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TimeShift

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Genre: Action
Publisher: Vivendi
Developer: Saber Interactive

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Xbox 360 Preview - 'TimeShift'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on Oct. 17, 2007 @ 7:04 a.m. PDT

TimeShift is an innovative FPS in which players control time to complete missions and defeat foes, TimeShift will leverage first-of-its-kind gameplay abilities and functionality, the latest graphics technology, and high production values to create a truly unique action game experience.

Genre: Action
Publisher: Sierra Entertainment
Developer: Saber Interactive
Release Date: October 30, 2007

Early in the Xbox 360's lifespan, a TimeShift demo was packaged with an issue of Official Xbox Magazine, and it was met with cold responses, considered difficult to control and awkwardly designed, and just not very good. Realizing that releasing the game in this condition would be a bad move, Saber Interactive took an extra year to completely revamp the title, giving it a new storyline, updating graphics and drastically touching up, fixing or otherwise improving its overall quality. Finally approaching its release, TimeShift is now a much different, and better-looking, animal.

TimeShift places you in the shoes of a nameless scientist working on a time travel project for the government. As the project nears completion, one of the other scientists, who goes by the friendly name of Krone, steals the prototype Alpha Suit, which grants its wearer the ability to perform uncontrolled time travel. He goes on a murdering spree, kills every other scientist on the project and plants a bomb to eliminate any trace of his actions. Your only hope for survival lies in the Beta Suit, which teleports you from the laboratory moments before Krone's bomb obliterates it. Unfortunately, being a time travel suit, it sends you backwards after Krone into a twisted alternate timeline where Krone, using the power of the suit and his own advanced technology, has taken over the world. Your character is quickly drafted by the resistance forces, who hope to stop Krone before his monkeying with time becomes irreversible.

TimeShift plays much like most post-Halo FPSes. The controls are very similar, with the primary weapon being mapped to the right trigger, secondary weapon to the left, grenades to the right bumper and various actions, such as melee battle and reloading, to the face buttons. Much like Halo, TimeShift's protagonist wears a futuristic suit of armor that gives him recharging shields. If you take damage, the shields drop, but if you wait long enough, they'll recharge. It's a fairly common setup, and FPS vets will have little to no trouble jumping in and mastering the basics in a matter of moments. However, that isn't to say that TimeShift doesn't have a few twists and turns in store.

Unfortunately for your scientist, the Beta Suit is damaged fairly early on, eliminating its ability to travel to different eras or even return to your native time. However, the durable suit is in good enough shape to make minor alterations to the space-time continuum for everyone but its wearer, although it does have limitations. The more you use it, the longer it takes to recharge, and certain powers require more energy than others. Wasting your time-shifting powers on minor foes could leave you in deep trouble when a squad of nastier enemies shows up, or when you desperately need its temporal energies to solve a timed puzzle.

When the first power, Time Slow, is active, everyone but the protagonist slows to a crawl. It's difficult for enemies to shoot you when you seem to be moving around so quickly, and they make slow and easy targets for your own bullets. Likewise, enemy projectiles, like missiles and rockets, move slowly enough to shoot, allowing you to turn particularly nasty weapons against their users. The best part about Time Slow is that it requires the absolute minimum amount of time-shifting energy to use, so in long battles, it will be your very best friend.

Time Stop is by far the most powerful ability that the suit offers. It stops time for a few brief moments, during which you can move around freely while everything else in the world is frozen solid. Furthermore, any actions you take, such as whacking an enemy with your melee attack, don't take effect until the Time Stop ends, so hitting an enemy with the butt of your gun four times and then starting time again means he'll feel the impact of all four attacks at the same moment. Painful, to say the least. Time Stop even allows you to steal the gun right out of the enemy's hands, leaving the poor guy unarmed and at your mercy once he wakes up. However, Time Stop requires a lot more time-shifting energy than any other power, and using it only gives you about five seconds before you're fully drained, so using it in combat requires careful planning. Time Stop will primarily be used for the title's many puzzles, so you can gain access to areas that are normally impossible to reach. Being able to stop the environment means that you can render fire harmless and transform water into a solid surface on which you can walk.

