What would you do if you could turn back the clock? Pay more attention at school? Avoid ordering that dodgy Lamb Bhuna? Prevent an explosion from wiping out a Top Secret lab by shooting hundreds of grunts in the face? TimeShift won't make you smarter, or save your bowels from decimation, but it can help with the third option.
The game's plot is pure sci-fi nonsense; the kind where you're not entirely sure what's happening until about two-thirds of the way through. All you need to know is you're an all-action scientist who's taken a prototype time-travelling suit for a test-drive and ended up in some kind of bonkers parallel universe. On the upside, the SSAM suit you pinched lets you pause, slow and even rewind time - a handy trick considering an Orwellian government organisation is chucking armed troops in your direction with wild abandon.
In terms of the actual gameplay, TimeShift plays exactly as you'd expect. Shooting is smooth, brutal, and dangerously unoriginal, and each level is a typical sprint through varying types of 'corridors', offing men with large shoulder-padded cyber-suits (which is an outfit we've really had enough of now, developers - seriously). There are rifles, shotguns, snipers, rocket-launchers and a wheelbarrow-full of novelty variations on the usual instruments of blammo you've wielded hundreds, nay gazzilions, of times before. So far, so kind of Half-Life.
What sets TimeShift apart from the FPS masses is its titular time-manipulating mechanics. At first we thought Saber would have a tough time convincing people to buy its generic, near-future blaster on the fact that it had what amounts to Bullet-time 2.0, but as we delved deeper into the game, it became apparent that time shifting does actually add up to more than just a cheap gimmick.
It doesn't enhance the action massively (although there is something strangely brilliant about pausing time, shooting someone in the face, then pressing play to see their head disappear in a red mist), but time-shifting does make for some fiendishly tough puzzles. Thinking about your environment, and playing around with the flow of time is half the fun of TimeShift. Sure, it can be frustrating when you can't progress thanks to a mind-meltingly tough section, but the satisfaction of working out the solution more than makes up for it.
Saber Interactive has done a great job of crafting levels that work in harmony with the time-tinkering abilities of our hero, so you never get the impression that the game is asking you to think irrationally to beat its tricks and traps. On top of that, environments are extremely detailed, so instead of slogging around lifeless urban sprawls looking for big green buttons that practically scream 'press me', you're exploring genuinely rich and interesting near-future levels. Think of it as the difference between watching the beautiful Blade Runner and the not-so-beautiful Time Cop.
Ultimately though, TimeShift just can't shake off the fact that it lacks any semblance of real originality. The whole thing is startlingly similar to Vivendi's other 360 shooter F.E.A.R., only it doesn't make any attempt at trouser-ruining scares. And if you've recently snapped up The Orange Box, TimeShift's sci-fi geekery will seem like a poor cousin to Valve's epic physics-a-thon.
Perhaps, if this game had been released three or four months ago it might have been better received, but coming as it does in the golden era of console blammo, we can't help but compare it to other shooters and think... meh.
If you are made of money, and love your virtual-gunnery, there's plenty here to justify the price.