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

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Xbox/PC Preview - 'TimeShift'

by Rainier on Jan. 1, 2006 @ 1:30 a.m. PST

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: Atari
Developer: Saber Interactive
Release Date: Fall 2005

If there’s one thing I took away from Time Shift, it’s slow-motion clouds of gore.

As the name might suggest, Time Shift is concerned with issues of time-travel, and grants the player the ability to stop, slow down, or totally rewind time around his onscreen self.

This allows you, among other things, to blow a man into a messy red spray, complete with flying chunks of human meat, then stop time so you can admire the effect. It’s really very Jackson Pollock, in its way.

When that wears thin, you can allow time to resume its ordinary course, so the dead guy’s bits fall down. You could also opt to slow down time, but at that point, you’re just being morbid. Finally, you can rewind time, reassembling the chunks into a functioning human.

Your time abilities stem from your character’s Quantum Suit, a top-secret military device that’s markedly more valuable than your character is. Following the disastrous results of a time-travel experiment, your character, Colonel Albert Swift (Ret.), is first flung back to 1900, and then forward again to a 21st century that he no longer recognizes. Your goal, then, is to figure out who caused the changes to the timestream, and how to set them right again.

Time Shift, beyond that, is a deliberate attempt to set the conventional “rules” of first-person shooters on their head. When you first see it, it’s a bit unremarkable; it’s a good-looking, smooth FPS with a serious amount of gore and some truly high-powered weapons. Imagine Unreal Tournament 2004 at max resolution, if every other weapon turned its target into something not unlike jambalaya. It’s only after you watch Time Shift for a while that you see how it subverts some of the basic rules.

Your character is a self-contained unit, and there are no caches of weapons or ammunition. Instead, you’re meant to treat your weapons as disposable; you grab guns from dead enemies, fire them empty, and throw them away. You can carry up to three guns at once, such as laser crossbows, automatic pistols, shotguns, assault rifles, rocket launchers, and something ominous that I did not see called the Swarm Cannon.

At the same time, there are no health pickups. The Quantum Suit’s medical technologies run off the same power supply as the time powers. When you’re injured, you can opt to heal yourself, but that’ll use up power that you could be using to alter the flow of time.

That, in fact, is the most obvious innovation in the game, for a host of reasons aside from the obvious. Your character’s immune to the suit’s powers; when you alter the fourth dimension using the suit, you stay exactly the same. If you try to rewind time to prevent yourself from taking damage or stumbling off a cliff, it won’t work. Your time powers aren’t a panic button, but they aren’t just a combat maneuver, either.

Time Shift provides you with a variety of scenarios over more than thirty-five levels, and in many of them, you’ll need to figure out the best way to change the flow of time before you can proceed. You can rewind time to stop a distant sniper’s shot from going off, or stop it so a falling plank provides a useable stepping stone. In one stage, you need to use a branch balanced on a rock to reach the top of a cliff, but your weight drives it down as you climb it. If you stop time, however, the branch can’t react to your weight.

When you’re confronted with a huge group of enemies, you can slow them down to give yourself an edge, but you could also stop time and run straight past them without a fight. If you’re trying to reach an area stealthily, you can bulldog into an enemy base, then rewind time so none of them ever saw you coming in. The idea here is to force the player to “think in four dimensions,” as the developers put it. You’ll need to get a little creative.

Right now, the unknown factor in Time Shift is its multiplayer mode, which is still in development. The big stumbling block, according to the developers, is how the time-travel element will fit in, as nobody wants to play a game where everyone freezes when one person stops time.

If I can say nothing else about Time Shift, it’s that the developers are really doing their damnedest to make a solid, innovative title. The overwhelming impression I got at the demo was that Saber Interactive’s had a few too many bad reviews, and now they’re setting out to make an indisputably triple-A title. After watching Time Shift in action, I can say that they’re on the right track. I’m looking forward to being able to play it for myself and see.

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