Timeshift Review - 13/11/2007

Sierra and Saber Interactive are responsible for TimeShift, a time manipulating sci-fi FPS that has finally hit store shelves after numerous delays and a major overhaul to its graphics engine and core gameplay. So, has it all been worth it?

Well unfortunately, it doesn't quite hit the mark in every area. From a technical standpoint, it's admittedly hard to fault, which shows that in some ways, TimeShift has benefitted from those extra months of care and attention. It's a good looking game, with some very nice visual effects and clever use of lighting and atmosphere that make the levels appear larger than they really are. The pace of the game rarely lets up, as you find yourself thrown straight into the action playing as an anonymous time bending super soldier. The tone is set for an entertaining series of intense FPS action sequences with a temporal twist, but this is where TimeShift begins to transform into something of a letdown.

Fundamentally, there's nothing wrong with the premise of the story or the concept behind your time altering abilities. Infact, compared to a lot of the rubbish that finds its way into the hands of gamers nowadays, TimeShift certainly has the production values to compete with the bigger releases of this year. However, as you gradually progress further into the game, you soon realize that a lot of what is presented to you does not make for very satisfying gameplay. For example, enemy soldiers don't react to the impacts of your weapons' fire, which means the only option you have is to pump them full of lead until they drop down. The combat isn't very interesting, and the basic physics system in the game means that the death animations repeat very often and quickly spoil most encounters. The action itself is so run of the mill that any moment of visual or auditory brilliance seems out of place amongst the average gameplay mechanics. There is fun to be had, but these and other similar oversights only added to our frustration. The truth is, TimeShift doesn't have any standout "wow" moments that make you want to draw comparisons with similarly amazing sequences from other FPS titles. There isn't a great deal that sets it apart from the rest.

The one element that does help give TimeShift an identity of its own is the various time powers that you have access to. They come in three flavours, allowing you to pause, stop, and rewind time at any point during the game in order to gain a further tactical advantage. A neat little feature is your ability to rip guns from the arms of soldiers frozen in time, only to watch them stare in confusion as you blast them with their own weapon once time resets. It's ironic that these abilities (arguably representing TimeShift's most entertaining feature) are also responsible for lowering the overall difficulty of the game to the point where the single player feels unbalanced. Even on the higher difficulty settings, a clever use of cover and a quick burst from one of your powers is enough to see you through most situations. While this promotes a more laid back, pick up and play attitude to approaching the game, the lack of a greater challenge is still something of a letdown.

Then of course there's the multiplayer, which is actually quite a pleasant surprise seeing as how every "next-gen" game that gets released nowadays seems to have something that needs to be patched or addressed right from day one. Online games consist of standard deathmatch options, but what makes them so surprisingly enjoyable is the introduction of some of the temporal powers from the single player. As a result, TimeShift's online set up can rival the pace of major franchises such as Unreal Tournament. Infact, if it weren't for the availability of these time powers in the multiplayer it would be a largely average affair.

Our favourite weapon, a grenade that creates a bubble of delayed time that slows down the movement of anyone passing through, led to some very amusing encounters that held our attention more effectively than anything found within the single player campaign. This is a perfect example of a game bringing something new to the mix and using it to build upon standard FPS multiplayer gameplay, rather than bog it down with extra superfluous features. There was very little lag to speak of and plenty of games to jump into, across a nice variety of maps. In this regard, TimeShift is a resounding success, but the single player leaves much to be desired, and the multiplayer alone isn't enough for us to recommend this as a must have title.

As you have probably gathered, it has been quite a journey bringing TimeShift to store shelves. To put it bluntly, an extended development time can be a blessing or a curse to some games. Even after a thorough playtest, TimeShift remains difficult to define. On the one hand, it's a straight up shooter that, refreshingly, doesn't try to "reinvent the genre" or boast "revolutionary next-gen gameplay". On the other, TimeShift lacks a certain defining quality of its own that leaves it obscured by the countless other sci-fi FPS titles already out there. It's entertaining in places, and the multiplayer is definitely above average, but overall this is a disappointing game that should have been so much more.

- Jon Titmuss



Saber Interactive
PC - 360 - PS3