TimeShift made it’s debut in 2007, but even then it was a game that has been around for some time. Developed by Saber Interactive and originally due to be published by ATARI, April 2006 saw Sierra purchase the rights for the game. With it came a rather extensive visual overhaul.

TimeShift’s Timeline

After many rumours of cancellations, TimeShift had changed. The game was shown not to feature the original steampunk aesthetic, but rather more traditional sci-fi surroundings. Removed was Michael Swift, the title’s protagonist, and to replace him was in-fact a time-travelling suit. In a similar move to Digital Extremes’ underrated Dark Sector, the player’s avatar is almost faceless. Simply a vessel for your game-world embodiment. The real star is your abilities.

Beginning with a rather vague and slightly confused introduction, you board a suit and travel back to an alternative past. Here, a scientist has changed the world with his advanced technology. The first level of the game plods through your usual decaying dystopian city complete with large video screens relaying propaganda and armed personal marching the streets. It’s not exactly inventive stuff. But then, it is essentially built as little more than a playground for you to experiment in.

Shifting through Time

The title plays as most would assume. Shoot enemies with a variety of weapons to make it through linear levels. More-often-than-not, the level design consists of twisting corridors. You’ll find your objective in the very next room. Yet still, you’re required to go on an elongated expedition around empty corridors to a back entrance.

The vehicle which TimeShift hoped would grab it the much needed attention is that of the ability to control time. You can pause, slow and rewind time manually in order to solve puzzles and defeat enemies. The game offers an automatic selection dependent on your current activity and, for the most part, it’s reasonably accurate and a reliable aid to that which you hope to achieve. Unlike Full Auto and Prince Of Persia: The Sands of Time, the player is not affected by the alteration of time at their disposal, allowing for some rather cunning tactics.

TimeShift screenshot

Gods Don’t Use Guns

The environments frequently offer larger areas of sporadic cover and tight winding corridors between. As such, it often feels as though TimeShift is frustratingly unsure about exactly what kind of FPS it wishes to be. On the one hand encouraging God-like play with effective use of your time capabilities, while heavily limiting ammo.

This is presumably a mechanic incorporated to ensure use of the steal-weapon capability when time is paused. A feature that is positively unreliable at best, and has been compensated for by the fact that practically every enemy will drop their weapon when shot a couple of times. The result is requiring the player to run the length of the field, gather their ammo, run back to cover and recharge, before taking on the next line of guards.

More problems can be witnessed when roadside encounters often involve more enemy units than their bases. Either the enemy you’re facing is not very strategically smart, or the developer was given little thought to the placement of such enemies.

TimeShift has some Flashes of Brilliance

On occasion, TimeShift does demonstrate some very clever design. Act 3 includes a short climb through some scaffolding, objective enemy placement and a clever looping structure place this as a three-minute high-point. However, it is precursored by 10 minutes of frustratingly unbalanced gunplay. It’d be fair to say that, despite its elongated development period, TimeShift feels unfinished in places.

Events such as manning a turret or riding a motorbike offer a pleasant – if somewhat insignificant – distraction. Yet the latter features sound effects clearly demonstrating several gear changes with no change in on-screen animation whatsoever. You have to wonder whether some altogether hugely more orchestrated plan, akin to Halo 3 or Half-Life 2, was in-place before the drastic redesign took place.

Even at launch, much of the game felt somewhat dated. The gunplay amounts to little more than raw firepower and hiding when low on health tactics. Weapons have clearly been inspired by the first Perfect Dark – on the Nintendo 64 – and a lot of the menu screens and on-screen furniture is reminiscent of Judge Dredd: Dredd Vs. Death. Limiting your arsenal to only three weapons doesn’t have the same edge as when expertly demonstrated within the two-weapon limitation of the Halo series. You can still always retain the weaponry needed for any situation until you find the required ammo. There is little that will require you to change weapon-based tactics throughout the single-player campaign.

The Checkpoints are well placed throughout, bar a couple of sticking points, and the majority of players will most likely see the campaign through completion. Consisting of six Acts – the first five of which will take between an hour or two, and the last no more than 20 minutes – completion isn’t exactly the biggest challenge.

TimeShift screenshot

TimeShift Can be a Good Time

While the character models are clearly not on-par with likes of titles of a similar age, such as Halo 3, or Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, some of the scenery is very well realised. The weather effects are exemplary for the time, and still impressive today. Alternate death sequences and the likes are nice touches, but not frequent enough to constitute applauding the title for added variety; an aspect the title is lacking in almost all areas.

TimeShift wasn’t a failure. The game remains an enjoyable play and a worthwhile online attempt by Saber Interactive. Unfortunately, with a rather high-profile line-up released within a short timeframe there was simply very little room for it. Doing little new, TimeShift is a solid title, the lacks anything truly compelling. If you’re playing today, expect an enjoyable seven-to-eight hours run, but little else.

Categories: Games