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Third time lucky for TimeShift?

TimeShift has had a bumpy ride during its development cycle. If only it had the benefit of the time-bending abilities of its central character, maybe it would have seen the future and not needed to be taken apart and rebuilt twice. Originally intended for release on last-gen Xbox, at one stage the game's bug list (a run-down of known issues needed to be addressed before it is declared finished) was down to single figures. Apparently, that's a day's work.

But in its quest for perfection, developer Saber Interactive shook its head, took it apart, scrapped the characters, script, textures and physics engine and started again. Or rather, started again, again. And now the code's nearing completion for the third time, we've spent some of the ticking stuff with the newest build of the game - and it's looking clock-rocking good.

The Quantum Suit that your character wears is an Alpha prototype of the near-finished Beta model that's been stolen (by its own creator - why didn't they see that coming?). As a result, you don't have access to all of the suit's features from the start. It does have an auto-recall function which is designed to protect both its occupant and the slightly-more-important space/time continuum. Basically, if you were to die, you would leave an anachronistic corpse in the past, ready to blow the mind of any caveman who may find it. But of course, as in all good plots, the suit malfunctions, allowing you to access some of its more advanced functions. And that's where the fun starts.

About to die from a rocket explosion to the head? Just freeze time and walk around it. You can then turn and detonate it if you like, or just sneak up behind the guy who fired it at you, snatch the weapon right out of his hands and leave him scratching his head before you knock him senseless. The time-freeze effects also have the benefit of turning water to ice and making rain hang in the air. It all looks very pretty and is fascinating to watch.

Speaking of pretty, the graphical overhaul has definitely done the trick. Detail level is through the roof, even when you view an object from point-blank range. Grain in doors, water droplets in puddles - everything looks suitably next-gen. Character models now each have between 5 and 6 million polygons each, making them look much more convincing than before.

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