I can’t remember the last time I went to the arcade down my local bowling alley. It seems as though the arcade scene is slowly fading away – reserved for those special trips to the seaside. But if there’s one game that has always stuck in my mind for arcade gaming, it would have to be Time Crisis. I remember spending hours of my youth blasting away with the light gun. It’s no surprise then that in 1997 – two years after the title was introduced to the arcade – the PlayStation was given what could easily be called a revolutionary new way to play computer games.
A lot has happened in twelve years though. We saw a brand new millennium, Elton John tied the knot, even Millwall made the FA cup final! Add to those happenings, and we’ve went through three editions of Time Crisis and now it’s on its fourth on the PS3. Needless to say, this game has to be played with the light gun that is provided. It’s worth mentioning straight from the off that the light gun isn’t wireless. You have to plug in two USB devices: the light gun itself and two small sensors which obviously pick up the infrared signal from the gun.
It’s not the greatest of starts – especially because in this day and age, we’ve come to expect devices to be wireless. Secondly, there’s no kick-back or recoil on the gun. It isn’t on rails and doesn’t give any feedback when you shoot – unlike the arcade guns. The gun itself is also somewhat modified from the usual also. The most notable difference is that there is now an extra part to the gun, for your hand hand. Naturally, to steady your hand, you would hold the trigger with your right hand and hold the bottom of the barrel with your left hand – so the extra part on the gun is actually quite a welcome addition. The point of it is to offer you a left analog stick and two extra buttons. Your right hand sits snugly on the trigger, with your thumb being able to stretch to the back of the gun to use the right analog stick.
There’s a very good reason that Namco Bandai have slapped in two analogue sticks to the gun. They’re there to cater for the new addition to Time Crisis: a Free Roaming first-person shooter mode. This mode takes you away from the set-path, arcade style gameplay and allows you to run around as you wish to complete the mission. In theory, this would be a great addition. However, it feels as though they haven’t quite put as much effort into the system as you’d expect. Some of the environments are very open which constantly leaves you getting shot by the enemy, even when they’re far away. Not only that, but finding cover and sticking to it is actually quite tricky. In the Arcade mode, you have a set path and so cover is used logically. If you find yourself getting shot, you can simply release (or press, whichever you’ve set) the button to duck behind cover. This isn’t available in the FPS mode of the game, so you’ll have to just press the duck button and hope for the best.
That being said, it’s not all bad. The mode does work well once you get used to the fact that you’ve got to be a bit cautious. It also brings a much needed element of originality to the FPS genre, allowing you to shoot enemy in the corner of your screen, without having to aim at them with your centered crosshair. Another nice addition is that the story links in nicely with the arcade section of the game – tying up the loose ends.
But it’s really the arcade section that makes this game. For those of you who have never played Time Crisis in the arcade: One or two players can chose to play either Evan Bernard or Giorgio Burno – two hardcore members of a global taskforce who are sent to try and stop a terrorist force called W.O.L.F from getting their evil hands on a new biological weapon. The gameplay itself doesn’t allow you to move anywhere manually. Instead, you follow a generic path in which you’ll regularly take cover stops. By releasing or pressing the button (you can set which one you prefer in the options), you can pop out from behind the cover and take down the enemy.
Each enemy will have different skills and this is usually represented by colours. Some will be a standard colour and won’t necessarily be any good at hitting you with their bullets – as such you can pull out of cover and take a few shots at them without any worry of losing a life. Those in red are skilled shooters and will hit you every time you show your face, therefore forcing you to concentrate your shots on them first. Others will be coloured yellow, who have specialist weapons like machine guns or rocket launchers.
It’s worth mentioning also that you’re not stuck to a handgun. Within your inventory of weapons you also get graced with a machine gun, a shotgun and a grenade launcher (or standard grenade). Certain situations in the game will require you to pick the right weapon in order to generate the most damage. For example, the shotgun is best used in close quarter situations or to take out a swarm of deadly insects set on you.
Of course, as you progress through the story, you’ll be rewarded with points for accuracy, as well as using the right weapon at the correct time. When you first start the Arcade mode, you’ll find yourself losing the three continues you start with quickly. However, as you get used to the levels and the dangers, you’ll soon find yourself earning points and gaining continues easily. In fact, once you’re really used to the game, you’ll find yourself flying through the single player Arcade mode in about an hour or two! There are various unlockable extras that increase the difficulty of the Arcade mode, which increases the longevity somewhat – but it’s still a short experience.
This again takes you back to the Complete Mission mode (FPS mode) which is surprisingly longer. Some tasks can take up to forty minutes to complete safely – although this doesn’t come without a price. Some parts of the game will bring up some slow down, albeit short and sweet.
If you’d rather try your hand at something a bit less action-packed, you can have a go at the mini-games also available in Time Crisis 4. Once you’ve completed the Arcade and Complete Missions mode, you also unlock the Crisis Missions. Most are based on reactions, testing your speed and accuracy, such as taking out a heap of enemies in a small amount of time. As you progress through these missions, you’ll unlock even more to play. The 18 mini-games within Time Crisis 4 are always worth mentioning as an added bonus. One or two players can take part in these snippets of fun, which again assign you tasks such as eliminating a group of enemies before the time runs out. All of these take your mind off the short arcade mode.
When it comes to the graphics for Time Crisis however, the best word to describe them is mediocre. There’s nothing here to push the boundaries of the PS3’s graphical capabilities, but that’s not to say Time Crisis doesn’t look good. The character models are relatively detailed, although it’s not admittedly much better than the arcade machine variation available at the moment.
Although there are some rather negative elements of Time Crisis 4, it’s still the only game on the PS3 that currently uses any form of light gun technology, and that alone makes it worth while. Namco Bandai have been making light gun games for decades and it’s evident by the consistently addictive titles they produce – and Time Crisis 4 is no different. If you’re a fan of the series or the G-con light gun, it’s an absolute must buy. If you’re not, it’s probably worth waiting for it to hit the bargain bin.