TimeShift Xbox 360 Review

May 30, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews & Features, Xbox 360, Xbox

If you were to hop in a time machine (if such a thing existed of course, which sadly it doesn’t) and travelled to a particular point in time, you would most likely see that TimeShift was set to be released as a last generation title and published by the ailing Atari. The game was then transformed into a shiny new generation offering, and due to their dire financial situation, Atari passed it along to Sierra who saw potential in its time control mechanics, and then did the silly thing and released it around the same time as the big guns (hahaha) of Halo 3, Call of Duty 4 and The Orange Box.

The story hasn’t been without its changes during its troubled development cycle, not least of which is the lead character, who was formerly a generic action hero, but is now a mute suited guy, with the idea being for you to project your personality on to him (much like the technique Valve utilized with Half Life, a game that TimeShift borrows much from). The bad guy also possesses a time controlling suit and guess what? It’s your job to stop him. Sadly, narrative wise, this is about as interesting as things get.

TimeShift is an FPS, with a robust game engine, that offers some beautiful visual effects and reasonably intelligent enemies, who do just enough ducking and scrambling for cover to feel as if they pose a threat, that’s if they’re not being slaughtered due to your godly time powers of course.

The time control business is now contextual, based on the situation at hand. For example, in close combat, pressing the magic time control button on your controller, will trigger your stop power, completely freezing all the enemies within your vicinity allowing you to go around stealing their weapons, or just simply shooting them in their frozen noggins, either way it’s a useful ability to have, perhaps a bit too useful.

These contextual time abilities weren’t in the earlier version of the game, but since there was concerns that people were just going to make use of the obvious most useful ability of stop, whilst overlooking the other powers, there was a little bit of a design rethink. But as these decisions can be overridden it’s still a bit of a problem, albeit less so than it was previously.

Time control, brings some clever new tactical advantages to gunfights. If there’s a grenade about to explode at your feet for example, halting time will allow you to evade it, before it has a chance to blow. Similarly, if there’s a rocket headed your way, pause or freeze time and shoot it right out of the sky.

Occasionally, you’ll come across a puzzle. Of course the vast majority of these involve time control, but since the required power is chosen just by simply again tapping that magical time control button, all the thinking is largely done for you, and the solutions are left blatantly obvious. Electrified water? Just stop time and walk across it as if you are God. The puzzles may not be taxing, but are a nice respite from the chaotic action all the same.

There are some online options, some of which are unique, time control is also implemented (but is executed by throwing time grenades) but none of this matters a jot when no one plays the damn thing. Certainly not a reason to buy the game then, at least not at this point in time anyway (everyone is still playing Halo 3, Call of Duty 4 and Team Fortress 2 after all).

The engine running TimeShift is an impressive one, that is both largely smooth and beautiful, particularly the earlier rain soaked town stages, that boasts some clever rain effects. The only problem here is that similarly to a large breasted blonde, its gritty visual style is familiar, and could have been used in any number of generic action games. The steampunk style that the game was initially going to use would have better served at giving the game its own identity.

TimeShift ticks all of the boxes of what makes an enjoyable FPS, the guns are fun to shoot, the enemies go down with cinematic flair, and the action is intense and bloody (comic book stuff, so please do calm down Mr Thompson). In spite of all this lovely goodness, it’s hard not to feel that TimeShift’s most important hook and the one that sets it apart from other shooters: your time abilities have unfulfilled potential, namely in the games’ hand holding puzzles. We can only hope that if TimeShift is to get a sequel (and the credits certainly suggest so) that the development team sort this out and craft a spectacular game, rather than the mere good one that we have here.