Roughly ten to eleven years ago, TimeShift was finally launched on the seventh generation of consoles and Windows PC. The game was originally a title of the classic Xbox, but eventually was delayed and appeared later for Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. TimeShift is part of a small group of games that (back when new systems were popular) tried to introduce something new to the table in terms of technology, and not just graphics. TimeShift delivered just that, a unique first-person-shooter experience where players have the ability to manipulate time, slowing it down, stoping, or even rewinding it completely.
In the not-so-distant future, scientists came up with a time machine, and with all the possible advances humanity can accomplish with such device. Its the military progress that gained the most attention. Dr. Aiden Krone, is the director of the project, and his efforts resulted in two very special suits, the Alpha, and the Beta. They are both similar, but Beta has extra features and it’s an updated military model, thus an improvement. Things turn for the worse when Krone steals the Alpha suit and travels back in time to become the leader and sole ruler of Krone Magistrate. The result is terrible, and the world quickly falls under a tyrant.
Players take control of an unnamed scientist who takes the Beta suit, and goes back in time to the year of 1939, ending up joining the Rebellion against Krane, in order to take down his empire of oppression, and establish peace once again. Along his endeavour, small pieces of memory are unlocked through cutscenes, where the story unveils with further details.
Thankfully, TimeShift doesn’t show its best through the narrative, or storyline to be perfectly honest. The concept is good, but it’s just not that well explored, or even executed. Originally, the developers had other plans, but during development the idea went on towards having players feeling more immersive in the story, like they were the character, instead of just having a storyline to follow upon. Dialogues during cutscenes are just average and decent. During gameplay, NPC’s tend to repeat themselves and there’s barely any conversation beside orders and mission guidelines, which is fine for this type of game, but they could’ve done a much better job at it.
TimeShift is a pure First-Person-Shooter experience with no compromises when comes to action. No upgrades, no secrets to be found, no EXP to be gained, just simple, straightforward shooting with three difficulties to choose from; Easy, Normal and Hard. This is a perfect example of how FPS games used to be, when players had to be captivated by gameplay, and everything else was secondary. Doesn’t seem too long ago, but it’s clearly an image of a different generation. As in any other FPS, the rule of the day is action and weaponry! Players can only carry three guns at a time, doesn’t matter which ones, as long as there are only three. It’s a shame, considering some guns are extremely interesting and every single one has a secondary fire mode. We have a pistol, assault rifle, shotgun, a bullet-fire bursting gun with a flamethrower attached, sniper rifle, a crossbow and a heavy missile launcher. Pretty much all the goodies one can ask for, and we shouldn’t forget the reliable pack of three grenades, one can carry at any time.
The most important factor is without a doubt the time gimmick, and how players can manipulate it. The effect only lasts a few seconds, but it’s enough to provide the meanings for chaos and havoc! After being used, the time ability needs to recover, and can also be used to recover our protagonist’s health bar at a faster speed. One can also use it to complete short and simple puzzles like rewinding time to traverse a bridge after it collapsed, or slow down time to go through a door before it closes. It’s very simplistic, and is probably for the best, since this ability highlights the game during the combat. Enemies can be torn into pieces by stopping time and unload a full clip on them, or just slow them down to precisely throw explosive bolts, and admire your work as they explode rhythmically! What about stopping time, and steal an enemy gun? It’s hilarious how they react to such event. It’s a fantastic concept that pushes into something new rather than just copy the slow-motion effect like in Max Payne. It’s well implanted, and instead of slowing the player, it gives extra tools to pursue its goals in several possible ways.
Enemies don’t even know what hits them, but they are extremely tough, so remember to keep hitting them until they stop moving. Players will encounter the typical enemies, so often seen in games; Soldiers with or without armour, heavies with different weapons, and some special ones too, but I’m not going to spoil the surprise. In some chapters, players will take the help of the rebellion against large amounts of soldiers, but TimeShift won’t cheat on you, and everything you see, can be killed, without endless respawnable soldiers keeps spoiling all the killing. It’s satisfying to clear enemy upon enemy while stopping time completely, particularly in sniping missions.
Although it’s been over ten years, we can’t excuse the lack of some feature that were left off in TimeShift, and the first is the Bosses, as there’s just one, and it’s at the end, and even that one is barely a boss, considering it has a very cool, but yet, gimmick to defeat. Not a reason to complain, but considering our protagonist abilities, a couple of bosses would’ve suit well. Another major lacking feature is the Sprint or Run key, to increase player movement. Why wasn’t this an included feature is beyond me, as would actually be well implanted alongside time management. The last gameplay factor that wasn’t included at all, was any stealth elements, and obviously it’s not the point in the game, but it got me wondering, with all the possibilities, would be interesting to use them to sneak behind enemies without consequences.
(Although most levels are linear, they are still wide and dispersed. Here we can see a large warehouse, perfect for fast-paced battles.)
Visually, TimeShift shows its age in the textures, but increasing resolution is a great way to improve the overall quality. It’s still a console-port, even if it's possible to quick-save and load, subtitles are extra large, which are used for the “console experience”, and the same goes to the crossfire, being twice as big as it should be. If this issue is barely a problem, then you’ll enjoy the linear levels in relatively large sections, across a huge diverse world to fight next to the Rebellion. The adventure starts in a depressive rainy urban area, but across all desolation, players are taken to more vast and interesting sights, with snow mountains and green pastures.
Time effect looks pretty good, with the screen turning into a different color depend on what players are doing with time itself. Filters do look nice and blend perfectly well with the game. Design works are appealing and characteristic of its time, so players shouldn’t expect much more than that, but we still have a polished game with a good amount of attention to detail, particularly with weapons, and their respective effects.
The biggest turn off, and the only one related to this fantastic game, it's no more no less, the technical issues it still has to run. Steam version is not updated, and requires a manual update to version 1.2, which was only available in the retail version of the game in the United States market. Not alone that, the game won’t run well on modern CPUs with over 4 cores, thus reducing cores is required to properly run the game. Integrated GPU's are also an issue, and If that isn’t enough, digital versions are published by Activision, and we all know what means; No Updates, and No Major Steam Discounts. The game still offers basic but decent settings, although one might have better results changing settings through the user.ini file, such as FOV values.
(The flamethrower is the best close-range weapon. No one resists a good barbecue!)
Soundtrack turns out to be a surprise, with cool guitar riffs along the game as the atmosphere rises and the tension becomes the main focus. Classical waves invade a major part of the game, with beautiful voices echoing almost poetically through some of the less critical areas. The complete soundtrack features almost 60 minutes of ambient, classic and some neo-industrial synthesizer waves to go with. It’s a nice mix, especially for the ending credits, with a very beautiful track chosen. The soundtrack is Unlocked after completing the game, together with all the cutscenes, and dozens of concept artworks used in the game. It’s a bunch of cool extras, especially for free!
TimeShift is a great game, but has some technical issues that we cannot ignore. If one can look pass such, it’s a title that will deliver 10 hours of pure fun and solid moments of enjoyment. Games like these are no longer produced, and for better or for worse, TimeShift deserves every positive review it has, but it also deserved a better publisher, who could improve its performance to a wider audience. Alas, it is what it is!