Have you played… Timeshift?


Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day, perhaps for all time.

I think about replaying Timeshift, a 2007 FPS that has all but evaporated from the wider collective gaming memory, surprisingly often. Which is because I find myself hungry for a perfectly decent 7/10 action game surprisingly often – hard to come by in an age where it seems as though blockbuster manshooters can seem polarised between the epochal and the disastrous, and between absurdly lavish cutscenes and hamster-wheel multiplayer.

Sometimes I want to play something without complications, something entirely self-contained and something that lets the critical part of my brain drift off to sleep. This time-bothering shooter did that deftly.

At least, that’s how I remember it. If I did revisit it I might well find it harrowingly shonky now, so I’d much rather leave well alone. In memory, though, it did a great job of making time-control powers, including freezing and rewinding baddies in order to kill ’em safely or progress to new areas without your torso racking up more holes than yet another presidential day off, sweet’n’simple. Part of the general flow of action rather than a fiddly layer on top.

This ties into my other primary memory of Timeshift, which was of attending a press event for it a year or two before launch (its design went through several iterations). A very loud man in an even louder shirt bellowed, unforgettably, “who the fuck wants puzzles?” as part of his attempt to convince us that this time travel game was not geeky time travel, but macho, explosive heroics, designed to appeal to those same people who notoriously leapt from their seats and wept with joy when the first Halo 2 demo showed Masterchef dual-wielding his pop-guns.

In the end, Timeshift fell between the two stools of dumb-dumb action and well-considered puzzling, as well as presenting a story that scanned like a meatheaded version of Half-Life 2’s, in which the apocalyptic conquest was undone via time-magic. Erm, spoilers, I guess, but it’s one of those games you really shouldn’t go into expecting anything but the obvious to happen.

Straight down the line, with a gimmick that works. Will we ever see its like again?


  1. gabrielonuris says:

    I remember seeing screenshots from this game with cutscenes that never made its way into the final version, probably getting cut during the development. To this day I still wait for a sequel, or at least a director’s cut version with everything the developers had in mind.

  2. Kollega says:

    I haven’t played TimeShift. But I damn well wish the “run in a mostly straight line while shooting everything that moves with the stated goal of overthrowing/fucking up a classic Orwellian dystopia” shooter genre came back somehow. Perhaps by some miraculous indie renaissance of the linear shooter genre centered around doing more with less (graphics-fidelity-wise, gameplay-breadth-wise, cutscene-amount-wise, story-massiveness-wise…) or something similar. I don’t know.

    Honestly, I just wish something like that happened already. Half-Life 2, Killzone, Timeshift, Iron Storm, You Are Empty, Singularity… where hath thou gone, and why hath thou forsaken us?

    • doglikesparky says:

      Have you tried Alien Rage, Hard Reset, Alpha Prime, Dead Effect? All perfectly average 6 or 7 out of 10 corridor shooters, though not all technically set in ‘classic Orwellian dystopia’. I actually quite enjoyed Alpha Prime, even though it was the most repetitive, low budget and clunky out of those. Sort of a bargain basement Doom 3, without any of that hellspawn shenanigans, and thankfully no monster closets either.

      • Kollega says:

        Of all those, I was only aware of Hard Reset. After doing some basic looking-at, those aren’t what I’m looking for, as they seem to be more Doom 3/Quake 4/Halo/Red Faction than Half-Life 2/Killzone/Iron Storm/TimeShift… but of the four you mentioned, Alien Rage looks the most appealing at the moment. Naturally, it’s made in Poland, because Poland has been putting out the most old-school shooters in this decade. And it’s got a demo, so I’ll definitely check it out.

        Still though… what I’m harkening for is the return of the Dystopian Single-Player FPS specifically. I’m just a sucker for a good shooter game that lets me topple a corrupt totalitarian regime. In my situation, it’s really good escapism =/

        • JoeX111 says:

          Syndicate, from a few years back, may foot the bill for you.

