 was in development for a whole year before alarm bells started ringing. Free Radical, as many UK video game companies did, went into Administration due to the poor reception of Haze, a PS3 exclusive, and the cancellation of Star Wars Battlefront III, which came as the game was 99% complete if reports from the time are to be believed. Unable to recoup their losses, the company was eventually taken on by German developer Crytek, famous for the PC killer Crysis. Free Radical was then re-branded as Crytek UK. Only 40% of the original staff survived the transition after bankruptcy and Crytek UK was announced in 2009.
Despite reports over the years of a Timesplitters being in development for next generation consoles, the rumour mill stirred by Crytek themselves, it took a statement made in April of 2012 from a spokesperson from Crytek to confirm that Timesplitters 4 was "not in development" for our dreams to be squashed. In June and July of 2014, cracks at Crytek UK had begun to show. Still without a well performing release, it started to circulate that staff wages had been missed and some had refused to come into work as a result. Although initially quashed, these rumours turned out to be true. Although left ambiguous as to whether the studio was shutting down entirely, Crytek announced that its UK studio was in a 'transitional phase' and all remaining staff were moved to a new studio entitled Dambuster Studios Ltd. It was later revealed that the studio had actually been sold to Deep Silver, who had bought the Homefront franchise from Crytek not a year previous. The only issue is that, as part of that sale, the right to produce and sell any Timesplitters title remained with Crytek, who for the time being had no plans to do anything with it.
That left Timesplitters in a very long and well travelled kind of limbo. Staff that had originally worked on the series were scattered and the studio responsible for it had since gone through two different kinds of crisis based transitions. Having been dormant now for over a decade, Timesplitters has finally, in a way, found its way home. For those following, Free Radical, Timesplitters' parents, became Crytek UK, then they became Deep Silver Dambusters Studios Ltd. The license to create new, and re-release old Timesplitters titles, has now been purchased from Crytek, who horded it like smaug would a pile of gold, by Koch Media. The video game arm of Koch Media, an entertainment corporation based in Germany, is...Deep Silver. After 4 long years the studio that gave birth to the series (kind of) has the rights back to make a Timesplitters and with the funding and backing to do so!
"We are hugely excited to have acquired Timesplitters. 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." Koch Media boss Klemens Kundratitz said in a statement about the acquisition.
It's impossible to know how many members of the original Free Radical team is actually still with the studio after so many change of hands, but knowing it is back where it belongs and being actively worked on makes my heart happy. Seeing a Timesplitters created for the PS4 or PS5 (more than likely) has me excited. The library of characters you could play as in multiplayer is HUGE so we might see a Battle Royale mode in the future, and come to think of it the character skins in Fortnite seem Timesplitters inspired if you distilled it through a child friendly filter. I sincerely hope the game is treated with the love and attention fans like me have been hoping for for such a long time.
What would you like to see from a Timesplitters game? What are your fondest memories and which title sticks out to you in the trilogy the most? Comment below or tweet us @ghoulishent.
Founder and Writer