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TimeShift

You’ve probably already played TimeShift before, even if you don’t know what TimeShift is. TimeShift is every first-person shooter that you’ve ever played. The only difference is that in while you’re treading through familiar situations and scenarios, you have the ultimate control: the control over time. Despite yet another promising gimmick, TimeShift falls into the same trap that ensnared other games that have relied on gimmicks for success (Red Faction comes to mind): standard gameplay combined with an under-utilized gimmick makes for an average game.

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TimeShift shares a familiar story – you play as an incredibly smart scientist who, after an experiment gone wrong, picks up weapons and fights for the freedom of humanity in an effort to right the wrongs that he feels responsible for inflicting on our species. The comparisons to Half-Life don’t end there: to get an advantage on his foes, he hops into a special suit that protects him as he travels through the war-torn remains of his former city.

Sadly, the familiar feelings don’t end there, either.

The whole of this game feels remarkably similar to several other FPS games. Every scenario, every situation just seems borrowed from every other FPS game on the market. Everything, from the puzzles to the enemy design, just feels the same and I couldn’t help but feel that it has all been done better elsewhere. But instead of using physics or blowing a whole in a wall to solve the problem, you either slow, stop, or rewind time to get by.

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“Every scenario, every situation just seems borrowed from every other FPS game on the market. “For example: in Half-Life 2 you used bricks to act as a counter-weight on a teetering beam to get up a high ledge, in TimeShift, you stop time and climb across it before gravity has a chance to work its magic on you. Instead of jamming an object into a set of fan blades with the Gravity Gun to get into a ventilation shaft ala Half-Life 2, you stop or slow time to gain access in TimeShift. These are the same puzzle that we conquered four years ago and, even with a new spin, they’re just not that interesting or unique. And not only will you feel like you’ve done them in other games a million times, you’ll have to complete the same puzzles over and over again a million times more in TimeShift. Stop time so you can avoid an electrical or fire hazard. Repeat. Stop time to get across a teetering beam. Repeat. Stop time before a gate or bridge becomes inaccessible. Repeat.

Of course, being compared to what is still considered one of the pinnacle offerings of the FPS genre isn’t really a bad thing when it’s done right. And, despite what has begun as a very negative review, TimeShift does do a few things right. The graphics engine is absolutely amazing, providing some really great water effects and some impressive dismemberment of your enemies. Combat in particular was a blast with the time powers. While slowing down time provides an experience not all that different than bullet time in Max Payne 2 (without the acrobatics, sadly), stopping time completely is an awesome and unique experience. There’s nothing quite like running into a swarm of enemies with the Scatter Gun (TimeShift’s shotgun), stopping time, filling all of their brains full of shotgun shells, and then watching them all fall to the ground simultaneously when time resumes. You can also rewind time, but I found for most of the game I never really had a need to use this feature, except for a few puzzles.

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“Despite what has begun as a very negative review, TimeShift does do a few things right.”Unfortunately, combat without the manipulation of time isn’t all that interesting and you’ll have to engage in it frequently. The nameless protagonist moves too slowly and his the suit feels too clunky and bulky. I found that enemies took far too many bullets to die, though headshots are effective for saving ammo and time. There were times when I unloaded an entire clip of ammo out of the Karbine (TimeShift’s assault rifle) into the chest of an enemy, watched him fall to the ground, only to watch him collect himself and start firing at me again. I don’t care how much armor you have, I am confident that no one would walk away from that. I was also disappointed by the simplicity of the artificial intelligence: all too often I was able to hide from a group of foes and pick them off individually as they came looking for me one at a time, instead of as a cohesive unit (perhaps I was spoiled by F.E.A.R.).

It really seems like the developers played through a bunch of the top-rated shooting games of the last few years and tried to throw them into one game. It seems like a recipe for success on paper, but in practice, it doesn’t work. For weapons, take a standard FPS arsenal, add Doom 3’s plasma rifle and Gears of War’s Torque Bow and you have TimeShift’s weapons catalogue (not that you’ll ever need to drop the sniper rifle, assault rifle, or shotgun throughout the game as ammo is always available for them and they’re incredibly practical tools). For the storyline and setting, just take Half-Life 2’s, get rid of the Gravity Gun and add in time manipulation. For enemy designs, borrow heavily from F.E.A.R. and Gears of War.

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Comparisons…If you’re interested in any of the other games we’ve compared TimeShift to, check out our reviews for: F.E.A.R., Half-Life 2, and Gears of WarAnd the biggest problem of all: all of those games are still better than TimeShift, despite their age. Half-Life 2 has a better story, F.E.A.R. has better combat (complete with bullet time) and Gears of War looks better. Maybe I’ve just played too many FPS games at this point, but considering how much I enjoyed the recent Medal of Honor: Airborne, I don’t think that’s the case. TimeShift’s time control features are certainly unique for a FPS game and it does add a lot to the combat. Unfortunately, it seems like that was the only original idea that the developers of this game had. It’s just too bad the developers couldn’t press the rewind button on our time and release this before their inspiration.

5 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is an Associate Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in February 2003.

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