Two former Free Radical staffers have revealed that TimeSplitters 4 was in early production prior to the studio’s closure (and subsequent acquisition by Crytek in 2008), however, the poor reception of Haze and resistance from marketing teams blocked their efforts to find a publisher for the shooter.
Speaking to GamesTM, TimeSplitters co-creator Steve Ellis stated:
“TimeSplitters 4 was in the very early stages of development when Free Radical went into administration. A small playable demo was shown to several publishers, but it didn’t attract any publishing deals.”
Karl Hilton, a former Free Radical employee and current Crytek UK managing director, also spoke with the magazine about the TimeSplitters 4 demo, adding:
“We pitched [Timesplitters] to a lot of publishers, and from each of them we got the same two responses. Firstly, they would ask what happened with Haze. We were the company that made a series of high-rated shooters and then we had released Haze, which wasn’t as well received. This worried them…”
“Secondly, their marketing person would say something alone the lines of, ‘I don’t know how to sell this.’ The unanimous opinion among all publishers that we pitched TimeSplitters 4 to is that you can’t market a game that is based around a diverse set of characters and environments – you need a clear and easily communicated marketing message, and TimeSplitters doesn’t have one.”
“Perhaps they are all right. Perhaps this is why the previous games in the series achieved much more critical success than commercial success. For these reasons, one by one they all declined to sign the project.”
Despite the failure of Free Radical to successfully pitch TimeSplitters 4 before the studio fell apart, there has been recent talk of a revival for the long-dead franchise. Back in August of this year Crytek’s CEO Cevat Yerli stated that TS4 is something the developer might consider if fan “interest is high enough“, and earlier this month he made a similar statement in regards to a TimeSplitters HD Collection.
Hopefully all this recent talk of the TimeSplitters franchise results in enough renewed interest in the shooter to justify Crytek devoting the resources necessary to bringing the IP back in some form. It many have never gained a large following, but there was something very special about all the TimeSplitters titles and it would be a shame if the series never got a chance to make a comeback.