STAFF REVIEW of Time Carnage (Xbox One)

Wednesday, October 24, 2018.
by Adam Dileva

Time Carnage Box art If I told you there was a game in which its main premise was shooting wave of zombies, dinosaurs, monsters and robots across time, and with tons of different types of weapons, would that sound exciting? Traveling through time and shooting dinosaurs with flamethrowers, snipers and rifles sounded fantastic on paper. That’s about where the fun will end though, as it sounds like a great idea, but the execution is anything but. I don’t like to start out reviews with a negative tone, but when there’s very little redeeming qualities, it’s difficult to look for the few positives with such a generic and bland shooter.

While there is technically a campaign, something you’ll want to play through first for unlocks, don’t expect any semblance of a narrative though. I’m sure there’s a reason to why, and how, you’re travelling through time to shoot waves of enemies, but I couldn’t tell you what it is. There’s some slight hints in the tooltips, but there’s no traditional “story” included in any way, shape or form.

Campaign is basic as it gets, going through 4 separate time periods, each consisting of 4 levels that each have you trying to survive 5 waves of enemies for said time period. The only real differences between the time periods is the enemies and beackdrop. Sure, fighting dinosaurs will place you in more jungle-like areas, and robots in a futuristic setting, but all in all, there’s not much difference between them aside from re-skins. Simply survive 5 waves, which should only takes you 5-8 minutes, do that 4 times to beat a time period, and do that 4 times to complete the campaign. I’ll let you do the math, but campaign mode isn’t really built for longevity.

So while Time Carnage is a survival wave shooter at its core, there’s a unique, and arguably terrible, reloading mechanic that makes it stand out amongst others. Also setting it apart from others is the pedestal that you’re encased in and unable to move from. Essentially you’re standing inside a very small bubble shield that enemies are unable to penetrate, yet are trying to whittle down the shield with every hit. This shield will absorb damage, but with ongoing waves of enemies, you’ll need to be quick to dispatch them before your shield is depleted, or else you lose. That’s about it in a nutshell. You’re unable to move really, aside from a foot in any direction within your pedestal area, so you’ll simply need to move your aimer and look in each direction. No strafing for you.

As you complete levels in campaign, you’ll unlock new weapons to use whenever you wish, eventually having access to over 20. Before each level you’ll get to choose 4 weapons to bring with you to help survive the waves of enemies. Problem is, that there’s no real reason to be strategic with your weapon choices for the most part. You’re allowed to pick the same weapon for all 4 slots (2 for each hand), so while I usually picked two really slow and powerful guns for one hand, and two rapid firing for the right, you can simply choose the most powerful weapon for all slots and rotate them in and out that way (more on that shortly).

I believe the intended design was to be strategic with your weapon choices, but when you’re not given any restrictions, why wouldn’t you simply choose the best you have at all times? Weapons have no real weight to them either, so even sniper rifles and bigger guns feel and sound like toys. Worse yet, you’ll have to deal with a cash register sound every time you make a headshot, not just a kill.

Time Carnage’s most unique mechanic lies is within its reload system. It’s touted as “Shoot, drop, switch, repeat!”, and it is just that. The reason you choose two weapons for each hand is that you’re unable to manually reload your guns. That’s right, you can’t manually reload your ammo. Instead, when you swap for your other weapon on the same hand, the unused one gets placed on your pedestal and starts to automatically reload slowly. So you need to dock your weapons to reload them, thus using your backup weapon instead as it does so. It’s an interesting idea, but I still can’t figure out the why. I get that I’m stuck in this small confined shield and unable to move, but that about sums up the combat.

Depending on which era you’re currently in, you’ll shoot hundreds of zombies, monsters, robots or even dinosaurs. Each level has its own unique location, but there’s nothing noteworthy or special about any of them for the most part. While I personally enjoyed the robot era simply for its neon light backdrops, you’ll find that enemies tend to blend into the background quite often, resulting in a lot of unnecessary damage taken because you're unable to see them before it's too late.

Each waves becomes progressively more difficult as you progress, each adding a new slightly more challenging enemy or simply more of them at once. By wave 5 you’ll see all of the types of enemies, from the standard grunts all the way to the massive T-Rex, Ogre, or Tank-like bot. The bigger enemies will obviously do more damage and absorb more, but they are usually slower, making them easier to deal with. The real frustration comes from the smallest enemies; the dogs, flies, bugs and spiders. These ******* are small, quick and incredibly difficult to shoot (mostly due to the controls) and cause me the most grief in every level. Even with the FOV set to max, you’re unable to see enemies coming from certain directions at times, so you’ll constantly get hit, unaware where from.

If you sat down and plowed through the campaign, looking for something else to do, there are two more modes for you to work towards; Arcade and Challenge. Arcade is simply creating a custom game however you like; choosing your enemies, weapons and setting. Nothing special, but you can select enemies from all the eras should you desire, and even perks that you’ve unlocked that can alter gameplay in unique ways.

Challenge mode is a little more interesting, as it gives you a specific criteria to try and complete. Maybe it’s shooting the annoying flying enemies with a bow and arrow, or trying to stay alive as long as you can with a rubber duck gun (don’t ask, though it was my favorite weapon). The challenge mode should keep your interest a little while longer, as it’s going to force you to play in a specific, and usually quite challenging, way that you normally wouldn’t.

Time Carnage was designed with VR in mind, and given that this isn’t the VR version, but instead the standard console edition, it’s simply not the same experience. Would VR save this game from its terrible controls and poor design? I doubt it, but it would be slightly improved. The reloading mechanics sounds like an interesting idea, but doesn’t translate very well. Sure, it’s functional, I guess, but again, I don’t understand why I can’t simply reload my weapons like normal.

Gameplay is very repetitive, and I’ll be surprised if it’s able to keep your attention for any length of time. The campaign is painful to get through, but luckily you only need to do so once for the unlocks before moving onto Challenge Mode instead. Even so, that won’t last you long unless you want to try and beat your high scores. I wanted to enjoy shooting waves of dinosaurs, but I wasn’t in any way with the weak gunplay, terrible controls and an onset of boredom. Great premise, but no real execution to a simple idea.

Overall: 3.5 / 10
Gameplay: 2.0 / 10
Visuals: 4.0 / 10
Sound: 4.0 / 10


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