Suggesting that you’re a victim of time is an overstatement, of course. Time travel is no fun if you don’t have some control over it – even Dr. Who gets to choose when to use the Tardis if not always where it goes. So, while the world’s larger events are beyond your control – the exploding time waves from the center of the island buffeting you between the key eras of 1950 and 2010 – you’ll be able to dabble with the smaller objects with the help of your Time Manipulation Device (TMD). Yes, you’ve guessed it, it’s a magical wristwatch.
Your TMD also acts as a Half-Life 2-style gravity gun, but the way you can use it to faff with time is pretty innovative. Are you in 2010, and facing a broken control panel? Focus your TMD on it, and take it back to the Fifties, when it was spanking new. Perhaps you’re in 1950, and facing a soldier who seems a bit too keen to shoot you. No problem – just train your TMD on his body, and see how he likes 60 years flying by in two seconds. Sadly, this doesn’t populate the level with a bunch of senile Russians doddering about the level – it turns them into a flaming skeleton. That might seem a bit godlike, but you can’t fire your gun while it’s happening, so it does leave you slightly vulnerable.
Riot shields have always been a bugger in shooters, forcing you to spend a grenade, or try to aim for a square inch of exposed shoulder. That’s no problem for a man with a TMD. You can either use the gravity-gun element to rip the shield from the guy, then hurl it back into his guts. Or, you can age the metal a few decades, and shatter it with a single shot.
Speaking of which, if a group of soldiers are running across a bridge to get to you, simply age the bridge and it’ll collapse under their weight. As they say in the Kremlin: jobs a good ‘un. That’s the spirit of the game – although you do have to kill a load of soldiers, there’s usually a run-and-gun way to go about it, and a more thinking, time-travelly way to do the same job. Sending out a ping from your TMD will highlight anything that’s seen some Element 99, and it’s nearly always something you can usefully muck about with. Yes, it’s an unlikely coincidence that only the useful things got covered. But it does make the game less frustrating.
The section of the game we were shown came from the middle of the campaign, and started in the modern day. It was grey, rainy, and derelict. There was no squad to back usup, and we didn’t see any evidence of a traditional voice-in-your-ear narrator. The isolation and loneliness is something Raven is explicitly aiming for. In the year 2010, there’s nobody on the ground, but you’re being hunted by helicopters. As the repercussions of the old experiment transport you into the Fifties, the world is suddenly populated by squads of soldiers working on the suddenly functioning plant.