Written by  :  Nick Drew (412)
Written on  :  Dec 26, 2007
Platform  :  Windows
Rating  :  3 Stars3 Stars3 Stars3 Stars3 Stars

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A Solid shooter, worth playing. [Rew. <<] . . worth playing, but is a bit of a missed opportunity.

The Good

TimeShift is a fast-paced action FPS which gives the player the ability to have some control over the flow of time, as the title suggests.

Though you may have encountered some earlier games with some similarly like-minded concepts, e.g. Prince of Persia The Sands of Time, Blinx -- TimeShift is the first shooter game I am aware of that incorporates three time-altering play facets, here being: slow-time, stop-time and reverse-time.

The games’ premise is as follows; You are a physicist who is working on a Beta version of a special Quantum Suit which can be used to manipulate the flow of time. A co-worker of yours - A suitably ‘evil dude' one Dr. Krone, had some funny ideas about using the original Alpha suit to travel to an alternate time stream, where he would rule the world. Surely enough, this is what he has done, and you have to use the Beta suit to travel to Krone’s era, and put a stop to him. This makes for some bleak days indeed, but there is an occupant uprising going on, with some resistance fighters turning the tide on Krone, and his regime. You actively assist these groups of freedom-fighters, and with your advanced suit’s capabilities, leading the people to an ultimate victory of a world free of tyranny should all be in-a-days-work.

As for the majority of other shooters, the basic game-lay has you blasting your way through enemy-laden set pieces, collecting weapons and ammo, while completing simple plot-developing objectives. There are cut-scenes in dispersed throughout the game - being here short memory vignettes of the protagonists’ secret past.

Now for the big hook - your time shifting abilities. As I mentioned, you are able to slow down, stop and rewind time. The length of the cycle in which you can achieve these feets of time-law defiance is limited by the energy reserves of the suit, which has the ability to automatically recharge itself after use. While you are not directly affected by the 'time-shift', everything else around you is. Simple enough?

The first bullet-time component doesn’t really require explanation, as the tactical advantage it presents in combat situations should prove fairly obvious. The way in which this works is most closely like-minded to Monolith's F.E.A.R in execution. Interestingly, something a bit different is the ability to disarm enemies while they are in this state of time-flux. You can stroll up to them, and pinch their weapon(s). Subsequently they will exclaim “Don’t shoot, I am unarmed!”, but when you turn your back, they will immediately start for some chance weapon that is lying around. So mercy was never really an option.

The stop-time feature can obviously be used in a similar fashion, though it drains the power of the suit the fastest, so is less viable for tackling multiple opponents. It is fun to stop time when confronting a single enemy - Pump him full of lead, with a nice little touch being the blood splattering on your suits’ visor. Then watch the great rag-doll style physics in action as he goes flying skyward upon the time resume.

Last up is the rewind, which is by far the most visually arresting of the abilities. This brings forward some particularly exciting staged action sequences. Where as you may be casually making your way along some bridge, when it suddenly collapses under you! Hey, no problem. Just reverse time and the bridge will piece itself back together right before you eyes. You can then safely make your way across, just in time before ‘real-time’ recommences and it crumbles in your wake. Another scenario may be that you find yourself in some hot-water where you would otherwise be overwhelmed by the enemies - you can send them trudging backwards the way they came, then find suitable cover in order to be ready to face them on your own terms.

Other situations arise during the course of play which require one or more of these special features, such as bypassing security defenses, avoiding traps, safely passing through hazards and so forth.

Your suit also provides you with protection from harms way in the form of a shield. If you have ever played Halo 2 the method of implementation will instantly be familiar to you. No health bar is present, instead only a circular gauge is shown for the shield, which will deplete upon being injured. Taking cover on a regular basis becomes necessary to allow the shield time to regenerate. Furthermore, activating the slow-time will greatly accelerate the whole process, which is remarkably handy in the frequent heated battle situations.

