Review: Timeshift – Saber Interactive – 360

Another shooter that got decent-to-good reviews which doesn’t actually deserve decent-to-good reviews. I picked it up cheap both on PC and months and months later for like $12 on 360 (yes, I’m a sucker), and have ended up playing it on the 360, partly because big screen and can’t be arsed installing, but mostly because I was looking for something semi-disposable I could put on and shoot away through while watching DVD commentaries for Goodfellas on the other TV.

Sometimes it takes a game like Timeshift to show just how well done something like Treyarch’s shooting mechanics are done on a game like CoD:WaW, which were criticised somewhat at the time. Seriously, this game’s shooting is shitty compared to WaW. A not-especially-intuitive control scheme doesn’t help either. The plot, such as it is, is told initially using some confusing and badly-paced and written cutscenes involving a magic suit, some scientists, a facility that becomes exploded, and you putting on the suit and being sent back to an alternate-reality 1939. Once there, you’re greeted by Orwellian viewscreens of the glorious leader guy doing his best Half-Life 2 impersonation while you hook up with a resistance group (how do I know they’re not the terrorist insurgents?) and proceed to begin to murder your way through about 9 million near-identical guys for the rest of the game.

This looks pretty unique, doesn’t it?

Yeah, there are only about a half-dozen different enemies. Soldier Guy (with and without helmet, in a few skintones). Worker Guy in jumpsuit (in a few skintones – identical to soldier guy but dies faster), then much later you meet Speedy Guy, Electric Shield Guy, Flying Guy and that’s it unless I’m about to meet some other slight variation on a theme. It’s pretty repetitive.

The 1939 thing is clearly to invoke an allusion to WW2 and the Nazis, and the bad guys you kill a lot of occasionally have a banner with a single Sig Rune on them, so that makes them clearly as bad as Hitler, though tyey also appear to be American, and have full racial integration in their army. Their gear in this alternative-1939 is a mixture of Starship Troopers armour (Verhoven version), Modern M4/203 type rifles, plasma guns, Chewbacca’s Boltcaster which fires explosive sniper bolts, jet packs, laser shields, giant walkers, quad bikes and so forth. You know, just like they had back in ’39. There are a couple of badly-designed airships and a silly looking seaplane, so I guess that’s the Steampunk nod.

Anyway, the gameplay. It’s mostly just a long-feeling very linear repetitive shooter. The game has 24 levels, and I have 6 to go. There’s repetitive shooting in tunnels, industrial areas, that warehouse that’s in every FPS game, several interchangable endless building complexes, some outdoor areas, and some train tunnels. There are pretty frequent puzzles that utilise the game’s point of differentiation, or gimmick – the timeshift device. Basically, you can use it to freeze time, slow it down, reverse it, or heal yourself (!?) Since your character isn’t some indestructible Marcus Fenix-type, you need to pretty much constantly use the slow and freeze abilities while in shootouts, or die. The puzzles aren’t too hard, and range from “Ok that was decent” to “Oh god, boring but tricky but painful.”

Brown, with some grey and some grey-brown to round things off..

Anyway, this is a bog-standard, completely-forgettable shooter with a dog’s breakfast of a plot (I turned the sound off after awhile to better hear the commentary tracks). It’s not short, but due to it’s generic nature, I’m both finding it overlong and wishing it was long-over. This is married to an interesting idea that has potential if it were done by someone like Valve. It’s not a terrible game – I did actually finish it – but by the same token it’s really not worth your time to bother playing when there are so many better things out there. For me, it’s served it’s purpose, as I’ve gotten through 3 DVD commentaries with it. Now it’s done, I’ll probably never look at or even think of it again. In a year or two’s time I might see this post and remember “oh yeah, I played that thing.” Ah well, at least I can say that I started and finished it within a few days!

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Verdict: Don’t bother. There’s better stuff to play.

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