The gameplay is as conventional as the game’s concept, which is probably more an advantage in this case than a shortcoming. Using any configuration other than that typical of first-person shooters would likely alienate users, so the standard dual-joystick controls are maintained, with one controlling the direction of motion and the other controlling the direction of view. And, naturally, there are readily accessible buttons for firing, changing weapons, reloading, and the other actions common to first-person shooters.
The viewpoint is, again, the standard for the genre, adopting the perspective of the main character and allowing users to see his/her weapon and the landscape beyond. The game proceeds in a typical mission-oriented fashion, as the player navigates through various settings with specified objectives that must be achieved. Multiple missions are often assigned simultaneously, but after completing several missions for a given level, the player is transferred to a new level and given new objectives. Numerous checkpoints are placed throughout each level to allow the user to save progress.
Of course, an implicit but important mission is that of staying alive, and the player will be forced to kill countless enemies and avoid various obstacles while fulfilling more explicit objectives. In order to aid in his/her efforts, the player has the use of a sophisticated combat suit, which will monitor vital signs, replenish health while idle, and grant ‘time-shifting’ capabilities to its wearer. These capabilities include the abilities to slow, stop, and reverse time.
It is the time-shifting aspect of the game that gives this otherwise ordinary first-person shooter some originality, but users should find the controls relatively straightforward. Pressing a button accesses the time-shifting controls, which are essentially play, pause, slow motion, and rewind commands associated with buttons on the controller, similar to the remote control for a DVD player. While this ability may seem entirely unfair, there is an energy meter that only allows limited use of time-shifting capabilities, although it will replenish when time-shifting is not in use.
While the graphics for the game are good, they do not exceed any contemporary standards and are as conventional as most other aspects of the game. Some creativity does appear in the various effects used to denote time-shifting, as the appearance of the game-world changes slightly when any of the time-shifting commands are used. There is also some originality in the game’s story, but nothing that will have you analyzing literary themes and motifs.
In fact, the story is even a little confusing at first, arising primarily from the decision to leave the main character unnamed, which makes it difficult for the user to identify his/her role. It turns out, though, that the main character (the user) was part of the research team developing the time-shifting combat suit. Dr. Aiden Krone, who was also working on the project, steals a prototype and travels back in time, detonating explosives that destroy the research facility and kill most of the team as he departs. The main character escapes the explosion by using another suit to travel back in time as well, landing in an alternate time stream where Krone is the leader of an authoritarian government that controls the land. Unfortunately, this suit has been damaged, leaving you with the ability to only minimally manipulate time.
You then aid the resistance in opposing Krone, with the ultimate goals of stopping him, restoring full functionality to your suit, and preventing his time stream from adversely affecting the time stream from which you came. Along the way, the user discovers more about the main character and about the functionality of the suit and of the time travel it allows.
In case it hasn’t come across clearly enough, TimeShift is an otherwise unremarkable first-person shooter with a gimmick (which is also ironically conventional, as all first-person shooters require a gimmick in order to be marginally marketable). While the time-shifting capabilities imbue the game with a nominal level of originality, this device isn’t enough to demand your attention any more than the myriad other first-person shooters with mildly creative angles.
That’s not to say that you should avoid the game, though. Just as it is not really any better than other first-person shooters, it is no worse either. The game does at least force users to master the suit’s time-shifting abilities. In addition to some situations that explicitly require time-shifting, there are far too many adversaries, confrontations, shootouts, and explosions to survive without some calculated use of time-shifting.
While time-shifting adds enough originality to sustain temporary interest, though, the game experience is not compelling enough to warrant extended play. The creativity of the game essentially fizzles out after time-shifting loses its novelty, and the challenge and difficulty of gameplay also decline as experience with time-shifting increases, making the game relatively easy once time-shifting is mastered.
The multiplayer mode might give the game more lasting appeal for some users, as the novelty of time-shifting maintains relevance longer in the varied and highly customizable multiplayer styles. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to use time-shifting to thoroughly dominate your friends or complete strangers, as time-shifting operates on a more restricted scale in multiplayer mode. For multiplayer games, “time grenades” are used to create temporary spheres where the flow of time is altered.
To this point, I’ve emphasized that the game is as an ordinary first-person shooter. However, that doesn’t mean it’s not fun, and people who enjoy other first-person shooters should enjoy this one as well. Even when the novelty of time-shifting wears off, it’s still fun to play around with it and use it to humiliate unsuspecting CPU-controlled characters by making enemies easy targets or sneaking in to steal a weapon.
And with a plethora of enemies that require quick and efficient disposal, the game certainly never lacks action. There are also some enjoyable aspects associated with the guerilla resistance in which the main character is involved, as the user will often be placed in small groups that must attack enemy units and positions using strategy rather than brute force. Similarly, proper use of time-shifting requires some strategy because the ability is not available limitlessly. This requires a certain level of skill and maintains some user interest by dictating that attacks must be somewhat calculated in order to succeed.
Essentially, TimeShift is just as entertaining as a typical first-person shooter, but the unique time-shifting aspects inject some additional fun into the gameplay.
Effectively a standard first-person shooter with a gimmick, TimeShift will not blow users away with its conventional gameplay, graphics, and futuristic dystopian story. However, it should be just as enjoyable as any other first-person shooter, perhaps even more so thanks to the time-shifting device, which remains fun even after its novelty has been exhausted. The time-shifting capabilities are well-integrated into gameplay and the game is certainly action-packed, which ensures at least temporary engagement. Ultimately, though, the game is not original enough to sustain extended play. Overall, TimeShift is neither extraordinary nor atrocious, a first-person shooter made slightly above-average by the inclusion of one major creative element.