In the world of first person shooters, Sierra has published/developed a large dose of good ones, and bad ones. Half-Life 2, F.E.A.R, Chronicles of Riddick, and No One Lives Forever are the squadron of good. Meanwhile a game like TimeShift is one to forget about. I remember first playing TimeShift at E3; I was sorely disappointed, because while it brings a fairly cool concept, its execution of it was too cut and dry. Worst of all, the builds shown off at E3 were incredibly early, the PS3 version, in particular, struggled to run past 20 frames a second. So how much has changed?
Well, I can tell you that the game no longer struggles with its framerate, which is a relief. It'll animate at a pretty consistent 30 frames per second, while rendering in 720p. There are a few occasional drops, but nothing terrible, or irritating. What I didn't like was how muddy everything looked in the game. Initially, I thought that I had accidentally turned off 720p, and had the game running in 480p. Nope, I was very much in 720p. TimeShift doesn't demonstrate any specific prowess, as textures are muddy, and character detail lacks definition. I can accept a few textures not being as sharp as others, but if you come up close to any texture in the game, you're going to notice how smeared it looks.
Unlike other first person shooters that mix a wide variety of lighting setups, TimeShift is primarily grey, to fit its apocalyptic atmosphere. The game ends up looking even drabber due to this, and so you're not going to find yourself fighting through gorgeous foliage, like Call of Duty 4 - so variety isn't one of the game's finer points. That is not to say there isn't any foliage to be found, it just isn't as pretty as Call of Duty 4, for instance. But the setting is mostly industrial, and thus the grey feeling I mentioned earlier. Furthermore, the game engine is in need of some optimization, as restarting a stage isn't instant - so you'll have to reload it every time you die. On the plus side, much of what's around you in TimeShift is destructible - although the way things deform isn't very convincing.
The story behind TimeShift revolves around two experimental suits that possess the ability to time-travel; the Beta Suit, and the Alpha Suit. The Alpha Suit is the predecessor to the Beta Suit, and was scraped due to the shortcomings that the Beta version would fix. Doctor Aiden Krone, one of the creators of the Beta Suit steals it, travels back in time, and alters history so that he is the ruler of the world. Your controlled character is one of the scientists who worked on both suits, and left with only the Alpha version, he strap it on and follows Krone back in time to stop him. Your journey will have you fighting alongside the Occupant Rebellion, as you'll both help each other out during numerous different situations.
With the Alpha Suit equipped, you are able to control various aspects of time, all to your advantage. Admittedly, the premises here are pretty cool, as one of the features allows you to stop time. But don't just assume that's all you can do, because once you've stopped time, you can either kill the enemies around you (if you have enough allotted time), or run up to a specific enemy, steal his gun and kill him, and others with it. The gun stealing is certainly the coolest feature the game has. Other time sensitive features also include the ability to rewind time, and slow down time. Time rewinding is important because it'll allow you to clear through obstacles that are obstructing your path. So if you witness an enormous chunk of your path get destroyed in front of you, preventing you from progressing, you rewind back a certain amount of seconds, and quickly cross through the path before it's obliterated.
What I'm not a fan of is the A.I. it isn't particularly smart, and you'll only die at their hands because it takes way too many bullets to lay someone out - which gets annoying quick. This also forces you to use your time powers far more often, but then it makes the game simply way too easy and redundant. Your time suit will recharge fairly quickly, so it isn't like you have a terrible limitation setup to prevent you from exploiting the feature. You can also use the suit as a means of healing without any interruptions by stopping time and standing in one place. Additionally, quick reflexes will also allow for the deflection of thrown grenades, too.
The progression of the game is what kills much of it, because despite how cool some of the facets of gameplay are, they mean little when a game bores you. Playing through TimeShift's stages isn't what I'd call a very rewarding experience. The sense of accomplishment never seems to be anything remotely celebratory or worthwhile, and the game's objectives are about as uninspired as a first person shooter can get (i.e. go there, shoot that, press this, etc.). That game does very little to challenge the player, and that's a shame.
If, for whatever reason, you enjoyed the demo and are considering a purchase of TimeShift, you'll be pleased to know that there is a multiplayer mode for up to 16 players to partake in. Time effects in multiplayer are changed, and instead are used by throwing one of the proximity Chrono Grenades that'll manipulate time for whoever is caught near the blast. Multiplayer modes include the status-quo deathmatch, team deathmatch, and capture the flag, in addition to modified versions with different requirements for winning (all of which you modify on your own). Meltdown Madness is a team based multiplayer mode where you'll have to stop an enormous machine from exploding, by attacking it with Chrono Grenades. King of Time is another mode, it requires you control the time sphere and become invulnerable to time attacks from your enemies.
Audio isn't stupendous, and quickly forgotten. Very minimal voice acting here, largely due to a lack of a proper story and cutscenes, leaves TimeShift sounding hollow, as only explosions and gun shots will be about all you hear. There'll be some banter in the background from whoever you're fighting alongside with, but you won't hear much else. The soundtrack is certainly nothing to talk about, so forgettable that I couldn't even remember if there was any audio besides the sound effects and chatter.
All in all, TimeShift is the epitome of mediocrity; it brings a few nice features with it, but ultimately adds nothing to the very crowded first-person shooter segment. Its A.I. is absurdly dumb, but requires more than a fair share of bullets to kill. The time suit can be used far too frequently, and thus makes the entire one giant walk in the park, no matter what difficulty you're set on. Worst of all, the gameplay objectives are horrendously boring, ultimately ruining the entire experience. On top of that, the game is visually lackluster, and features some pretty hollow audio. Multiplayer is a plus, but it's certainly not worth the $60. TimeShift is a definite pass.
11/26/2007 Arnold Katayev