Similarly like Saber’s first shooter effort - Will Rock, TimeShift has a good assortment of fun weapons. The designs are chunky and have a good level of detail, and generally look distinctively styled & interesting. But most important, are potent, easy to get to grips with, and are a delight to dismember the countless Krone guards with.

The machine gun/grenade launcher combo is solid, and the fact you can put a time delay on the alt-fire grenade to detonate adds some strategic value to the mix. There is a flame propelling gun - called Hellfire, which can be fired as an arc stream, or alternatively as a flamethrower which will barbeque the hordes into very crispy gib chunks to go. There is also a very cool sniper-crossbow with explosive-tip arrows, and also a more traditional sniper rifle is thrown in as well. You can only carry three weapons’ at any given time, so as to encourage you to try out the different toys’ which will crop up, swap & change along the way etc.

At some points during play, you can drive Quad-Bikes which was really a lot of fun. This reminded me a lot of some similar scenarios in Ritual’s SiN. The view is similarly from the first-person perspective. You can go tearing around some mountain pass, and run down the enemies, and jump across elevating bridges! These instances provided some of the most entertaining parts of the game for me.

In terms of visuals, TimeShift has grandeur to spare. The effect of pouring rain on the first level looks astonishing, especially when going backwards on the rewind! I was similarly impressed by some of the destructible set pieces - pillars, and decayed structural remains can be chipped away by gun fire, and the smoke haze & particle effects are completely topnotch. The frequent huge fiery explosions suitably look the business - especially if you slow down time for a closer inspection.

The Bad

Unfortunately general lapses in game-play, and some fairly rudimentary flaws directly affect the challenge, which subsequently affects the atmosphere.

The friends which fight alongside you aren’t blessed with special suits, though are blessed in the way they can’t be killed by oncoming gunfire. They charge along through the desolate burnt out war zones and are completely unscathed by the barrage of carnage. I suppose they could all hail from the planet Krypton. But moreover, this hardly does anything to further immerse you in the game world.

The problem afflicting the NPCs extends to the enemies. So often they will simply run into your outpour of lead, and do nothing to avoid your attacks. If you spot an enemy guard in the distance just obliviously standing around, and take a potshot at him - will he take cover? No. He will hold still until you have exhausted enough rounds to drop him. Unfortunately lure and kill tactics are all too easy to accomplish, even on the ‘elite’ difficulty, as the bad guys’ are scripted in a particularly ‘kamikaze’ fashion.

The objectives given to you in TimeShift often simply just involve activating some switch or lever(s) in order to temporarily open some door to the next area, which doesn’t exactly captivate the imagination - Even if coupled with integrating the time-shifting aspect. There are the occasional puzzles which require a little more forethought to solve in regards to employing your full-range of special abilities to render the solution, though it isn't quite enough to redress the balance.

Level design is strictly linear, and this leaves very little incentive for exploring the environments. Often there will be multiple doors presented or a path to an interesting area to negotiate which is always off-limits. Though you quickly find only one route will ever be open to you in any given instance. This “you can look, but don’t go” philosophy can often make your travels rather a bit ho-hum push forwards.

A factor which ultimately had an impact on the final product was I think partly due to the final management decisions - Opting to spend the extra year of development on superficial things like making the overall visual style ‘darker’ (opposed of the original steam-punk theme), and reducing the storyline to the bare-bones minimum for the result of suggesting that the player is conceivably supposed to feel like the person in the special suit. It is a shame the time wasn’t better spent on such things as improving the AI, and making the level designs, puzzles and objectives’ more involved and varied.

The Bottom Line

In spite of all those critical things back there, TimeShift very much remains worthwhile gaming. This is because the action is thick and fast, the weapons are particularly fun, and blasting the bad guys’ to bloody gib-chunks in slow-mo is as satisfying as ever. However, it is a little unfortunate some of the games’ execution feels like the long-past generation of shooters, and the time-shift facet isn’t exploited to full potential. All in all though, this is simply great stoic entertainment with truly first-class visual effects.