      • Kollega says:

        Okay, I went to check out Alien Rage. The graphics are quite good for a 2013 game, the gunplay is nice, and the dialogues are consistently hilarious (I feel the devs were deliberately aiming for “hilariously dumb”, and hit it squarely) – but even the lowest difficulty is labeled “Challenging”, and it really is damn difficult. I would probably be better off buying Hard Reset if I want good gameplay… but I’m really not in the mood to get more cyberpunk in my life than it already has. With all that in mind… it’ll very likely go better for me if I just buy TimeShift or try to wrangle You Are Empty instead. Which are also valid options!

        • doglikesparky says:

          Yeah, Alien Rage was a toughy, and I recall dropping it quite quickly initially, ‘rage’ quitting it after having to play the same bit over and over again. But then I tried again later and got further into it and found it playable and satisfying enough.

          Another one I meant to suggest was the much maligned Homefront. It sort of fits your dystopian corridor shooter, and is okay once you get past its ridiculous premise, and the constant unironic reference to ‘Norks’. Here’s a review I wrote elsewhere:

          Not entirely terrible, even though the ridiculously propagandist premise is (though, in its defence, that could actually be said to be a lesson in humility, as the tables are turned and the US is the invaded nation under occupation for a change). A bit clunky and clichéd and rushed, but at least its a bit different to most war shooters. It has a bit of variety and the gun-play and set pieces are acceptable, though some of the firefights are relentless. Some might complain about its surprisingly short campaign, but to me that’s something in its favour, especially as I paid the princely sum of *zero* for it (thanks for the freebie, Humble).

          • Kollega says:

            I think in the end, I’ll just get and play TimeShift. Like I’ve said, I never played it before. And I’ve gotta say: there are criminally few shooters that let you freeze and rewind in-game time in addition to slowing it, the graphics rendering style and the 7/10-ness of the game are things I’m honestly nostalgic for, and the game is, like, ten bucks on GOG.

            But you know what I really want? A bold new indie shooter that would draw on the same themes as You Are Empty, and cast you as a typical FPS killing machine of a protagonist, tearing apart a Stalinist dystopia with overpowered weapons and reality-warping powers. Stalin isn’t any popular outside of Russian cultural sphere nowadays… but in it, he’s so lauded that such a game would be really, really cathartic for me.

            And if it somehow had a soundtrack by Frank Klepacki too, that’d be pure awesomeness.

  3. doglikesparky says:

    Perhaps a better 7/10 time-bending shooter-with-a-gimmick was Singularity. I think I had a more enjoyable time with that. You just need to look past the backwards ‘R’ in its title, because Russians.

    • N'Al says:

      I completed that not two days ago. A 7/10 shooter to the bone, no mistake. Slightly disappointing, considering it most likely will remain Raven’s last own FPS since they’re now relegated to doing support work on other studios’ games.

    • Cyrus says:

      As I recall, I enjoyed Timeshift more than Singularity, I think it has to do with the maps and overall design. Plus you are fighting humans in Timeshift.

    • G_Man_007 says:

      I was going to say this. Singularity was much better than Timeshift, I remember thinking the combat had a better feel and flow, Timeshift felt jarring in its combat and plot (too cheesy), while the ending(s) in Singularity also were of a better quality.

      I’d say only Chaser has a worse ending than Timeshift, and that’s because Chaser’s was shite and “well that was pointless”, over Timeshift’s “meh” climax.

  4. Halk says:

    Wait, did you just use the verb “scan” as it was used in Otherland?

  5. haldolium says:

    I reviewd it back then and was a bit disappointed that it didn’t do more with the time mechanic as just shooting stuff. Because in the end it was way too effective as a slowmotion shooter to ever care much about reversing the time.

    When I revisited it a few years later though I found the actual shooting action to be quite good in comparison to the then (and today) non-existence of proper dumb singleplayer ego-shooters with pretty graphics that don’t try to be more as they are

  6. matty_gibbon says:

    I read the entirety of this thinking it was talking about Second Sight, because I couldn’t remember the name of it. But that was another perfectly playable 7/10 game involving time that I remember very fondly

    • Darth Gangrel says:

      Second Sight and Psi-Ops: The Mind Gate Conspiracy are two games I’m interested in checking out, despite (or because?) of the 7/10-iness that I’ve heard about it. Can’t find them online, though, so they go even further down my to-play-list than games like Singularity.

