LOS ANGELES--Today at E3, we had the chance to sit down and get our mitts on TimeShift, the upcoming first-person shooter that revolves around your character's ability to manipulate time. While the number of games with time-shifting-based powers isn't exactly a small one, with titles like Prince of Persia, Blinx, and any number of FPS games with "bullet time" features included, developer Saber Interactive is hoping that a full inclusion of time-based superpowers will set its game apart from the pack. Luckily, it seems that basing its game around time manipulation from the outset is opening up some new gameplay mechanics for exploration.
The story of TimeShift revolves around a character named Michael Swift (get it?), a former test pilot for the military. After getting drawn back into the service for one last mission (and do these ever work out well?), he's sent back in time. Unfortunately, when he returns the world is unlike it was before: a fascist empire has been established in place of the U.S. government. Since Swift is the only person who knows the secrets of time travel in his new environment, he's marked as public enemy number one by the Empire and becomes a wanted man.
So that's the basics of why you're fighting. How you're fighting is another story, though. We managed to get a good amount of playtime in with the game, and...it seems rather fun. While the basic mechanics of shooting dudes in the face will be familiar to any fan of FPS games, the time powers do allow for some interesting combat mechanics.
There are three time powers in all, starting with Time Slow, which is your standard bullet time mechanic; it'll slow guys down (but not yourself), which will let you get up close and personal or dodge enemy fire. This is the simplest power and the one that you presumably obtain first; it should make most firefights much simpler than they would be otherwise. In our demo, we used this power to evade the firepower of an Imperial tank as it attempted to blast Michael as he rushed across an open field to a sewer entrance. We also used it once to flip two switches that needed to be moved simultaneously to unlock a door.
The second power is time stop, which, obviously enough, stops time completely for a few moments. This seems most useful in combat situations, where you can freeze your opponents while you blast them in the face. One cool aspect of time stop lets you walk up to your opponent and grab their weapons out of their hands. When time speeds up again, they usually look around, puzzled at the disappearance of their weapon, and attempt to surrender. Of course, we usually wound up shooting them in the face anyway, but hey--that's our style.
Lastly, you get time rewind, which we didn't get to see in action very often. As far as we could tell, you're not able to cheat death after you die by rewinding the action, but you should be able to avoid taking massive damage from a grenade by rewinding away from it, or you can use it to immediately relive a cool moment. One of the puzzles we saw that involved time-rewinding featured a huge wind chamber that was blowing you away from a door that you needed to reach. After rewinding time, though, the direction of the wind was reversed, letting you cross the chamber toward the door and resume your journey.
Although our Vivendi contact said that they intended TimeShift to feature more enemies than most other first-person shooters, we really didn't notice that this was the case at this point in time. Still, what we did see was entertaining, and the developer still has a few months to go before they ship the game, so stay tuned to GameSpot for more details as it approaches its ship date.