Friday, April 14, 2017

FZ9: Timeshift (iOS, Android) Review

FZ9: Timeshift launched late last month, and SuperPhillip Central has come around to not only trying it out but reviewing it. An FPS on a mobile device? That must be a recipe for disaster! See why it's not with this review.

Bullet Time Any Time. Anywhere

Some genres really lend themselves well to mobile gaming: puzzle games, RPGs, card games, and so forth. However, some don't. One particular genre that I struggle to find enjoyment in on mobile devices is the first-person shooter. The often frantic gameplay that these games require is made difficult by touch controls. That made me a bit hesitant to try Hiker Games' new mobile game for iOS and Android, FZ9: Timeshift. However, its core mechanic turns what is usually a hard genre to make fun on mobile a lot of fun.

FZ9: Timeshift's core mechanic incorporates a Max Payne and Matrix-like bullet time slowdown effect when the player isn't moving. Here, bullets move incredibly slowly. When the player walks, time passes normally. This offers the player the ability to see the red trails from enemy bullets in the slowed down view and move accordingly to dodge them, as all it takes is one hit for players to die.

The trains may move, but these targets are currently stationary. 
Here, Hiker Games takes what would ordinarily be a difficult genre to implement to mobile and makes it actually work. Because you can slow down the action at any time, you don't need to frantically move with quick speed like you would in a traditional FPS. That doesn't mean you can't get a bullet to the body in slow motion mode, however. If you stand still long enough when an enemy shoots at you, you will die.

You can see the red trails of the bullets to determine when and where to evade.
Many FPS games especially nowadays have you equipped with two guns that can be cycled between, and if you want a new gun, you have to drop one of the two. Then, there's ammo dropped by foes to pick up. FZ9: Timeshift doesn't play like this. You begin with one gun with a very limited amount of shots, and when the gun runs out, you need to pick up a new one, usually either dropped by an enemy or found in a given level's environment. This constant need to pick up new guns when yours runs out adds some strategy to the game. It means you need to pick your shots well. Thankfully, the game has a button on it that automatically locks on to a nearby foe, one in your immediate view. It doesn't always mean you'll make the shot on them, especially moving targets, but it usually offers a good level of precision. Of course, you'll want to slightly adjust your aim if you wish to go for a headshot, something that offers more points.

The campaign of FZ9: Timeshift possesses about eight chapters with approximately 5-6 missions each. These are usually bite-sized in length, though some are quite lengthy in comparison. With the one-hit deaths, it can mean redoing a sizable portion of level in later chapters, but this burden is lessened with the ability to use gems to revive if desired. Levels themselves are linear and offer no rewards for exploration for the few occasions in the game where there is any semblance of exploration to be found. This also results in each run through a level giving players little variation in how they complete it.

Apart from the campaign, other modes unlock as the player completes chapters in the campaign. There is a cycle mode that randomly chooses a mission type for the player to try to overcome. Some of these include defending an area from enemies, jumping over a parade of oncoming reckless-driving cars, maneuvering and jumping through a laser grid, and picking up enemies with a sniper rifle on an opposite building rooftop. There is also a PvP mode where you compete against a player to get through a campaign level before they do. This mode incorporates a ranking system to keep players engaged.

FZ9: Timeshift offers controls that are mighty easy to follow. There's a virtual analog stick on the bottom left of the screen, and above that is a section of screen to press to automatically lock-on to a nearby enemy within your view. On the right side of the screen are the jump and weapon fire buttons. When you're near a gun you can pick up, you need to just tap in the center of the screen. Finally, looking around is performed by sliding your finger along and around the screen. As stated, this scheme works well considering the pace of the game, which is quite atypical of the other FPSes on mobile devices.

Zombies. I've never seen these things appear in a game lately...
Now, all that sounds good, but here's where the rub is. FZ9: Timeshift is a free-to-play game with in-app purchases (IAPs). That's fine and all, but where it gets annoying is that you have a limited amount of energy that you can use. Doing story missions and other types of events in the game consumes a different number of energy. This results in playing until the game basically makes you wait to continue. Sure, your energy count returns to full after about two hours, but it's obnoxious regardless. Then, there's the need to grind battle points from completing missions of varying types in order to purchase all of the bonuses in the armory. FZ9 won't unlock the next chapter of missions in its campaign until you purchase all of a given tier's bonuses. This need to grind and the limit of how much you can play equals unnecessary delays in campaign progress. I'd rather just pay a $10 to $20 one-time purchase than to have to endure all of these inconveniences.

FZ9: Timeshift isn't the most impressive gaming app on either the Apple or Google Play storefronts. Its visuals hearken back to the PlayStation 2 era, and even then the performance isn't steady. Of course, if you watch gameplay of Timeshift, you'd think there was crazy amounts of stuttering when in actuality it's the player constantly being in and out of the bullet time mode. The music delivers a mix of level music and more intense battle music when enemy encounters get underway while the sound effects are rather rote at best. There is no voice acting to speak of in the game.

This game definitely has a low budget feel to it.
Through using a unique gameplay mechanic in the ability to slow down time upon standing still and turning, Hiker Games has come up with its own solution as to how to make a first-person shooter work on a mobile device without worrying about the frantic frenzy the genre usually offers. It's the type of frantic frenzy that makes FPS games on mobile devices not work. Here, with FZ9: Timeshift, we have an FPS that works and works well with its controls thanks to the innovative bullet time effect. The time and play restrictions are totally disappointing and get in the way of fully enjoying the game, but other than that, I enjoyed my time with Hiker Games' latest. Sure, I didn't feel like Neo from The Matrix, but I felt badass all the same.

[SPC Says: B-]

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