New concepts are tough to come by in video games these days, primarily because developer have broken so much new ground in the past couple of decades. But that hardly means there aren't any original ideas left; just like at a game like TimeShift. Previously only confirmed for the PC and Xbox 360 but also announced for the PS3 two days ago at Sony's Gamers Day, this atmospheric FPS embodies the word "unique." Sure, the concept isn't brand new - games have dabbled in the time-space continuum in the past - but blending it with fast Ďn furious first-person action isn't something you see every day. There was some rewinding of time going on in the Prince of Persia games, but nothing like this...
Players will be able to control and manipulate time in TimeShift, and rather than an optional skill or frill, it's a major focal point of this title. You can slow time down or even stop it temporarily, which opens the door to a vast sea of wonderful possibilities. Ever play your favorite FPS and wish you could freeze time long enough to disarm your enemies? Just walk right up and pluck the gun from their hands? Well, this game will let you do just that. Or maybe you just don't want to deal with him at all; maybe you wanted to slink by unseen. In that case, simply rewind time to a point where he hasn't noticed you yet, and proceed from there. Get the idea? Sure you do, you're thinking of a zillion ways to take advantage of this nifty feature right now, and that's exactly why this game could rule.
Saber Interactive wants to use this idea to its full potential, too, so don't think they'll skimp on the details. We all remember the bullet-time feature, initially displayed in Max Payne and recreated and reformulated in countless other games in the past five years, so consider that option for a moment. Consider being able to slow down time as the bullets fly, allowing you to literally step between the projectiles in a planned advance that places you face-to-face with your adversary...and to him, your movement appears almost instantaneous. Your S.A.M. suit allows you to alter time, and because it recharges every 40 seconds, you'll be able to use your God-like ability on a consistent basis. And mixed into all this time-shifting fun is a standard FPS, with plenty of weapons, perhaps a few vehicles, and of course, hordes upon hordes of nasty enemies. Those enemies will be both human and mechanical, by the way.
The question is, how detailed is the team really going to get? What can we expect from the final build? Playing around with time can be both intriguing and disastrous (what, you never watched "Back to the Future"?), and depending on the situation, strange things can happen when messing with time. But Saber has all kinds of intricate goodies planned. For example, if it's raining and time slows down, you'll be able to see each individual raindrop, and looking through them will even blur the landscape, as one would expect. Another unbelievably realistic example- when going from dark to light areas, your eyes will take a few moments to adjust; it doesn't get much more true-to-life than that! From top to bottom, it appears they're working to make TimeShift a singular experience, combining an intensely realistic presentation and environment with a wildly entertaining FPS mold.
The last major feature centers on the game's destructible environment. It may have begun with the Geo-Mod technology in Red Faction way back in 2001, but since then, the theory has grown and expanded. Just about everything in TimeShift will either display the impact of bullets or other ammunition, or simply break apart due to the impact. You'll be able to blast through certain walls, and we're wondering if any of that flying debris will actually cause physical harm. In other words, does that exploding stone hurt us? We're not sure if that will happen, but courtesy of Havoc 4.5, we'll be able to pick up a variety of items to use against our enemies. Some, we'll use to distract them, others, we'll use to actually attack with. How great is that? We do wonder how expansive the destruction and environmental interaction will be, though...we've heard ambitious claims before, and the final product didn't always reflect those claims.
We can't be sure if foes will react realistically to shrapnel and debris, but we're pretty damn sure they'll react accurately to getting hit by your bullets. If you nail him in the arm, he'll shift his weapon and let the injured limb hang uselessly. If you get him in the leg, he'll fall, but he likely won't stop shooting. We love to see this, simply because it lends the game a great feeling of control and even strategy. Your futuristic world will be loaded down with plenty of enemies and puzzles - which can also be solved with the manipulation of time - and with the implementation of realistic injury reactions, TimeShift appears to have it all. Heck, it should even include a pretty solid storyline, which revolves around a small group of rebels attempting to stop the madman Krone from taking over the country.
Lastly, the game will indeed boast multiplayer, although we don't yet know how many players it will support online at once. We're also hoping for a Co-op mode, and you know why: wouldn't it be just plain sweet to have your buddy slow down time while you advance in the face of overwhelming odds? And then trade off in the next area? The possibilities are limitless. We don't yet have a release date for TimeShift, but we hope it arrives sooner rather than later.
5/18/2007 Ben Dutka