      I played Timeshift for the first time recently and it was great for one reason in particular: it didn’t annoy me. It had manual saves, didnt outstay its welcome, had no filler or obtuse/tedious puzzles. The enemies were fun to kill and if some enemy really annoyed you, you could just slow down or even freeze time and employ vicious retribution. I’d rate it 8/10 rather than 7/10.

  7. Dear Lionel says:

    Timeshift is one of my favourite games for precisely this reason:

    “Sometimes I want to play something without complications, something entirely self-contained and something that lets the critical part of my brain drift off to sleep. This time-bothering shooter did that deftly.”

    I love these 7/10-ers. I love the fact that there’s usually something not quite big budget and so overblown about them. I just finished Deadfall Adventures, which I loved for the same reasons. As with most things, I’m rather drawn to a little cheapness. You know, the nylon, rather than the silk. And so forth.

  8. Kinsky says:

    Good riddance to the unimaginative snoozefests that dominated the shooter genre in the last half of the 2000s. Killzone, TimeShift, Singularity, Gears of War, Uncharted, and of course the endless stretch of derivative military shooters marching in the wake of Call of Duty 4’s success like so many clones. In those days, the speed and character and variety of the 90s shooters was forgotten as if it never existed, traded instead for legions of copy/paste enemies, an array of weapons whose functional differences rarely amounted to much more than a slight difference in the number of rounds in their magazines, and game play overwhelmingly characterized by crouching behind a brick and staring at another brick, waiting for a head to pop up somewhere, interspersed with droll scripted events. Singularity rankled me in particular as it was the last gasp of Raven Software, an otherwise talented studio responsible for often iterative but brilliant titles such as the Heretic and Hexen series, Jedi Knight II, and Quake 4. After Singularity, they were wholly subsumed by Activision and reduced to a helper studio working on components for the Call of Duty du jour. Check their Wikipedia page – it’s a brutal sight.

    Today, with titles like Serious Sam 3, Shadow Warrior (2013), source ports like Strife: Veteran Edition and Duke Nukem 3D: Megaton Edition, the modern Doom modding scene, and Ion Maiden on the horizon, I have a hard time seeing why anybody would miss these overripe garbage bags filled with tired and uninspiring military shooter tropes.

    • doglikesparky says:

      Steady on there fella! Whilst I generally see where you are coming from… Uncharted? It’s not even a FPS, but a third person action adventure in the vein of Tomb Raider! And even though the first game is slightly lacking compared to its sequels, it’s still a quality title. Personally, I’m looking forward to replaying the entire series, once I’ve cleared some of the backlog of games on my PC.

    • doglikesparky says:

      But I checked out Raven’s Wiki page and you are right… woeful. Oh well, at least they are keeping gainfully employed, even if it is churning out turgid cookie-cutter war porn.

  9. Creeping Death says:

    As someone that liked Timeshift calling it a 7/10 game is being a smidge generous.

    • gummybearsliveonthemoon says:

      Agreed. But it had some fun interesting sections, and interesting powers overall.

      It just all fell apart at the end, with an obvious twist, a lousy final boss fight that didn’t even seem like a final boss fight, and a non-ending-ending with a silly cliffhanger.

    • doglikesparky says:

      It’s funny, the whole scoring system of games. Why is 7/10 considered just ‘okay’, or even a bad score? I mean, to get a First Class degree, I had to get an average of 70% across the 6 modules I took. Is my degree result considered mediocre? Damn it, I worked hard for that! I got ‘Honours’ and everything!

  10. unitled says:

    I have watched a gameplay video and the trailer and read the plot synopsis on wikipedia and I still can’t remember if I played this or not. I think I did? I think I also played a game where you went back to other time periods released around the same, er, time?