After numerous delays over the past couple of years, it looked like TimeShift wasn't going to happen. In fact, it had been missing from the gaming radar for so long that many people assumed that it had just stopped production, despite being touted as revolutionary at the time. In early 2007, it was announced that the game was getting a complete overhaul and fixing many bugs, which drastically improved some portions of the game, and completely altered the graphical style for the better. So now that the game has been released and we've had a chance to play it for ourselves, the question must be 'was it worth waiting for?' The answer is unfortunately 'no, not really'. While the game does many things right, too much of it comes off as a bit stale in comparison to the many other shooters that have been released. However, had TimeShift seen its initial release date over a year ago, things might have been a bit different.
The premise of TimeShift is that it's not like your ordinary shooting games. As well as the several weapons you'll come across within the game, you're also given a bunch of cool powers which enable you to manipulate time in different ways. Slowing down, pausing or rewinding time is of course an incredibly valuable tool when you have several enemies firing heavy weaponry at you, so it's up to you to implement these abilities into each situation so that you come out of it alive at the end. Your character is unaffected by the shifting of time, so if you use pause, everything is paused except you, and in slow motion, you run at a normal speed.The premise of time manipulation in video games certainly isn't unheard of - surely everybody has experienced Blinx or Prince of Persia at some point, for example - but it's not something that has been placed properly into a FPS before, so in that regard at least, TimeShift manages to do something to set it apart from other shooters on the market.
In terms of narrative, TimeShift is somewhat confusing, because most of the story is given in a series of flashbacks that are intentionally glitchy in presentation. It may create a nice 'what the hell is going on?' effect, but it doesn't help your understanding very much. Basically, without spoiling too much, an incredibly powerful suit is created that allows its user to manipulate time without being affected by it. You end up with it and have to stop a bad guy from taking over the world. It's a bit more complicated than that of course, but that's the gist of it without completely ruining the plot for you. The story is fairly unimportant though in the grand scheme of things. It feels like the game was created with all these different ideas about altering time to get further ahead, and the whole thing was built around those ideas.
While it is definitely fun to use your powers the first few times, it does get a little repetitive. Obstacles that are put in your way eventually feel like frustrations. You're going to be reversing time to move debris out of your way and freezing time to walk on water several times throughout the game; you'll also be pausing time to keep doors open a fair bit. For the most part, the tasks are mundane, though the game does throw some interesting curve-balls your way at times which really require you to think on your feet. Unfortunately, rather than having to select which time power you want to use in each situation, the game will automatically choose for you the best one to use. Which means if you're stuck, just press the main time button and keep your eyes open and you should be able to work out what to do. It takes some of the puzzling elements out of the game, which keeps it heavily focussed on the action.
Luckily, there's lots of action in TimeShift. Enemies will attack in full force, usually in packs of 5 or more. Veteran shooters are laughing at the moment thinking that isn't very many, but the fact is that these enemies are reasonably strong. In fact, despite the fact that they are human, many of them will literally require several shots with your average weapon just to kill them. Factor in that your health drains fairly quickly and you don't always have lots of ammunition backing you up, and the battles become quite difficult if you tackle them like in any other standard shooter. You really need to use your time powers to survive these confrontations. It's not so much a recommendation as it is a necessity, and even then the battles aren't easy.
Using your time powers degrades a bar which limits just how much you can use them, so after slowing down or pausing time for a few seconds, you're left powerless until that bar refills. Given that sometimes the amount of enemies is up to around 15-20 (especially later in the game), picking the most opportune moment to use your powers is absolutely crucial. One particularly cool trick also allows you to physically take an enemy's weapon out of their hands and use it against them, leaving them confused and hopefully dead. It's a novelty though and you'll find yourself more often than not freezing time, killing as many enemies as you can until time returns to normal, and then taking cover until your time power bar fills up again, before repeating the steps over and over again until all the enemies are dead. As the game goes on and the enemies get stronger, there really is nothing else you enjoy seeing less than that screen which informs you that you have died.
Some parts of TimeShift look fantastic, while others look generic and uninspired. One of the best visual treats occurs when there is rain falling from the sky; reversing time causing the water to go back up towards the sky is fun to watch, and running through the droplets in a paused state is certainly pleasing to the eye. Some of the levels of the game don't look bad either, but a lot of the art direction is very simple with lots of dark colours and not much detail. The character models also look average at best, and the game dips in framerate every now and then. The sound here also isn't really noteworthy, featuring the standard gunfire and yelling that you'd expect from a game of this type.
The multiplayer modes are perhaps the best reason to pick up the game, as they're fast paced and frantic in a full game of people. It also adds the time-powers into the mix, except not in the same way they are utilized in the single player mode. Throwing a 'chrono grenade' causes a small sphere to appear upon its explosion, and the time effect of your choice takes place within that sphere. This means that you can effectively trap other players in slow motion or in a paused state, which gives you an obvious advantage. It actually works quite well and prevents the multiplayer portion of the game from degrading into your standard shooting deathmatch.
TimeShift is one of those games that would have succeeded and probably succeeded greatly if it had been released about a year ago. With competition including Call of Duty 4, Halo 3 and The Orange Box, it's quite difficult to place this game on the same level. It has a challenging campaign and includes the usual multiplayer modes, but apart from the novelty of manipulating time, the whole thing is a rather generic experience from start to finish. Add in the fact that the AI is unrelenting and sometimes frustratingly difficult along with the very linear way in which the majority of time manipulating puzzles are organized, and TimeShift just doesn't hold up against the competition. If you can find it cheap, it may be worth your time and money - just don't expect something revolutionary.