TimeShift, the time-bending first person shooter from Saber Interactive has had something of a bumpy development history. Originally destined to be an original Xbox title -- Official Xbox Magazine even had a demo of it at one point -- the game has since switched publishers (from Atari to Vivendi) and moved to the Xbox 360, PS3, and PC. We had a chance to play the game at E3, and it looks like the extra development time was worth the wait.
Graphically, TimeShift is very solid. It's not Gears of War, but it certainly gets the job done. The character models are decent, the weapon designs are interesting, and the environments look great. In addition to the nice aesthetics, the environments are also very destructible, a feature our Saber Interactive rep was quick to point out. We blasted our way through a brick wall, causing chunks of mortar and individual bricks to explode into the air. The environments are not completely destructible, but for the most part, if it looks like it can be blown apart, it can. So, you'd best be careful if you think that thin wall is going to protect you from enemy gunfire.
We were able to test out a handful of weapons, including a standard assault riffle / grenade launcher combo, shotgun, and a long range crossbow that shot exploding arrows (sounds familiar ....). All of the weapons have a good solid feel to them. None of the weapons we tried felt useless. Used in the right context, all of them worked effectively. That's a good thing, too, because you can die very quickly in TimeShift. The game utilizes a health system similar to Halo or Gears of War. As you take damage, your vision will turn red. Too much red = dead. No worries though, simply find some cover and your health will recharge in a few seconds.
If you're quick, it's easy enough to play TimeShift like any other run and gun first person shooter, but like most first person shooters these days, TimeShift has a hook that sets it apart. Turok has dinosaurs and badass knife tricks, TimeShift has time powers. Yeah, time powers are nothing new to video games, but TimeShift makes good use of them. Time powers are activated with a simple button press and they include slow, stop, and reverse. The game keeps track of what's going on and queues up the most appropriate power for a given situation, though it's possible to override this function and use whatever power you choose. During our play session, the predictive system worked just fine though.
Reverse, from what we saw, is used primarily to solve puzzles. For instance, say a bridge crumbles, thus cutting you off from your destination. Just hit reverse and watch the bridge reassemble itself. Now just walk across before it crumbles again. Slow does exactly what its name implies: it slows the action down. Enemies will still track your movements and try to take you out, but to them, you look like little more than a quick moving blur. Slow allows you to target enemies very easily (it's perfect in conjunction with your crossbow's scope). Of course, watching your enemies flail and explode in slow motion is just gravy.
Stop is probably the best power of the bunch. You see, everything outside of your special suit -- including your own bullets -- is affected by your time powers. So, when you fire bullets, launch grenades, or pump a shotgun blast, they will simply stay hanging there in the air. You can probably imagine the fun things this enables you to do. Stop time, run over to an enemy, pump out three shotgun blasts, launch a grenade or two, and get to a safe distance. Meanwhile, your ordinance is just floating in the air in front of a hapless baddie. Once time kicks back in, all of it will collide with him at once, sending him flying. It's really a sight to behold.
Perhaps the best part about all of this, time powers work in multiplayer as well. The Saber Interactive team realized early on that time control would have to work differently in multiplayer. As our rep put it, it wouldn't exactly be fun if one person could freeze everyone else in the game. As such, time powers will be utilized through special time grenades. Once detonated, these grenades will only affect those within the blast radius. Our demonstrator noted that the time stop sequence we outlined in the paragraph above is particularly enjoyable when performed on an enemy flag carrier. We don't doubt him.
TimeShift hits retail this October.