Coming from the studio that brought us The Bunker and Coffin Dodgers, Wales Interactive, Time Carnage is a VR survival shooter spanning millions of years and providing millions of bullets for your gun-toting pleasure. Given the story pedigree and production values we saw in The Bunker (a lovely take on the FMV games of yore), we were expecting great things in their second virtual reality game… so does it deliver a timeless experience, or is it simply out of date? There’s no need to turn on the flux capacitor to find out, just read on.
Throwing you in at the deep end with a brief couple of screens that show you how to reload the weapons, you’re flung through time on a floating platform to deal with something happening in post-nuclear war torn USA. There’s not really a reason for it, and it’s not clear why you’re there mopping up the mess, but it feels like there should be some explanation from the campaign screen for putting in the energy and effort to develop time travel, other than allowing you to stand in a bubble with 4 pedestals within reach, ready to kill anything that comes to investigate. We don’t know why we’re there, but by God we’re going to kill everything that moves and rack up an arbitrary score. Reaching out to the aforementioned pedestals, a tap of the Move button on the left or right controller snaps the floating weapon into your virtual hand, letting you dual wield death in a full 360 degrees… even if the enemies only come at you from the front or slightly left and right. Pull the triggers and the exquisitely modelled firearms jump and vibrate as they fling their gravity affected projectiles into the horde of soulless creatures shambling towards you. Area cleared, job done, give yourself a high five before the next 9 waves hit.
It’s going to sound trite, but that’s this game in a nutshell. 10 waves of increasingly difficult enemies in a static environment per level, with 4 levels per zone ranging from the dinosaur inhabited distant past, to the neon futures that might exist one day. Each zone is billed as dynamic, but I hardly think a couple of explosive barrels and the odd container that opens really measure up to that. It’s disappointing because from the outside the presentation on display is excellent and the controls responsive and intuitive. Take the mechanism to manage your ammo, the pedestals. You pre-select what you want to take into the scenario with you and up to four guns can be mixed and matched, with additional weapons unlocking as you complete each stage. Once you’ve arrived your selections appear floating above the columns where you grab them, fire away, then drop them back to reload. There’s a resource management element introduced to make targeting the enemies a bit more than just pulling the trigger, but the infinite ammo and speed of reload means that there’s not a lot of jeopardy. Unless they don’t hit what you’re targeting which can happen up close (shotguns miss at point blank range for some extremely strange reason), then you’re in trouble as they batter your shield down and chomp away.
Time Carnage has a nicely realised set of levels and varying opponents to take down, with some requiring a bit of thought, but it mainly is fire until they rag-doll backwards. I mentioned earlier about gravity affected bullets and I think it needed highlighting as there must be something about time travel that reduces the effect of gunpowder because they start to drop away from target after a couple metres. Compensating is easy enough, it just begs the question why? What difference would it have made to allow them to travel straight. It’s a shame the main campaign is so repetitive, it spoils what could have been a fast paced survival game that builds tension and cathartic release. You realise this once you move to the challenge mode because that’s where a lot of the fun lies. Each challenge unlocked (sorry, you’ll need to endure the “story” mode to get to them) sets you up with a specific goal, weapons and perks to shake things up. They feel a bit Timesplitters in this respect, and I found myself retrying these quite a bit to open up more perks. As an example, a laser sight is classed as a perk, though as far as I can tell they can only be used in arcade at your behest, or appear fixed in challenges. Again, another bit of design that could have been more inclusive; given that they are unlocked by surviving the tedium of the campaign they should have been added as an option for use in later levels.
Arcade is more a survival mode that lets you keep going until you’re dead (tip: do the campaign first otherwise you’ll not make it very far). Getting the option to custom build the setup and bring in everything you’ve unlocked acts as some form of payoff for the effort, yet doesn’t seem substantially different to the campaign, although does get more frantic earlier on. There are some other niggles too like a regular reset of the view right from loading to make sure you’re centred, or the way the guns drift on the tracking so that when you swap you’re having to rotate the controller to maintain the same shooting angle. Nothing major that we haven’t felt in other games, but detracts from the technical excellence that is apparent. I might not be a fan of the game play but I’m not knocking how this is put together. Even the sporadic inclusion of time slowing bubbles to shoot is well handled with a nice audio snippet to make you look around for them, or a satisfying ding as a bullet connects with a head, though doesn’t always fell the rest of the creature.
Ultimately you’ve got to be on board for this type of game before wading in otherwise it gets stale fast. Most VR titles manage to make you forget how long you’ve been in their world, and hours can feel like minutes. With Time Carnage it felt the exact opposite and I was willing the end of the levels to come faster. It’s technically very proficient and one of the better examples of a VR shooter I’ve played, I just feel it could have done a bit more on the variety side for the waves, or even halved the number that need completing, just to stop it being so dry. Big thumbs up on the challenge mode though, there’s a game in itself I’d go for there.
A PSVR review copy of Time Carnage was provided by Wales Interactive’s PR team and the game is available now on PC and PS4.