I do not even remotely want to review TimeCop, as it is that bad of a game. Not even bad in a fun way, just purely and unconditionally putrid. I’m not even sure what I will say. However, I’ve made the mistake before of playing an unimpressive game and not reviewing it, and I know that if I don’t suck it up and do this now, I never will. That being said, I’m certainly not going to be wasting anyone’s time.
TimeCop was a Van Damme vehicle, that for such a film, actually wasn’t that bad. In the film, time travel has been invented, and the prospects of abusing it for financial gain are too great to be ignored or denied. Good ol’ Jean Claude was one of many officers put in charge of stopping or reversing such changes in history, which was used as a license for lots of kickboxing, splits, and modern gunplay inside period sets. The same basic concepts are behind this game, though the execution most certainly failed.
The game picks up directly after the end of the film, extending upon the concept that changes in time, once “fixed,” can simply be rechanged at an earlier point. It’s a paradox that pretty much ruins the hope or purpose of a “Time Enforcement Commission,” so the game does away with all that. Instead, you return home after setting right the events from the film, and find that the creator of time travel has suddenly gone batshit. At some point he altered time to make himself some kind of world-reaching despot, and for whatever reason, decides to challenge you to a duel through time. That’s right. A duel, through time.
It’s an excuse for your character to Quantum Leap around against his will, and travel to a smorgasbord of historical eras. Its also an excuse for the levels to be populated with the villain’s henchmen, and for you to have to fight endlessly up multiple platformed levels. I do wonder, though. If this arch-nemesis has fucked up time so thoroughly that everyone throughout all of history looks identical and does his bidding… would it be defeatist to just give up? Cause I think that’s what I’d be doing.
TimeCop’s claim to fame are its digitized characters, a fad that was in full force on the PCs, but ended up being a rarity for the consoles. Actors were brought in, filmed in front of a bluescreen, and that source footage makes up the character animation. To their credit, the game does look nice for an SNES title. Not to their credit, the characters end up being some of the jerkiest, unimaginative ones in memory. First, every bad guy in a stage looks the same. I presume this had something to do with memory limits, but every fella is a clone of every other fella. Second, again probably because of memory, the frames used for the animation are limited. Most games by this time had some kind of transitional animation to go from walking to shooting a gun somewhat seamlessly. Here, you’re back to having to wait for an animation to finish before you can start a new one.
This is most apparent in your enemies, who must stop to fire a gun, or finish walking before they can throw a punch. The result are a bunch of decent-looking, robotic-acting bad guys who jackboot around stiffly and react far too slowly. They look like marionettes. If you intentionally decide to go toe to toe with these guys, they’re pretty easy to outsmart. However, these limitations extend to your character as well, evening the odds.
You have three basic attacks. One is a quick punch, or possibly an elbow smash. One is a high kick where your character appears to violently throw his foot up in front of his face, about eye level. The final is an uppercut with a ridiculously exaggerated wind-up time. If it’s supposed to be some kind of super-move, it certainly doesn’t carry the appropriate damage or effectiveness. Like the bad guys, you have to wait to finish your last move before you proceed to the next.
A typical situation goes like this: the Muscles from Brussels runs down a hallway, looking for the exit to the level. From the right of the screen, an enemy appears walking stiffly toward him. Van Damme then attempts to kick the gentleman directly in the nose, but must come to a stop and stand in place to do so. His timing is off, and he misses, while the bad guy walks right into him, causing damage. Van Damme then attempts to kick again, but the bad guy has stopped by this point and is throwing a punch, which causes Van Damme to freeze and load his “reaction” animation, taking another second or so before he can make another move.
So TimeCop isn’t fast, nor is action-packed, yet it is still supposed to be an action platformer. You are further given a time limit in an attempt to speed you along your way, which is worth a chuckle, when you consider how every fight plays out as described above. The reach of the characters and the collision detection both seem a bit off, and you’re frequently coming up short in your attacks, while your foe can time a riposte as you wait for your animation to cycle.
The best attack to use is a crouching kick, as it has the longest reach and enemies rarely strike low. However, it takes far too long to kill someone this way. The next best bet is to switch between a crouching kick and a punch while the enemy “staggers” (freezes and blinks). This dispatches a foe in about half the time, but there are still a lot of guys in the way. Ultimately, the easiest method is to simply JUMP OVER EVERYONE, because you can. The man leaps clean over the heads of all oncoming bad guys. The downside to such a method is that you won’t get the generous health powerups that every other enemy drops. You will, however, make it to the exit on time.
I should mention that you have a gun, but you start with all of six bullets. This gives you the opportunity to defeat three guys before you have to start scavenging for more ammo. The gun seems intended to be more of an “emergency” weapon, or a quick way to deal with more difficult foes. This would be fine for a Van Damme game, if the character could actually FIGHT like Van Damme. The three attacks he can pull off don’t look impressive, and don’t do impressive amounts of damage. The various control and animation issues also work hard to make fighting slow, inefficient, and frustrating.
The frequent holes in the level platforms, that enemies like to punch you into and that send you falling back to the beginning of the level, should be mentioned. There’s a goofy little submarine level that is different, but not particularly interesting itself. I should also talk about the hideous background music, including the soul-crushing theme for the first and second levels, where a digitized, altered voice sings “FBI… get on it!” as a beat, for no particular reason. But really, I think I’ve made my point. I feel pretty confident that no one will seek this game out, and if you do anyway, I feel you’ve been fairly warned. Rent the movie if you really must, but give this cart a nice, clean, Van Damme roundhouse kick if the two of you should ever meet.
Impressive digitized actors for the SNES.
Said actors look terrible in motion, control terribly, and result in a terrible game.