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SummaryBy the book FPS, move along
The GoodAnother FPS finished, another week older. But let's look at the good features of Timeshift for a while.
In Timeshift you are a scientist (probably a theoretical physicist) and you end up in a dystopic society, ruled by a guy who likes projecting himself on big screens on the street walls, who you are going to defeat thanks to your special suit, which advises you of dangers and such. Yes, I know, this is not precisely original. What is original in Timeshift is the "time shifting" abilities of the suit that the hero of this game wears. You can either slow, stop or reverse time at your will, a bit like in the last Prince of Persia games, except for some differences. In Timeshift, not only you can do these three time actions, but you are independent of them too, that is, if you slow/stop/reverse time, you can still move in your own time, which adds some new strategies to the killing and a new dimension for the puzzles.
Other "thumbs up" for Timeshift is the graphics engine, which looks very good in high-end cards of two years ago (of 2005 that is). And all this being an in-house engine. Everything seems to cast very realistic shadows in near distance, while depth of field can go very far rendering distant objects still with the same quality as near ones. In addition, explosion effects look very spectacular provoking very believable smoke effects. It's also interesting the "depth of field" effect that blurs your vision at different distances except that you are aiming at. Another remarkable technical features are the Havok physics engine, as there are many breakable objects in each scenario and the animations of the characters, especially when killed. This is probably the first time I don't see any cadaver in a game having spasms or with a leg behind its neck due to an unlucky dying position. And, of course, the time reversing itself works perfectly even if half of the scenario is destroyed.
Another good thing is the variety in level design. At first it looks like all the game story is going to pass only in the ruined city where you start, but soon the action changes to more open scenarios like the mountains or enormous plant where the weaponry of the tyranny you are fighting is assembled. There is a couple of gameplay breaks too, with some flying combats and some points of the game where you can drive quads. It's not a great thing, but it helps making the experience less boring.
The BadProblem is, well, you have played this before, everybody has.
Let's look at how predictable and repetitive FPS are revising what makes Timeshift unnecessary :
- You are way better than your enemies. It's always the same thing these days, playing is about rampaging hundreds of enemies thrown at you without compassion. They don't flee, they don't try to reason with you, they don't have nothing to live for. It can be funny at first, but soon you start to get bored to kill the same guy for the 50th time and it gets so easy that you don't even try. Sometimes I wonder why do they fight, if they have family and friends..., until I remember I'm playing a modern videogame. At least in Timeshift there is a reason that makes you superior.
- Melee, gun, assault rifle, shotgun, sniper, rocket/missile launcher and two or three exotic guns. Think on the last non-WWII FPS you played, try to remember the weapons you could use? What a surprise!, you have the same weapons here. And if there was a flamethrower and a thunder gun you have exactly the same weaponry Timeshift has. The problem is not that they don't design more creative weapons, the problem is that there is not too much space to innovate already.
- Sewers, boxes, rocks and man-sized pipes. Level design falls also in many clichés of the FPSs. Warehouses full of crates or other objects distributed conveniently are found also in this game, while pipes and air conditioning channels enough big for a person to enter in crouch mode are the best way to enter a room when the door has a red light on it. In the city, these are substituted by sewers, setting hated by everybody, but unhealthily loved by every level designer. Timeshift is also short in setting quantity, there are around 6 different settings (ruined city, warehouse, grassland, green or snowy and... sewers?) and some look alike a lot. Still some levels look quite beautiful mostly due to the great graphical engine of the game.
- Green means go, red means stop. Other very important feature of FPSs is their linearity. FPS designers and coders are lazy, and they don't want you to do anything exotic, just cover, shoot and resolve stupid puzzle. For this, there is only one path to follow, and they will make sure you don't get out of it. No, wait, my fault, there is only one path except for some "hidden" bonuses you can found here and there. Usually, this means that if you don't follow the incredibly obvious path with neon lights saying "smart people always go this way" and you divert through the ugly looking corridor nobody loves, you may find some extra ammo (...). And, as even level designers understand that sometimes their creations are too repetitive and tedious that players eyes' go on strike and stop distinguishing shapes, now they have started to use green and red lights (I saw it in Doom 3 for the first time, not sure if it's older). If a door has red lights around, it wont open, if a button glows green it's meant to be pushed. And not only that, these games usually come with a minimap that marks you where your next goal is. In summary, you don't even have to pay attention to the story or dialogs, shoot everything, go where the minimap says and interact with anything that glows in green.
- Story is expendable. The bad guy has gone to the past, blahblahblah, you have gone after him, tyranny in the past, a resistance, defeat the bad guy (oops!, did I ruined you the ending?). From the beginning of the game even your dog knows how it's going to end, and, as said in the previous paragraph, dialogs are also unnecessary with the minimap. Then, what's the point? Well, the shooting. Producers know this and they wont pay a salary for work that their 5 year old child can make.
- Weak science fiction. Let's start with a fact of the game. You travel back to 1939 to fight an army developed by Krone, who has traveled to some year before that one. All the models for Dr. Krone in the game are the same, so he hasn't aged too much in the whole timeline that the game follows, but, he has managed to revolutionize the whole war technology to the point that when you arrive, he produces futuristic armors and weapons, tanks, quads, Robocop like bipeds, cyborgs and futuristic flying ships, all of them at an industrial rate. Oh!, and he also has a skyscraper high spider like mobile assault station á la "Wild Wild West", which you defeat at the end of the game very easily. And Krone is not a military engineer, but a physicist specialized in applied physics. There is a way to solve this: Krone could team up with somebody in his first travel and show them planes to develop all this elements. Even with the difficulty of producing XXI century technology in the 20s or 30s, considering the poor effort invested on Timeshift's story, it's hard to believe they thought on all these details. It's also hard to believe that a computer can compute all the possible time breaks from the input of the suit you carry.
This may look like an exaggeration, but, in my opinion, this is an important problem with the science-fiction genre. Many people call this game science-fiction while it's not. To be science-fiction, there has to be an extensive scientific development of a fictitious idea, while telling a story. It's not enough to set a story in the future or in space or use some of the usual sci-fi topics like time traveling or teleportation. A good example of what am I saying is "Star Wars" that is usually referred as science-fiction. Well, it's not, there is no scientific development of any idea, there is no science at all actually but, it's galactic setting is enough to put it in the science-fiction genre. It's like calling RPG a game just because it features elves, dwarfs and/or orcs. Discussion
- Woman equals tits. Number of male characters in Timeshift: a lot; number of females: 1, which is naked most of the time. Do videogame designers have girlfriends? or female friends? are girls invisible to them? These are the sort of question that arise when playing any FPS. There are barely no girls in first person shooters and, when there are, they are always willing to show part of their big perfectly round tits. Maybe the answer is as pathetic as that designers don't want to make more than one human model, or maybe they see girls as something so cute that wouldn't make any sense in the violent videogames they produce, but in any case, thank you for making videogames an impossible chat topic when socializing with girls.
- One innovation at a time. And sometimes not even that, but, as tradition rules, any innovative game can only innovate in one slight feature at a time, while the rest of the feature should be the lowest common denominator in videogame standards. Usually this means an over-the-top graphics engine that no machine can run at the time (*cough*Crysis-F.E.A.R.-UnrealII-Far_Cry-anythingId*cough*), but it can also be some tech feature like controlling the time. Of course, more than this will be banned from the producers, who know the important marketing rule that states that you can make more money if you innovate very slowly while waste tons of dollars advertising it as the best thing in years. If you have two or more innovations in the same game, they'll shadow each other, and each of them wont boost the sales as much as a lonely innovation by itself.