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TimeShift Review

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Developer: Saber Interactive Publisher: Sierra
Release Date: October 30, 2007 Also On: PC, PS3 and Xbox 360

TimeShift is probably the best game delayed into oblivion that I can recall in recent years. Hell, I probably could not even use its protagonist’s time suit to travel back to the day when I originally figured I would be enjoying this game. Despite studio-switching madness and a chaotic development, TimeShift surprisingly comes out only slightly scathed and with a few highlights worthy of any shooter fan’s attention.

The story is all too similar to Half-Life 2’s and a lot of other recent games; a propaganda- and terror-spreading leader has taken over an alternate timeline and hopes to oppress the population with brute force. A research scientist donning a badass time-altering suit, you will charge through warzones and warehouses, hillsides and enemy camps using time-stopping, time-slowing, and time-rewinding abilities. Were you stuck by a sticky grenade? Reverse time and evade that grenade, chump! Are you having trouble taking out the pesky jetpack soldiers? Freeze time and snipe those fools in the face! Although similar mechanics have been used in games like Max Payne and Prince of Persia, they are a lot of fun to play with in this chaotic first-person shooter setting.

Unfortunately, the story is only as immersive as I just described. Good luck figuring out the incredibly confusing static clips that flash from time to time in-between levels, or making sense of anything else for that matter. This is clearly a game where you’ll identify the antagonist and deal with the game’s attempt to flesh itself out just to finish it and see if the ending is worth a damn.

The time mechanics are just as widespread in the realm of puzzle-solving as they are in combat. The physical elements of fire and electricity nullify when time is frozen, allowing players to cross seas of electrified water or burning hallways with ease. Some of the puzzles are pretty clever, but I will admit getting to the 21st of 24 levels and quitting because I just could not figure out one of the puzzles.

This is one of the game’s biggest flaws: some of its time mechanics are inconsistent. In the part which I was eventually road-blocked, I was supposed to traverse a giant wind tunnel, reversing time to pull myself away from the fan blades that the wind tunnel would otherwise suck me into. Sometimes my time-rewinding ability would deplete in a few short seconds, and other times I would almost make it across the wind tunnel before time reset and I was quickly turned to bloody chunks. When it is taken into account that time powers tie in directly to regenerating health and getting away from enemies, this can be incredibly frustrating.

Also, trial-and-error is a big problem, partly in thanks to what simply has to be considered some of the best A.I. in a shooter this year. I definitely did not expect Saber Interactive to work on an A.I. system that, at times, is completely ruthless and utterly brilliant. Far from the best thing to do is hiding behind a crate and expecting to sit unharmed while your shields respawn and enemies wait for another chance at killing you. They will definitely throw a grenade your way, or flank your position from all sides, if possible. Using time powers on any difficulty other than the Casual (Easy) one is absolutely vital to getting through most of the game’s battles.

The weapons are pretty fun to use, and each has multiple functions. My favorite is the crossbow, which comes with a sniping scope and can be used perfectly with time-stopping powers to pick off any faraway target with an explosive bolt. The grenades are also pretty fun to use, and their blast radius is quite refreshing—it resembles the generous explosion bubbles of grenades from older games more than the realistic blasts from newer games. The time abilities in themselves are a lot of fun to use, and even if the game’s weapons were essentially very boring and had only a single feature, TimeShift would be fun to play.

An online multiplayer mode complete with several game options (deathmatch, capture the flag, etc.) is also included, so anyone taking a break from their Halo 3s and Call of Duty 4s might enjoy kicking back and throwing some time grenades at their online opponents. There are a lot of Xbox 360 Achievements to be unlocked on Xbox Live as well, so that is another draw to the multiplayer, which is pretty solid in itself. Altering time and fighting friends might seem like a bad idea, but it works out pretty well.

You will find better-looking games, but TimeShift definitely doesn’t disappoint in any area. Perhaps gamers will get tired of the propaganda-dotted streets and munitions warehouses, but I felt like everything in TimeShift had a constant and effective style—besides the time suit design. I was happy to only see the suit a few times in the game’s (very confusing) cut-scenes, because I felt like the slick black suit and sharp yellow-tinted visor, which looked like it would be at home in Metroid, contrasted the more Killzone-like level design and Half-Life 2 dystopian backdrop. Explosions look fantastic, particularly with time slowed or frozen. There are a few lazy textures here and there but nothing looks anything short of good from afar, and nothing short of decent up close.

I thought I would tear my ears off before the end of the urban levels, only because of the constantly-streaming propaganda and frequent repetitions of overhead announcements whenever I would pull a switch or activate something in the environment. In fact, I felt like there were a lot of annoying bleeps and bloops in this game, which contrasted the loud gun effects and satisfying background music.

TimeShift came out at the worst possible time, just weeks after Halo 3 and before Call of Duty 4. To compare it to those games, TimeShift can’t compete. It just does not nail down all of its mechanics well enough. Still, this is far from an excuse to miss out on the fun of the “fourth dimension” of time-altering. Shooter fans will probably feel very satisfied to rent TimeShift, play through its best parts, and finish it in a few days.

Graphics: 8.5
Sound: 6
Gameplay: 8.5
Creativity: 6.5
Replay Value/Game Length: 8
Final: 7.7
Written by Cliff Review Guide