TimeSplitters had all the makings of a classic. A riveting premise befitting a generation still drunk on spacemen and time-traveling murder bots like the Terminator. Streamlined levels meant for speedy completion. A challenging offline one-player mode. Fleet-footed adventurer protagonists from the future. Maximum replay value. A striking similarity to GoldenEye 007 players couldn’t resist binging. At one time, the highest-ranked first-person shooter on the PlayStation 2. It was a landmark title everyone thought would last forever. Unfortunately, like most watershed showpieces of the era, the developers fell on hard times. Timesplitters 4 was on the way when Nottingham-based Free Radical Design went into insolvency. German software company Crytek bought it out the following year and nixed any current and upcoming projects. TimeSplitters was one of many casualties. When Crytek sold Homefront, an ongoing series, to Koch Media in 2014, Free Radical was already on a steep decline. When the lines went dead, journalists assumed the inevitable.
After almost a decade of radio silence, the men and women behind the beleaguered studio finally spoke up. Turns out Crytek didn’t leave Free Radical Design’s developers to trample in the mud after all. A temporary alliance with Dambuster Studios led to the release of Homefront: The Revolution, the last game Free Radical would ever make with Crytek in tow. Sometime between 2016 and today, one-time buyer Koch Media purchased Free Radical Design; the staff then joined Koch subsidiary Deep Silver, where it’s resided for the past five years. How did we know? Well, the interwebs received a buzzworthy scoop this morning. One game journalists likely never saw coming. Deep Silver announced on Twitter that it was officially “reforming” Free Radical Design and giving players what they’ve always wished for: more TimeSplitters. The franchise is finally rising from the grave after decades of misuse from Free Radical’s would-be investors.
A press release was also immediately circulated. In it, Deep Silver’s global brand and marketing director Paul Nicholls writes: “It’s this unique style that earned the TimeSplitters series a large and passionate following who will, without doubt, be excited by the formation of Deep Silver’s latest studio and will look forward to learning more as the franchise moves forward.” Not only that, Deep Silver is bringing back Steve Ellis and David Doak, the creators of TimeSplitters, to the fore in the hopes of recreating the magic of the original. Now studio development director, Ellis writes: “To finally be able to confirm that the studio has been formed and that we have a plan for the next TimeSplitters game is incredible. While we cannot tell you anything more at the moment, we look forward to sharing information in the future.” Ellis and Doak have been working on a new TimeSplitters since 2007.
Originally set in 2032, TimeSplitters revolves around a futuristic war between humanity and a race of alien time-travelers called the TimeSplitters. The goal of the game is to preserve human history and the timestream by eliminating all temporal intruders. The first game didn’t offer much of a narrative; it was a by-the-books FPS, and nothing more. But the gameplay hooked fans of the genre from the get-go, which led to TimeSplitters 2 and TimeSplitters: Future Perfect. The sequels elaborated on the premise by introducing memorable protagonists, developing lore, and giving the villainous TimeSplitters an origin story worth sticking around for.
Deep Silver described the series as follows: “The highly regarded Free Radical Design team has a twenty-two year heritage under various guises and is responsible for some of the best loved, most iconic video games of the early 2000s, including TimeSplitters — the first title it released in 2000. The critically acclaimed TimeSplitters series went on to include two further iterations, all of which were loaded with humorous pop culture references as players battle across various locations and historical periods.” The fourth TimeSplitters was supposed to be a PlayStation 3 exclusive with an improved “social experience” in the style of newer hits like PUBG and Fortnite, but it never took off after a previous game, Haze, reportedly led to Free Radical Design’s bankruptcy.
Deep Silver is still neck-deep in restructuring, but promises to work on the new TimeSplitters once Free Radical Design is fully up and running. Development on the new game will come about “in the coming months.”