Timeline, created by Timeline Computer Entertainment, a software company founded by best selling author Michael Crichton, is based loosely on his book of the same name. The story has been changed so much, though, that playing the game doesn't take away from the book and offers more than a simple rehash of the plot.
You play as Chris Hughes, a graduate student who travels to 14th-century France to rescue his professor. As the story begins, he's being trained in the protocols and procedures for time travel. The game skips much of the scientific theories, suspense, and character development that were so critical in the book, and opts instead to thrust you into the action immediately. The game takes a few liberties with the source material, such as missing characters (e.g., Andre Marek), and at one point the time machine shrinks the protagonist to three-inches in height, which certainly did not occur in the novel.
Gameplay is from a first-person perspective and is clearly created by a design team familiar with shooters. The default controls are bound to mouse and keyboard, including the strafe keys. Timeline is broken into short chapters, each consisting of one easily accomplished task. For example, when your character first gets to France, he needs to slide down a hill while avoiding rocks. Later, he jousts in a tournament, and still later, climbs across rafters to a window -- nothing intensive or overly challenging.
Occasionally, there's a simple logic puzzle, such as discovering which lever to pull or figuring out how to reach a ledge. While a refreshing change of pace, these arcade sequences can get tedious, especially due to the imprecise controls. Considering Timeline is a game about knights, one would think sword combat should be more of a factor. What little there is, though, is really nothing more than a simple button-clicking exercise. Even then, you can't actually kill anyone. These elements make gameplay seem artificial within the story's context.
Ultimately, Timeline seems less like a time-travel experiment gone awry and more like a game design gone bad. The battles, the excitement, and the potential mix of science fiction with history, is all lost in a stilted game environment that was obviously crafted by Crichton's vision of what the game should be vs. the ultimate goal of creating a good game.
Graphics: The 3D engine is ordinary. The beings in the virtual universe are essentially skins stretched over moving dummies.
Sound: While the sound effects are mediocre, the music is exceptional. An orchestral score by Bill Brown is integrated into gameplay.
Enjoyment: From opening the box to viewing the end credits, playing Timeline in its entirety takes anywhere from one to three hours, a distressingly short duration for a game of such possible depth. Its unconscionable short length is rivaled only by the equally short Blair Witch Project series.
Replay Value: There is simply not much to the game, length- or content-wise, to warrant a replay. Crichton offers a medieval history lesson during a free exploration mode, and the tour is actually of better quality than the game -- history buffs will be pleased. The game features an auto-save and quick-save function that returns the character to the exact position and time prior to his death.
People who downloaded Timeline have also downloaded:
TimeScape: Journey to Pompeii, Time Machine, The New Adventures of the, Traitor's Gate 2: Cypher, Timelapse, Traitor's Gate, Undercover: Operation Wintersun, Titanic: Adventure Out of Time, Tender Loving Care
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