Much of the draw of being a modern day gamer is the chance to take in a fully immersive adventure, running from pillar to post in order to find secrets and taking in storytelling opportunities that would have Hollywood casting a jealous eye. But whilst the multitude of features that have helped the gaming industry grow beyond all expectations are great, every now and then there is nothing better than kicking back for a fast flowing, rather frantic wave shooter, one in which you get little opportunity to move and are tasked with spinning on the spot and pulling the triggers on your controller as quickly as possible. And that is where Time Carnage is trying to make a mark.
Whether it actually manages to make that mark though is up for debate.
Don’t get me wrong, Time Carnage is not a bad game, in fact, I’ve enjoyed spending time with this wave shooter, spinning around, switching guns, firing bullets and hoping and praying that the multitude of enemies coming my way can be fought off. However, in the same breath, the idea in itself lends to nothing but repetition time and time again. And that is ultimately its downfall.
Billed as a frantic survival wave shooter, Wales Interactive have certainly nailed the task at hand. This is frantic, this is all about survival and this is most definitely a wave shooter. With you stuck in one spot, with just the option to take a step or two in any direction around you and to spin 360 degrees, your task from the get-go is to travel through time – post-apocalyptic city, prehistoric jungle, icy wasteland and a futuristic metropolis are all the settings to speak of – and wreak havoc with the worlds you find yourself dropping into. With the likes of zombies, monsters, robots and dinosaurs all coming at you at various times, a fast trigger finger is called for – because like in any wave based shooter, should you start to see your defenses breached, it won’t be long before your health is knocked down to zero and the world has been overrun.
Initially it all starts off easy enough. Given the option to kit yourself out with a limited set of weapons, as you may expect the first few stages are relatively calm affairs which let you get to grips with the ideology behind Time Carnage. It is here where you’ll get to realise that enemies will only come from a few set points, and will follow fairly standard paths with little deviation to allow you to pick them off with ease. You’ll also understand that pinpoint accuracy isn’t ever needed, with a shot in the direction of any oncomers usually enough to see them downed, or at least slightly injured. But as you move through sections, ticking off the checkpoints which bring you back to life when needed, the number of enemies increases, their strength gets multiplied and you find yourself holding out and hoping that you will luck your way through. For the most part though, you will get through.
For each level completed you’ll get access to further weaponry types and this brings a little bit of thought behind what you are doing, and how you are going about it. See, you can’t take all of your guns into battle and before any stage kicks off you will need to decide exactly which of the 25 unlockable options you wish to take. Obviously, as the difficulty ramps up, the bigger guns come in and you’d be crazy to think that going into the latter battles with the original pistol that served you so well initially, would be a good idea. Rocket launchers, explosive rifles, laser guns, crossbows and more all come with a variety of rate of fire, stability and range stats, allowing you to really mix and match for every scenario. And each weapon really does feel different from the next too, so a keen eye on what you are grabbing is essential.
That’s because out of those 25 – at least once you’ve unlocked them – just four can be thought of as your own, of which just the two can be held at any one time. You know, two hands and all that! Switching between the four weapons is a cinch though and as one runs out of ammo, a quick press of the relevant bumper will see that knocked onto its reloading port and a second gun gifted your way, allowing you to spray and pray once more. This may make the whole Time Carnage experience seem relatively straightforward – pile a ton of bullets the way of the enemy, switch out guns so the first can reload, and then rinse and repeat – and for the most part it is. But the sheer speed and number of those coming at you, when coupled with a slow reload process, will mean that there are times when you’re left scrabbling around for a weapon only to find it sitting in hand with just a few precious bullets. Granted, this doesn’t happen too often during the 16 level campaign, but it is enough for you to start having to consider each shot. Especially as you find your shield and health levels taking a battering.
That consideration level ramps up tremendously as the bigger, badder, harder enemies get mixed into the gameplay and whilst it is easy enough to take down a zombie grunt or little Raptor, once the likes of a T-Rex or well equipped laser-firing robot overlord drop in for fun and games, things get a little more tricky. Thankfully there is occasionally the chance to ping a bullet the way of a ‘slow-down’ orb, which does what it says on the tin. When you are manipulating time by travelling through various eras it make sense for this to occur – and it is most definitely a lifesaver at times.
With three levels of difficulty to hand – easy, normal and hard – there is the chance to at least knock things down should you find yourself getting overwhelmed, but for the most part the standard normal offering will be of just enough draw to anyone other than the most casual of gamer. In fact, any person who knows how to handle a controller will probably find themselves rolling through the full campaign with relative ease in a few hours, probably with just a few deaths of their own taken in along the way.
Heading back in to any level is entirely possible should you so wish and by doing so you’ll increase your weapon unlock and perk opportunities. Whether you will feel the need to do so is up for debate though as like previously mentioned, the sheer repetition that makes this game what it is will probably hold you back from ever wanting to play it over and over again. It may be fun initially, but there really does need to be a bit of variety to either the action, the way the enemies attack, or the levels themselves.
Of course, like many experiences that we have the chance to take in nowadays, it’s not just about a campaign though and alongside that is an Arcade mode which lets you choose your enemy types, the levels you want to see and the opportunity to drop in some Perks; extra bullets in the gun chamber, larger magazine size or full on ‘God Mode’ should you so wish. You can’t add everything at once though and even though there are 18 different Perks to unlock, only three can be utilised at once.
There are also a number of set challenges too, and these limit you to a few weapons, or ask you to action specific shot types in order for success to be deemed. Taking down enemies just with headshots, picking off rabid dogs with a crossbow, or going into the fight with a Golden Gun, one shot kills and seriously low health are all good fun. In fact, the challenges, and the bronze, silver and gold medals which can be earnt by taking part in them, really do become enjoyable tests of skill.
So what’s the problem? Why doesn’t Time Carnage see itself up there with the very best wave shooters? Well, there are a few niggles and whilst none are massive issues in themselves, when combined it sees the game come over as something that will struggle to overly enthuse many. See, from the slightly awkward picking of weapons, to quickly realising that enemies will only ever come from a few set areas, and that the vast majority of the levels are hugely similar with just a slightly different visual skin plastered over them to denote the new time period, it must be said that the most exciting of times will not be had. The lack of depth to the gameplay, and low level of skill required in order to despatch enemies are both disappointing, and when you throw in the fact that some of the numerous bad guys – mostly the flying ones – can easily be hidden behind various levels structures, firing at you whilst being stupidly tricky to nail down, the mechanics aren’t overly brilliant either.
Even though I’ve enjoyed my time with Time Carnage, the average nature of everything included sees this come across as a fairly standard wave shooter that will be done and dusted within a day or so. The variety of guns is great, but the visuals are not, and the actual gameplay becomes pretty repetitive, pretty fast. Ultimately that is what stops Time Carnage being more than it is.