If there was one flaw you could leverage at PlayStation VR upon its launch and the months that followed it, it was that a few too many experiences and titles designed themselves around obliterating enemies from a singular position in a wave-based manner. In the year leading up to today we thought we had ridden ourselves of these basic undertakings, but it appears we were wrong. Time Carnage is exactly what you think it is, despite its effort to put a time-travelling spin on things.
This is a wave-based shooter that sticks you to a single spot as an onslaught of enemies charge your way. The twist to this is that the foes looking to eliminate you are all from different time periods and dimensions, with zombies setting the scene for a rough and ragged modern day setting, dinosaurs host a trip back to the prehistoric age, and robots chauffeur in an explosive meeting in the future. It’s a neat quirk that helps Time Carnage stand out from the crowd a little, but unfortunately its impact on gameplay leaves a lot to be desired.
A futuristic user-interface surrounds you, allowing you to pick up two of the four weapons you select for your loadout, and you’ll use these to kill every enemy that comes within range. After unloading all your ammunition, you’ll place the gun back in its holster in-front of you, where it will slowly reload itself before your every eyes. It’s a cool trick whereby you have to hand back your rifle in order to fire it again, whereas other VR games would simply reload the gun with an action performed by the player.
Notice how we didn’t mention any sort of time-travelling mechanic within the gameplay itself, because it’s this that becomes the title’s biggest let-down. In action, all you’ll be doing is gunning down enemy after enemy with little thought for any sort of strategy. You can occasionally activate a time paradox which slows things down and allows you to place your shots with accuracy, but that’s as far as any sort of time manipulation goes. It’s really quite disappointing to have the entire game based around time travel and manipulation, but then not have the ability to do any of it yourself.
Progression through the campaign is level based, but you’ll grow as a character through the numerous guns you’ll unlock. With 25 in total, you’re constantly handed new ones that are generally always an improvement on what you already have. With a pistol and a sub-machine gun taking the form of your starting weapons, you’ll quickly gain access to the likes of shotguns, assault rifles, sniper rifles, and even flamethrowers. This is the only satisfying loop in the game, because you’re not going to be able to improve anywhere else. Each new gun genuinely feels more powerful than what you had before, and so it’s somewhat satisfying to take down an enemy in no time when previously they’d pose more of a threat.
Elsewhere, the story is completely throwaway. You are part of a mission that’s making an effort to rebuild society for the human race in a different time period or dimension. In travelling to these places, you’re testing out whether it’s suitable for human life and the problems it poses. There’s nothing wrong with the premise itself, but we could only glean this summary from a text box on the menu screen. Outside of that, there isn’t a single bit of plot advancement in sight.
While the campaign and all its trappings feel incredibly lacklustre, bizarrely it’s actually the arcade and challenge modes where you’ll find the majority of the meat on this bone. In the arcade, you’ll be able to match yourself up against all four of the main enemy types at once, along with your selected loadout and a handful of perks unlocked through the campaign. Challenge mode mixes things up further with 10 different tasks to overcome that can have you killing certain enemies, restricting you to a certain gun, or making you aim for the brain with headshots only.
There’s genuine fun to be found in these two modes, but in turn it also makes us question why the campaign even exists at all. Its story is relegated to a text box, you have to fight each enemy race separately, and perks are nowhere to be seen. The single player outing is so boring and bare-bones when compared to anything else that Time Carnage has to offer.
Graphically, the majority of monsters you’ll meet up-close will look just fine, but when you’re squinting into the distance, environments start to get blurry. Because of this, it can be tough to judge just how close a foe is getting to you before it comes into precise view as it takes a swipe. In contrast, the locations themselves are fairly nice. It’s nothing too impressive, but visiting each area brings with it a certain sense of novelty as you take a look around you.
Time Carnage fails to do anything interesting with its gimmick, and thus this is nothing but just another shooting gallery. There’s a certain amount of fun to be found in the arcade and challenge modes, but slogging through the campaign to unlock the levels and perks contained within them is a complete borefest.