TimeShift: Grinding My Gears

Posted: October 6, 2008 in Uncategorized

Krone’s Sentinel is no more.  I took a few minutes out
of my schedule to finish TimeShift on the hardest difficulty.  I
picked it up shortly after it came out, and only now did I get around to
finishing.  There were a couple of reasons that it took me so long. 
First, my save file corrupted on my first attempt to get through.  I had
originally started the game on standard difficulty, but I encountered a glitch
in the second act that could not be bypassed.  The game sat on the shelf
for many months while I waited for an update to fix it.  When the update
hit, it didn’t fix the problem, so I decided that I could go as far as the game
would let me on the ‘Elite’ difficulty.  Imagine my surprise when I was
able to blow right through the spot that used to crash my game.  The
second reason it took so long is that for all the hints that S^2AM (your suit’s AI) feeds you, it is often
unclear what needs to happen.  I know not
everyone feels that way, but I did come to a few points in the game where the
objective radar and S^2AM
’s indication of which
time-manipulation to use were not helping.

I had high hopes for this game.  Time travel is awesome if you put some
thought into it.  I’m the first to admit
that good time travel stories are hard to come by, but this one paid good
attention to paradox avoidance while ducking the mechanism behind the actual
time travel.  The time manipulation
powers are both totally sweet and totally necessary.  Slowing, stopping, and reversal are all
viable solutions to being overmatched in a fire-fight.  One of the coolest things is to rewind time,
thus removing a clutch grenade that has latched onto you.  There is some light puzzle action that
involves the time powers as well, but they are so few and far between that I
was never in the right gear to quickly reason through the quandary. 

The guns are neat too, but somewhat unbalanced.  Thanks to the ability to slow or stop time,
the Thunderbolt (a crossbow with explosive bolts) is far and away the deadliest
gun in the game.  It zooms about half as
well as the Echo rifle (the sniper rifle), but any hit is a guaranteed
kill.  Once I got this gun, I kept it and
practically ignored the rest of my arsenal. 
The exceptions to this were the Hellfire and the Bloodhound.  The Hellfire is a combination SMG with incendiary
rounds and flamethrower.  Since 90% of
the bad guys in the game are vulnerable to being lit on fire, it generally took
a short burst to make them comically flail while on fire.  The Bloodhound was less universally useful
than the other two guns, but whenever I started to wonder why I was using my 3rd
weapon slot on it, something would make me glad I had lugged the rocket
launcher with me for so long.  Its
secondary function enables the wielder to steer the rocket around to catch
those elusive attack choppers (for those times you didn’t feel like just
freezing time).  The game also has an
assault rifle/grenade launcher, a pistol, and a shotgun.  Staples of an FPS?  Sure. 
As interesting or useful as the other guns?  Not really.

Now for the crippling part of this game:  the story. 
There are spoilers ahead, but I doubt anyone cares at this point.  I’m sure all of the (tiny!) cutscenes can be
found on Youtube anyway.  The story
begins with Dr. Krone stealing the Alpha suit and planting a bomb in the lab
where it was developed.  He blows the
place up and heads back in time to before 1939. 
Unbeknownst to Krone, you make it into the more advanced but sabotaged
Beta suit.  As the lab and your
probably-important-but-never-named co-workers disintegrate into flames, you
pursue Krone to 1939.  You arrive to find
your suit is unable to make it back to your home time, and spare parts are only
available in the form of … Drumroll… Krone’s Alpha suit.  You get to play the part of the mute
physicist in a suit of powered armor that leads the resistance to victory
against a superior fascist force. 
Familiar? Yeah. 

I know that the writers changed horses mid-stream, but I’m
still let down.  The characters are never
developed.  Why is Krone doing all of
this?  Why would you (a temporally-empowered
superman) take orders from some jerk-ass who yells at you like you’re fresh out
of bootcamp?  S^2AM is far more pleasant to listen to, and won’t
keep yelling the objective at you because your fixed running rate is too
slow.  The cutscenes are pretty, but
criminally short.  They don’t even
provide enough information for the shallowest of gamers.  I hate to say it, but I’m thinking of writing
a fan-fic to make myself feel better about such a dissatisfying story with a
Halo 2 ending.

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