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?