Review: Time Crisis 4

TimeCrisis4.jpgPlatform: PS3
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Developer: Namco Bandai
Release Date: 11/20/07
Genre: Light-gun Shooter
Players: 1-2

So I’ve been cappin’ away at terrorists and terror bites with my bright orange Guncon 3 in Time Crisis 4 for a couple weeks now and have finally pulled myself away to report in with my final impressions (sorry, the game is such a blast it’s been hard to stop playing). Contrary to the barrage of negative reviews out there thus far, Time Crisis 4 absolutely rocks and is a definitive exclusive for PS3 fans to praise and brag about amongst their Xbox 360 and Wii owning friends. Namco Bandai may have given those platforms exclusive love with the likes of Ace Combat 6, Beautiful Katamari, Eternal Sonata (for a limited time) and Soul Calibur Legends, but TC4 trumps them all!

The bulk of Time Crisis 4 centers around two main story modes — Arcade and Complete Mission – both of which follow a thin plot about terrorists stealing some strange biological weapon of insects called terror bites. In Arcade mode, you play as one of two VSSE agents named Giorgio and Evan in pursuit of said terrorists through three stages of the on-rails, duck-and-shoot light-gun gameplay that the Time Crisis series has become famous for in arcades and on previous PlayStation consoles. Complete Mission mode, on the other hand, mixes the formula up with an expanded storyline that blends the three arcade chapters with an exclusive set of FPS Guncon missions that put you in the role of Captain Rush, another against who has been called in by the U.S. Army’s Internal Surveillance Unit to help deal with the situation.

As always, the plot is incredibly silly, the characters are clichéd and copycat, and the dialogue is about as campy as it can get. Don’t expect to be blown away by PS3-pushing visuals either. The graphics look great for sure, perfectly translating what’s seen in the arcades, but for picky graphics whores they don’t quite measure up to the best the PS3 has to offer. But in the end it’s all irrelevant, to me at least. Don’t over analyze this stuff, folks. It’s not meant to be serious, so taking it as such (which most critics seem to be doing for some reason) is a complete disservice to the game. I mean come on, who the hell plays a light-gun game for a serious, hard-hitting narrative? I know I sure don’t.

But anyways, back to the game… What you do get with Time Crisis 4 is an incredibly fun shoot-‘em-up that brings the arcade light-gun experience to home consoles with unprecedented quality and authenticity, not to mention virtually unlimited replay value – in addition to the story modes the game also features a ton of fun target practice mini-games, tough, quick-hitting challenges called Crisis Missions, a variety of unlockable special cheat settings and two-player co-op (more on that in a bit). Oh and I certainly can’t forget the brand spankin’ new Guncon 3 controller bundled in with the game. It’s two-handed, dual-analog stick, 6-button design may seem initially daunting, but it’s actually quite comfortable to use, is remarkably accurate, works with any HD or SD display you want to hook it up to (I’ve played it on a huge projector screen and it worked flawlessly), and really couldn’t be any easier to setup.

Playing the game arcade style is as heart-pounding as the series has always been, popping in and out of cover to quickly cap away at attacking terrorists. The thrills are even greater now too with bigger, badder boss encounters and new multi-screen sequences that have you aiming off the screen left and right to rapidly switch back and forth between multiple waves of attacking enemies. On the higher difficulties it’s also punishingly difficult with plenty of cheap, unavoidable hits to frustrate the easily frazzled and delight the hardcore arcade purists, and the customary arcade progression method that requires you to beat the game in one shot with the provided allotment of continues, or else it’s back to the beginning of the game all over again.

The new FPS missions, however, provide a more adapted console experience, melding light-gun play within the fully controllable format of a real first-person shooter. Guncon 3 in dual-fisted grip, you thumb about with one analog stick to move and strafe and use the other stick to adjust the camera (there are multiple configurations), all while pointing at the screen to shoot as usual. Playing this way definitely feels like trying to pat your head and rub your tummy at the same time at first, but with practice it becomes fairly natural to maneuver. Granted, the AI is simple-minded and the level designs are vanilla, so you’re never really challenged to make any split-second movements to test just how intuitive the control scheme is. But still, it works well. Taken as and compared to modern first-person shooters, the FPS mode is average at best. But it’s mainly meant to be taken as a bonus mode to the standard arcade play, and in that context it’s an entertaining side attraction to plow through in between the other modes.

Before wrapping up here, there are a few caveats I need to point out. For starters, the Guncon 3’s two-handed design doesn’t factor in left-handed players. Traditional arcade mode play only requires one-handed use, so no problem there, but for the full FPS missions where two hands are required, lefties aren’t going to be as comfortable with the controls. Another catch is the simple fact that the new Guncon is currently only available bundled alongside the game. So if you want to play co-op you’re either going to have to wait until Namco Bandai releases the controller standalone or get two copies of the game, and at 80-90 bucks apiece that’s a pricey proposition (unless you have a friend with the game as well, then you’re all set). Also note that the Guncon and infrared sensors connect to the PS3 via USB (they aren’t wireless), so if you’ve got the cheaper “gimped” PS3 model that only has two USB ports you’ll have to get a USB hub in order to have enough ports to play co-op. Online co-op would’ve solved some of this, but unfortunately network play isn’t supported.

These issues are going to limit accessibility for some, but for the majority of players they shouldn’t prove to be anything more than minor nuisances. As a solo experience alone, Time Crisis 4 is totally worth the purchase for all the modes and mini-games it has to offer, so don’t let the slightly demanding co-op requirements push you away. Even among the recent rush of other high profile games like Uncharted, Ratchet & Clank Future, Assassin’s Creed, Call of Duty 4 and UT3, Time Crisis 4 has kept in circulation on my PS3 more than anything else. I’d say that’s a pretty strong indicator at how awesome this game is.

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About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!