It’s ironic really that a game based around time has been delayed so many times and has taken a while to hit shelves. TimeShift was originally slated for a 2005 release, as well as being released on the Xbox rather than the 360, and, since then, has changed both in terms of graphics (obviously) and also in terms of story. TimeShift was going to be produced by Atari and would feature an all-star cast highlighted by Dennis Quaid. However, Atari dropped the title and Sierra came to pick up the baton. They then proceeded to change the story and improve the game—and it looks like it was for the better.
In TimeShift, you play a scientist who has been enlisted in a project to create two suits, the Alpha and Beta suits. Both suits have the ability to control time and even the ability to travel through time. You, the nameless scientist, get dragged into a conspiracy within the research facility. The story is unveiled piece-by-piece through the game, which can become very confusing, but interesting at the same time. The game begins with Aiden Krone, a scientist working on the project, stealing the Alpha suit and destroying the facility. The Alpha suit is one of the few remaining elements of the original TimeShift, as that was the suit the protagonist was set to wear. You hop into the Beta suit, just before the facility blows up and chase Krone through time. You then arrive in an alternate reality, where Krone is the leader. Your job is to help the rebels Occupants destroy Krone’s regime. Sounds like Half Life 2, doesn’t it? A city, run by an ex-scientist of a facility that has been blown up; a man wearing a special suit comes to help out. All that’s needed is a crowbar and some zombies. In fact, quite a lot of TimeShift has taken inspiration from Valve’s great game.
The greatest and most unique feature of TimeShift is the actual manipulation of time. S.S.A.M, the AI that controls your suit, is how the suit can control time. You can pause, slow or rewind time to help you in puzzles or in combat. It is able to select the right time effect for the situation. For instance, if you need to hop onto a spinning blade, the suit will select slow so you can hop on and off with ease. However, the great thing is that you can totally disregard the suit and pick whichever effect you want. You can try pausing time or even rewinding it to find an alternate route.
Combat is the main part of the game and it is great fun fighting Krone’s men. With the inclusion of the time abilities, it makes it even more fun. Looking at the combat, it looks pretty average, like any other first person shooter. But thanks to the S.S.A.M, you are able to find new ways to defeat enemies. Occasionally, it is essential for fighting. For example, if you are faced with 15 enemies, you can pause time, throw a grenade into one set of enemies, launch a rocket at another then shoot the rest to pieces. The game contains a lot of gore, and I mean a lot of gore. Every fight will involve flying limbs and blood splattering everywhere. The most fun, however, is to pause time, steal an enemy’s gun, then restart time to see them stand there helpless. They will then run away to find a new gun. If you are really harsh, you can launch an explosive from the crossbow, watch him explode…then rewind time and do it again. However, the combat can become repetitive as you find the best strategy and stick to it. I paused time, stole someone’s gun then blasted the others, before killing him and running back to cover. You can sometimes get bored of combat, but then you realise how fun it is pausing time and slowing it down.
There are also puzzles within the game. The puzzles are, unfortunately, embarrassingly easy. You would think that when given the option of manipulating time, it opens up a ton of possibilities. However, this wasn’t the case. Instead, the developers just threw in a set of extremely easy puzzles. The hardest one involved rewinding time to get into a box to reach a new area. Other puzzles involve pausing time to get through a door before it closes, or slowing time to pull two levers to release an anchor. They don’t get any harder than that, only easier which I thought made the game less enjoyable.
Once you have finished the single player with, no doubt, a look of utter confusion on your face (the ending is just strange), you have the multiplayer to keep you occupied. Initially, when I heard multiplayer was to be added, I was worried how the time shifting abilities would work in a multiplayer setting. Luckily, the developers have pulled it off quite well. To manipulate time, players have to throw grenades to create a time bubble. Inside these time bubbles, other players move slowly through them, or in the case of the pause grenade, very slowly. There are a wide range of maps, which are all very good, and modes which can keep you playing for hours.
Graphically, the game is quite good, with great lighting effects and especially sharp water. In the first and last level, it rains a lot, which shows off the water very well. Also the pre-rendered cut scenes look absolutely marvelous, reminiscent of Final Fantasy Spirits Within. One nice touch is that the enemies will react realistically according to where they are shot, grasping their stomach when shot in the stomach, for example. However, the audio doesn’t live up to the visual standards. The music is passable; adding a bit of atmosphere to the game, but the voice acting is terrible.
Overall, TimeShift would be a pretty average game if it wasn’t for the time manipulating abilities. Unfortunately the audio is terrible and the puzzles are way too easy. If the developer had been a bit more creative with the puzzles, I’m sure TimeShift would have been much more enjoyable. Being released now, TimeShift will most possibly be overlooked, with titles such as Call of Duty 4 and Halo 3 being released overshadowing almost all other FPS’s on the market. But, if you have some spare cash and you need something else to occupy you till Christmas, there is no harm in getting TimeShift as it will definitely keep you amused.