The final power is Time Reverse, which lets you reverse the flow of time and "rewind" everything back to an earlier state. You can do just about anything with this power, from "unexploding" a building to reversing the flow of water and bringing the dead back to life. One of the limitations is that it doesn't work on the hero; no matter how much damage you take, bullets you expend or cliffs you accidentally leap over, Time Reverse won't change what happens. This skill can be useful for solving puzzles, but it can't be used as an emergency escape method, and the player has to be cautious about that. The other limitation is that, in order to preserve the space-time continuum, the player can't influence any of the events that occur during a Time Reverse. This means you can't shoot enemies while you're trapped in a Time Reverse, rendering this skill largely useless for combat, although in the right hands, it can still be an incredibly powerful ability.

Keeping track of all of these different powers may sound like quite a task, but TimeShift actually works to keep it as easy on the player as possible. The Beta Suit has a built-in AI capable of managing temporal functions and tactics. What this means is, quite simply, you have an assistant who can select the best power for a situation. Simply tap the TimeShift button, and the suit's AI will automatically pick the optimal power for whatever puzzle or enemy you're currently facing. For players who prefer to do this themselves, however, fear not, as TimeShift also offers a quick and easy method for manual time control. Hold down the TimeShift button, and each of the Xbox 360's face buttons corresponds to one of the three TimeShift powers. If you press the button, the power is activated, or press the A button to end the power.

Beyond the main game, TimeShift also offers a really interesting multiplayer experience. TimeShift is, of course, all about altering the flow of time, which is rather difficult to do in multiplayer matches because no one wants to be stuck in a random corridor for a few minutes just because someone on the other side of the map activates Time Stop. The developers came up with a very creative and interesting solution to this: The TimeShift button in single-player mode is replaced by Time Grenades, which create bubbles of distorted time and engulf players in their radiuses.

There are three different kinds of Time Grenades, each of which corresponds to a particular kind of power. Rather than picking up Time Stop grenades as weapons, they are powered by a Chrono Energy Meter, which fills with time, and each grenade requires a specific amount of time before it's full. Time Slow Grenades are the "cheapest" by far and work just like their single-player counterparts; everything in the field is slowed down, making it difficult, if not impossible, to target enemies outside the field, while leaving you a sitting duck for anything outside of it. The Time Stop Grenade stops any people caught in its range, as well as anything that enters the field. While this means that it isn't possible to kill an enemy while he's inside the field, the moment that the grenade's effect wears off, he's going to be hit at once by every single bullet, rocket and plasma blast. Finally, the Time Reverse grenades rewind everything in their effect, so it's not useful for combat, but very useful for base defense or more unusual tactics.

TimeShift's multiplayer includes all of the usual game modes. You have a healthy mix of team and single-player game types, all of which are made unusual and fun by the inclusion of the Time Grenades. There are even a few gameplay modes that take full advantage of the unique time effects caused by the grenades. One of the most fun involves two teams, each with a Temporal Generator that slowly counts down to zero, and the winning team is the one whose generator reaches zero first. This means your goal is to reach the enemy's base with a full Chrono Meter and toss the most powerful grenade you can at its generator, slowing, stopping or even reversing it. With modes like this, TimeShift is setting itself up to be an excellent multiplayer experience — one 360 owner will want to check out.

Graphically, TimeShift has come a long way since the lackluster demo. Everything has taken a leap up in graphical quality, from the basic stage design to the enemies themselves. Rivals are fairly impressive in their details, they can take rather violent and gruesome damage from your weapons, guns can be shot out of hands and helmets can twist and fall off. The TimeShift effects are particularly impressive, and watching a Time Reverse in motion is a lot of fun. Likewise, the audio presentation for TimeShift is well done. While your hero is the Gordon Freeman-style mute protagonist, the rest of the characters are quite vocal. The actors are all solid and never sound awkward or confused. Likewise, the music is interesting, if just a bit bland, but fitting for the various scenarios.

TimeShift is amazing, simply for how much it has improved since it originally debuted during the 360's early days. Even if you ignore the fact that the title has come such a long way, TimeShift is shaping up to be a really fun FPS. The various time-shifting abilities add a lot of tactical ideas to combat, and the puzzles are fun without being particularly intrusive. The multiplayer in particular is looking to be something that gamers will come back to time and time again, if just for the curiously fun Time Grenades. While it may be difficult for gamers to draw attention to this long-absent title in the wake of Halo 3 and The Orange Box, TimeShift is certainly a title that Xbox 360 owners won't want to ignore.


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