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Xbox 360






Sierra / Vivendi



Saber Interactive



M (Mature)



October 30, 2007



- Big fans of first person shooters will find plenty of intense combat and challenging scenarios here

- Time-shifting suit controls are easy to use and very well integrated into the game

- The slow-motion and time-shifting special effects are excellent

- Great graphics, challenging level design



- If you’re not a big shooter fan, this title won’t convert you. It borrows very effectively from more cohesive recent titles to create a good FPS, but most of its best innovations involve A.I. and difficulty



Review: TimeShift (PS3)

Review: Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (360)

Review: The Orange Box (360)



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Score: 7.5 / 10


First person shooters have been enjoying the beginnings of a golden era, for the past couple of years. Whatever you think about the violence of the genre, it’s hard to overlook the advances that tactical shooters like the Ghost Recon and Call of Duty series have made in opponent A.I.; the immersive design and attention to detail that give the story some real heft in games like Halo and Bioshock; and the way most of those elements really start to come together in games like Gears of War.


timeshift          timeshift


Now there’s TimeShift, the new shooter developed by Saber Interactive and published by Sierra, which certainly deserves a spot somewhere in the ranks of this next generation of shooters, if more for the challenging, realistic feel of the AI and level maps than for its somewhat derivative story, environments or central gimmick.


That gimmick — a special suit that allows you to slow, stop and even reverse time — is activated by a tap of the left bumper on the controller. The suit itself will decide what’s best in a given situation, typically resulting in a Max Payne,




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bullet-time effect where your character goes on a slow-mo killing frenzy. Pick up and toss live grenades, disarm opponents and smack them with the butt of their own rifles, or just plain, old-fashioned, shoot lots of Nazi-esque bad guys, everything is slightly more awesome in slow motion. The suit controls can be easily overridden as well, using the face buttons.



That ease of use, paired with the suit’s quickly recharging energy meter, means that players can use these time control features often. And they’ll need to. There are a handful of simple puzzles that actually require the suit — such as timed gates that operate much too quickly for players to reach, or exploding bridges that players must turn back the clock in order to cross. But more than that, the game just constantly places players in realistic situations with smart enemies and overwhelmingly terrible odds.


Not that I’m describing this setting — a  late 1930s city, where Dr. Aiden Krone, a mad scientist, has traveled back in time to become tyrant of a broken, gray metropolis ruled by military force and retro-futuristic machines that one imagines must have played some role in his conquest—as “realistic.” It’s a good fictional backstory, rendered in excellent graphic detail, that lends itself to the fascist, dystopic messages that Krone drones from giant screens and loudspeakers positioned throughout the city. Sort of like Half-Life 2.


Instead, realism here means that almost everything that’s important, such as checkpoints, is heavily guarded. These areas are often fairly open courtyards and ruined parks, with narrow points of entry and exit, where trees, shrubs and fountains don’t make for very good cover. If you’re trying to sneak around in a drainage ditch, you’re vulnerable, and there are usually a whole lot of soldiers on bridges and nearby sidewalks that are trying to kill you.


timeshift          timeshift


Guards don’t stick to minor posts when they hear chaos erupting nearby, and if you are on open ground, they will quickly try to flank and surround you. If you run and hide behind a door or in a tunnel, they would rather call a couple of friends over and wait you out than give you any sort of clean shot. And, in a way that hasn’t been seen in most first person shooters for quite a while, tanks, turret guns and large groups of soldiers with automatic rifles that want you dead will all quickly achieve that result, even on the game’s easiest difficulty setting, if you don’t use your ability to control time.


TimeShift deserves a sincere recommendation to any hardcore shooter fan on that basis. It’s an uncompromised look at what it would be like to have the justification to go behind enemy lines and face entrenched, hostile forces, with an escape hatch that players can use at will—an escape hatch which treats those same hardcore fans to plenty of slow-motion ultra-violence. Check it out, that headshot is making dude do a backflip over nearby shrubbery. Where’s his helmet? Oh, it’s landing over there.


Basically, the AI, and the number of enemies in most battles, is comparable to the latest tactical shooters. But since you’re usually going it alone or sporadically fighting with a tiny handful of allies — making your ability to slow down time key to winning most fights—the game makes something of a mashup of the tactical and first person. You’re one guy doing the work of three here. And again, I was playing this on the “don’t forget to check your glucose levels, Captain Novolin” setting.


For my money though, titles like Gears of War and BioShock are still doing the heavy lifting in carrying this violent genre, and interactive entertainment in general, toward respectability. Add the Halo series in there as well, although the bulk of that franchise’s accomplishments were achieved in its first two iterations.


Gears and BioShock are immersive not because they have particularly complex plots or brilliant dialogue. Easily the most impressive thing about those games was their environments, which manage to convey a sense of loss — something difficult in any medium. Everywhere you turn in those worlds are signs that peace, prosperity and intellect were once there, and something that was beautiful has begun crumbling beyond repair. Those backdrops leave players constantly asking, “What was this place, and what led it to this?” around every corner. In both games, the plot and the dialogue eventually answer a lot of those questions, but leave plenty of satisfying blanks and dead air for players to fill in with their own imagination.


TimeShift shoots for that hoop, but it’s most definitely not an easy shot to make. With TimeShift, the price of admission gets you a very challenging shooter with a lot of fantastic special effects and excellent graphics, but not much else.


- M. Enis

(December 17, 2007)


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