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Xbox 360 Review: TimeShift

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With an uncontrollable flood of titles coming out this fall and winter on just about every single gaming platform, it’s easy for a game or twenty to get lost here and there. TimeShift is one of those titles, though Sierra has hoped that the game’s time-bending elements would help it stick out more among the Halos and Call of Duties of the gaming world.

Well, they succeeded… kind of.

The bad news about TimeShift is that all the hallmarks of a generic FPS title are here:

Set in a dystopian future world that's full of conflict? Check.

An art style involving shades of gray and brown? Check.

Giant spider-like things that Halo helped popularize? Check.

A first level that plays like a tutorial? Check.

Even though it suffers from these generic elements, TimeShift does some things that will make it stand out among the FPS crowd. Like Blinx the Time Sweeper and Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, TimeShift features time-manipulating controls, perhaps the first time such a feature has ever been added to a FPS title. You can pause, rewind, or slow down time thanks to the advanced technology of the protagonist’s Beta Suit, and these powers become necessary to use throughout the game.

The powers are very easy to use with the press of a single button, and while the game will pick the best time power for you, it’s easy to override that choice by pressing one of the four face buttons. For example, you might have a bridge in front of you that just got blown up, but by rewinding time, you’ll be able to cross the bridge while it’s intact. The implementation of these powers in the game actually fits well and adds something of a puzzle element to TimeShift: knowing what powers to activate and when is key to success.

The game brings with it a good challenge for FPS veterans. Enemy troops often don’t go down to just one headshot from a regular weapon – because they’re usually wearing helmets? – and there are three different difficulty settings to pick from. Considering that it’s pretty easy to die on the lowest setting, and even easier to do so on the medium difficulty setting, this game is no cakewalk.

Enemy A.I. in TimeShift is pretty damn impressive. The enemies in this game will not only attack you the second they see you, but if you try to hide, they’ll hunt you down. Leaving a weapon on the ground in other FPS games is something you might get away with normally, but in TimeShift, unarmed enemies will pick those weapons right back up and start firing on you with them. The A.I. also responds appropriately – and sometimes humorously – to in-game situations. For example, if you pause time and steal an enemy’s weapon, they’ll wonder where their weapon went and start looking frantically for it. Fire a shot on an unarmed enemy, and you’ll sometimes see them crouch down and beg for mercy. These might seem like small things, but they greatly add to the game’s feel of realism, especially when compared to other FPS titles.

For the 15 other people who have TimeShift right now, there are also online multiplayer features, but these feel tacked on and unnecessary, plus it’s hard as hell to find other people to play with. Look, guys, not every single title you need to come out with needs online multiplayer, as I don’t think TimeShift would truly have suffered without it.

If there’s one thing TimeShift could’ve used a bit more of, it’s polishing. Certain elements, like the game’s sound and overall art style/design, feel like they could have been a lot better than they are. Sure, seeing that blood splatter onto your visor from a melee kill is nice – hey, it's rated M for a reason – but it only makes the gray world of TimeShift that much more colorless. Other elements, like level design and layout, could have also benefited from a bit of variety. I know I’ve said it about many other games that have come out this year, but I’ll say it again: this game has a solid base to build on for a future TimeShift, but as it stands, this game just suffers from unfulfilled potential.

TimeShift has some good things about it, but it’s just too damn generic to really stand out in this avalanche of games. While that sounds like a harsh insult calling this game a piece of crap, it’s not. It’ll make a good $25 steal in the future for 360 owners, but when you’ve got Halo 3 and Call of Duty 4 already on the market, you’re bound to get lost in the shuffle. Definitely give this one a rental, though. It’s at least worth that much of your time.

Pros: Great A.I. for a FPS title. Time-control elements are implemented very well. Offers a good deal of difficulty.

Cons: Reeks of generic FPS hallmarks. Online multiplayer is something that seems tacked on and you probably won’t use it. There’s a lot of potential here, but it seems partially unfulfilled.

TimeShift is rated M (Mature) by the ESRB for Blood and Gore, Intense Violence and Language. This game can also be found on: PC and PS3.

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About Brian Szabelski