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In Memory
Sean Pettibone


TimeShift (Playstation 3)

This is a fairly engaging shooter that allows players to manipulate time as they battle through an oppressively bleak alternative reality. The game allows you to freeze, slow-down or reverse time at the flick of a button. While the level design and maps are fairly straightforward, the game's mechanics keep things interesting. There are some interesting puzzles as well that give TimeShift a layer of strategic play that gives it a unique feel all its own. These time-bending abilities are also applied to TimeShift's multiplayer online modes, creating some intense battles. Above-average visuals and intuitive controls add to the fun, making TimeShift an solidly entertaining title.

TimeShift starts off with an interesting premise that allows for some innovative gameplay mechanics. In the game, you are cast as a rogue scientist, Dr. Aiden Krone who has developed an experimental life suit that allows you to jump through and manipulate time itself. Unfortunately, when the suit was tested, it suffered a major malfunction and transported you into an alternative dimension where the world was under the throes of a dangerously fascist government. Trapped in this world, you decide to help the resistance and your special suit's powers to help them battle the forces of evil. The game is set in a dark, post-apocalyptic world saturated by rain where hostile soldiers lurk around every corner, along with other obstacles such as fire and electricity. Each of TimeShift's maps is fairly large and complicated, taking the player through various maps and stages will cause you to encounter many obstacles. With your suit at the ready, you can join the battle. Most of TimeShift's gameplay is fairly standard FPS conventions, and you have a number of weapons, such as the expected sniper rifles, grenades and machine guns at your disposal. One of the more impressive aspects of your suit is that it offers you some protection from damage, and can recharge itself after a few moments. This system makes it easier to get through the game without having to reload from the beginning. As an added bonus, when you're in Time shifting mode, you are impervious to damage from both fire and electricity, which allows you to travel through impassable areas without getting hurt.

The energy regeneration feature is fairly cool, but the really impressive ability of your suit is the way you can use it to manipulate time. During the game, you'll have a small amount of energy that you can use to either reverse, pause or stop time. Using the time system is fairly simple, you press the R2 shift button to activate the controls and a quick menu pops up where you can select which time effect to use, and the amount of energy you have stored for that action is displayed on your HUD. When this effect is turned on, you can move around the level, shoot enemies and collect items without any effect on you. This is especially effective at avoiding bullets or moving past guards undetected. You can also use this in other ways as well. The problem is that your energy is limited to and once it is used up, time returns to normal. Your energy recharges after a few moments, but you can't really use this continuously, so you need to be strategic in its implementation. You can use this ability to take out enemies who won't be able to block your shots, get out of the way of heavy fire or missiles, which makes it much easier to get through some of the areas. However, when you are reversing time, you cannot fire a weapon or pick up objects, since that would disrupt the timelines. If you try and do so, the effect will come to an end immediately. The system works remarkably well in practice and is nicely integrated into the gameplay so as not to feel excessively gimmicky or cheap. It definitely helps the gameplay in many ways, some of which are more subtle than you might think.

In addition to using your powers to warp the otherwise standard fighting mechanics, TimeShift also presents a number of tricky areas and puzzles for you to solve as well. For example, in one area you have to cross a bridge that's about to be annihilated by a large opponent ship. Since you can't cross fast enough in real-time, you have to pause the action briefly and run across the path before it's demolished. In another section, you'll have to get through a series of locked doors. Pressing the button makes them open, but very quickly, and the only way to pass through them is to slow-down or pause the action briefly after hitting this. These sequences definitely bring a different style of play to the proceedings, and give TimeShift a layer of strategy elements that many FPS titles to date have lacked. Most of the puzzles are fairly easy to get through, but there are a few that are quite interesting in their construction, which helps to make the game's single player missions more challenging than they would have been. Timeshift's pacing is excellent and the action comes at you almost immediately and doesn't let up, while each level presents its own problems. For example, there are areas where you need to run through quickly as the forces are tracking you and the other fighters and are literally ripping through buildings as you make your escape. This sense of constantly being hunted and chased adds to the game's urgency and excitement in the earlier stages. Timeshift's multiplayer modes are also interesting in their implementation. While the game includes the standard team, deathmatch and capture the flag modes, these are all enhanced by their use of time-warping Chrono grenades, which allow you to use the same time manipulation techniques against other players when you them with one. You can counter these moves by using special player enhancements or collecting Time Shields that allow you to change or repel these attacks. These matches require more strategy than you'd expect, and the map designs are almost as impressive as the main game's levels. Both of TimeShift's play modes offer plenty of variety and depth for both the single and multiplayer gamer.

From a visual standpoint, TimeShift impresses with its richly detailed, evocative urban environments. The rain-soaked world is quite realistic and gritty with some very cool lighting and weather effects that make the experience feel more intense. While the maps are a bit linear early on, things open up in the later stages and this allows you to have a much greater freedom of movement, which helps the gameplay immensely. The game's animation is smooth and suffers from little slowdown. Unfortunately, there are some long load times between levels, which hurts the game's momentum, but the tradeoff comes with high-quality visuals. Timeshift delivers a surprisingly robust graphics engine that moves along at a good clip without sacrificing detail. While it's not as impressive as the visuals seen in other PS3 games like Call of Duty 4 or Unreal Tournament III, this is still a solid looking game. Obviously, its time shifting and bullet time effects are impressive and allow you to see bullets and soldiers suspended in mid-action as you move around them. TimeShift's music is decent as well, and the game's engaging plot line and characters are interesting enough to keep you playing for some time. The production values are excellent for the most part and help to create an engaging and interesting storyline. While some of the game's basic elements aren't anything innovative or special, the use of time shifting is more distracting than exciting.

- Michael Palisano

Grade: C

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