”TimeShift” is tardy but tasty. The game changed publishers in 2006, and was delayed while developers took a year to rebuild it. This sort of shuffle doesn’t typically bode well for a game, but in this instance, it turned out to be time well spent. The game is a solid shooter that gives players an exciting bag of tricks to take out enemies. Competing against “Halo 3” and “Call of Duty 4” this holiday season will be tough, but “TimeShift” should attract at least a cult following well into the future.
Developer Saber Interactive apparently made this game on the premise that watching someone get shot in slow motion never gets old, and they’re mostly correct. “TimeShift” is to shooters what Sam Peckinpah was to Westerns.
Having the power to slow and even stop time is like playing through a game with built-in cheat codes. Having trouble lining up a sniper shot against a nimble opponent? Pause time. Want to set up a coordinated ballet of flying bodies? Freeze time, unload a few shotgun rounds into several bad guys, then unfreeze time and watch their bodies react simultaneously. Incoming grenade? Rewind time and step out of the way. Gamers saw many of these tricks in 2003’s “Prince of Persia: Sands of Time,” but this is the first game that builds these tricks into a shooter.
The time powers feature impressive visuals and sound. Audio distorts as it should and the animation and weapon effects hold up wonderfully under slow motion. Combat is slick and gratifying, with enemies who go down shooting, helmets that can get smacked off and lots of ambient comments from confused witnesses. The graphics look great, from the spectacle of towering architecture to the minutiae of frozen raindrops.
About half way in, TimeShift mixes it up a bit by spreading the time powers around. Suddenly, the player isn’t the only one slowing time and zipping around or effectively vanishing when he stops time and runs away. This gives the game an effective third-person look at the time powers and adds a new level of difficulty to the battles.
A long campaign adroitly leads the player from battle to battle. The storyline follows a scientist in an experimental time travel suit chasing down a former colleague gone bad. This villain has retreated into an alternate history, where he uses time powers to establish a dictatorship, enforced by his own time commandos. Silly stuff, but it gets the job done and it allows for zeppelins, two-legged assault bots, and energy guns. There are some intriguing flashbacks teased out over the course of the game, but it all fizzles out when the story ends with a sudden whimper.
Multiplayer mode is less imaginative. It’s mostly the standard stuff players are used to from “Halo,” but with time grenades — weapons that pop open shimmering bubbles of distorted time. Catching an opponent in one of these bubbles makes him easier to shoot while he struggles through the molasses of slowed time. It’s a nice twist, but hardly as innovative as the tools available in the single-player campaign.