Halo + The Sands of Time
We should all be able to pretty much agree that First Person Shooters are becoming a dime a dozen. In comparison to genres like platformers, RPGs, and action titles, FPSes are relatively new to the scene in gaming, but the market has been flooded with games that attempt to cash in on the genre’s popularity. In order to stand out from the pack, a new FPS has to generally be a stellar experience (like Halo 3 and Call of Duty 4) or have a gimmick to set it apart. This is where TimeShift fits in. For all intents and purposes, TimeShift is a mediocre FPS that gains a little distinction because of the game’s gimmick.
In TimeShift, you take control of a physicist with less personality than Gordon Freeman. Unlike Freeman, however, this physicist has access to a bodysuit that gives him benefits like regenerative shielding, A.I. advice, and most importantly, the ability to manipulate time in small increments. This forms the basis for the game, as the suit will occasionally jaunt you through time and space to achieve your goals. While that is done automatically to progress the story, the game’s claim to fame is the ability of the player to rewind, pause, and slow time.
The time manipulation ability is by far TimeShift’s biggest asset. The game is, for the most part, a rudimentary shooter without much of anything to make it outshine the sea of shooters it has to compete with. The targeting is imprecise and most of the early weapons in the game seem to lack power, as it seems to take more hits than it should for some weapons to dispatch your enemies in the game, while later weapons seem overpowered, negating the balance necessary for a shooter to be enjoyable. The story is difficult to follow and the game seems to relegate the story to secondary status, giving you little disjointed details that the player is forced to assemble themselves if they are interested in the reason behind their gunplay. More often than not, FPS fans aren’t, so TimeShift doesn’t even attempt to give the player much backstory or motivation.
As I stated earlier, TimeShift’s redeeming factor is in the game’s time manipulation. Your timesuit has the ability to slow, reverse, and stop time, which obviously comes in handy against swarms of unrelenting enemies. These powers all have fun applications too. If you’re tagged with a sticky grenade, you can pause time and step away from the explosion unscathed. You can stop time and steal an enemy’s weapon and watch his disbelief as he realizes he’s unarmed. You can slow time and zip around the battlefield, blasting multiple foes with the shotgun and laugh as time resumes its normal flow and your enemies find themselves floating through the air, bloodied and dying. It is undeniably fun to experiment with time and watch its effect on your adversaries. The game also throws a few puzzles your way that require the manipulation of time, such as pausing time to casually walk through flames, walk on water, or cross a seesawing plank.
Even though playing with time is fun, TimeShift seems to have missed a lot of opportunities with the abilities. Most of the game is scripted so time manipulation usually produces a desired effect. This especially refers to the puzzles, which are set in stone as to how you should use the power. No amount of manipulation will allow you to solve your puzzles creatively beyond what the developers expected. The puzzles are also uninspired. Even despite the possibilities opened by the timesuit, most of the puzzles, which are repeated throughout the game, require you to open a door distance away and slow or stop time to get through it, or stop to time get through other hazards. It’s cool the first couple of times, but most gamers will probably expect the puzzles to ramp up the creativity, which doesn’t occur. Finally, there are sections in the game where the suit disables the time reverse for fear of creating a paradox. This immediately feels like a copout. Although the game attempts to explain its reasoning, it feels insincere since the possibility of creating a paradox should always exist for someone that is manipulating time on a regular basis.
The visuals in TimeShift are a mixed bag. For most of the game, the visuals are decent, with nothing truly awe-inspiring or noteworthy. There are some areas, however, that do stand apart as visually impressive. The time effects are all well done too, with the rewind and slow effects looking particularly remarkable. The character models throughout the game are decent and even stand up to close scrutiny, but all of them pale in comparison to the models used in recent shooters like Bioshock or Halo 3.
The voice acting in the game is fairly well done, although it can get hard to hear the characters throughout some of the more action oriented scenes. That difficulty seems to underscore the developers’ lack of emphasis on the story, as if they didn’t really care if you heard the characters or not. You will hear a lot of repeated exclamations of surprise from allies and foes as you manifest your time abilities, however, so prepare to hear witticisms like “What happened?” multiple times through your trek.
The enemy A.I. isn’t very bright in TimeShift. Most of the time the enemy either stands in place or charges you aggressively, so the savvy player can fall back and pick foes apart as they approach. There was an instance in the game where I’d come out of a sewer line in the ground and into an area swarming with foes. Once the enemy was alerted to my presence, I fell back into the hole and waited. The enemies didn’t realize what had happened to me and approached the edge of the hole, where I casually picked them off one by one.
While the single player experience doesn’t offer much beyond the time manipulation gimmick, the multiplayer is fun to play. TimeShift has all of the requisite game modes, including Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, One on One, and Capture the Flag. There are a few unique modes that take advantage of the game’s time motif as well, which is a little different from the single player. In multiplayer your character throws chrono grenades that affect time in the way the timesuit does. This means the blast radius of your grenade can slow, stop, or reverse everyone and everything caught in its wake. These effects play into some of the multiplayer modes such as King of Time, which is like King of the Hill but with the “king” impervious to chrono grenades while in his time sphere.
Overall, TimeShift is a decent shooter with a gimmick that sets it apart. Without the time shifting abilities, TimeShift would have been a less than mediocre shooter, especially considering some of the amazing FPS games that it has to compete with. The time manipulation gimmick makes TimeShift an enjoyable if forgettable experience.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.2 Graphics
Decent visuals that look better in certain areas. 3.5 Control
Controls are fairly well done. 3.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Sound FX and music are all decent, but forgettable. 3.8 Play Value
Game has decent length and multiplayer to extend play. 3.3 Overall Rating – Fair
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.