2021 has been a bountiful year for a select group of retro console gamers—specifically, fans of Goldeneye 007. Earlier this year, we found and confirmed a leak of the N64 classic as secretly remade for Xbox 360 consoles (it’s even playable on both real hardware and emulators). Today, the same thing applies to a different game from some of Goldeneye 007‘s original creators: TimeSplitters 2.
The story began with an offhand comment on Twitter this weekend from British programmer Matt Phillips, who had worked on the 2016 video game Homefront: The Revolution. As a nod to the Easter holiday, Phillips piled onto a Twitter thread about long-lost Easter eggs inside of video games, and his was a doozy: He had put a “fully playable, native 4K port of TimeSplitters 2” into a five-year-old game without anybody realizing it.
If you’ve played H:TR, you may have seen a TS2-branded arcade cabinet toward the end of the game. Walk up to it and activate it, and that 2002 game will boot up, albeit in bite-sized form. Only its first two levels are playable, and only in single-player mode. But as it turns out, Phillips put most of the older game’s native content into that cabinet, all locked away with some debug codes.
Hilariously, he has since lost those codes. “I don’t have the notebook with it in any more,” Phillips wrote. “I once gave it to a friend to leak in some Discord channel, and they called him a liar and banned his account.”
Returning to monkey business
Once the story broke, interested fans began reverse-engineering the game’s various ports to see what they could find. A few folks individually found a series of five debug/unlock codes that work across all H:TR platforms. They all require a gamepad (even on PC), and they all must be entered within the TimeSplitters 2 menu inside of H:TR.
But sure enough, the codes unlock almost the entirety of TimeSplitters 2—and make it natively playable for the first time ever on PC, Xbox One, and PS4.
Once the codes are entered, TS2‘s limited menu selection grows to add the entirety of the single-player game, the full “arcade” deathmatch mode, and a series of single-player challenges. On console, you’ll have to speedrun the game to reach the arcade cabinet in question, which then unlocks TS2 as a convenient menu option whenever you reboot the game. PC players can more easily download a “100%” save file to do the same. Either way, you’ll have to re-enter the TS2 debug codes every time you want to access them.
I have confirmed that the debug codes work on the PC version, and they’ve let me jump into campaign, arcade, and challenge content. While all assets and content are the same as in the game’s original PlayStation 2 and Xbox (OG) versions, everything scales up to native resolution, and thanks to Phillips’ comments, we believe this scales to as much as 4K on the last console generation’s “pro” models. Unfortunately, this walled-off content is full of bugs on PC (unsurprising, given that it was hidden as an unofficial bonus), so I’ve seen everything from garbled text menus to full-stop game crashes. One of today’s newly discovered codes freezes the PC version after showing a series of “cheat” unlock confirmations as well.
Having said that, I imagine the game’s PS4 and Xbox One versions are more stable, considering that they had to be ported for locked-down ecosystems—though I wonder whether publisher THQ Nordic will respond to this news by issuing a patch to remove it. (Or maybe the company will go the opposite direction and offer a flash sale on the game’s digital versions, which currently cost $ 20.) Either way, we’d much prefer THQ Nordic, who owns the rights to the TimeSplitters series, to hurry up and release a TimeSplitters anniversary collection of remastered games for modern platforms. This buggy, code-dependent solution pales in comparison to letting us directly buy the critically acclaimed likes of TS2 and TimeSplitters: Future Perfect.
I say this in particular because all of this content is currently locked to solo play, and like GE007 before it, TimeSplitters games are much better with friends, whether in split-screen or online. Before the debug codes were found, Phillips teased a way for this TS2 port to let fans recreate its epic multiplayer content: “I ported the network stack to ride on top of H:TR‘s co-op mode. If, and that’s a big if, anyone was able to hack two or more arcades into one of the co-op maps, it’ll boot to the multiplayer menu.”
Sounds like you have more work ahead of you, enterprising TimeSplitters fans.