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In Memory
Sean Pettibone


 

 

 

 

      





At first glance, you can be forgiven for thinking that Time Crisis II is yet another gun game for the PS2 console. However, the difference here is that Namcoís GunCon2 controller allows 2 players to battle the bad guys simultaneously. There are extra modes, secret objectives, hidden games and other options. These are all cool bonus features that enhance this arcade port but are they enough to make a purchase worthwhile?

The latest installment Namcoís popular gun-game series, Time Crisis II is a deep and challenging gun game, featuring slick graphics, an exceptional interface and a bevy of secrets. Like the other games in the series, Time Crisis II casts the player as one of two secret agents battling an evil terrorist organization and its figurehead boss. As you may have guessed, the object is to kill any enemy terrorists onscreen while avoiding their shots, which is much harder than it sounds. While there are some twists in the action, TC2 plays fairly similar to the first game. The structure is likewise straightforward with levels unfolding in a linear fashion, with some branching. While some people may be upset about this comparison being made between the two series yet again, Segaís Virtua Cop is the closest comparison in terms of overall structure and how the game unfolds.

Time Crisis IIís main game can be played in two different ways: arcade mode and story mode. In arcade mode, you select a single level to go through while Story mode allows the complete story arc to unfold. You shoot the enemies at your will but your gun clipís capacity is limited to a few bullets so youíll need to pause and reload frequently. The clock is also another foe, since each level is time limited as is the time you have to shoot each enemy. Failing to do this will cause you to lose life. Along the way, you can also collect power-ups including machine guns and grenades. The game is quite challenging and unfolds at a frenetic pace with the player often facing multiple onscreen foes at once. This is frustrating initially but becomes more enjoyable as your skills increase; the trick is to focus on a single enemy at a time.

While there are only three levels, the cool twist come in the multiplayer mode, where two players can play simultaneously via split screen. This is a lot of fun, but requires two light-gun controllers to really be effective and this obviously, is an expensive option. There are several mini-games included in Time Crisis II that add some longevity. These range from simple skills and training levels to more interesting arcade style contests such as a skeet-shooting game and an arcade style contest called Quick & Crash. There are several available initially but more can be unlocked by beating the story mode. The main game however, is the real meat of Time Crisis II and this is solid, though a little short. The level designs are good for a gun game and the enemies put up one hell of a fight, making for some pretty intense battles. There are also some branching areas and hidden objectives that add somewhat to the replay value, though most players of average ability should have no problem beating the entire game after a few sessions. This is a bit disappointing, but something that seems inherent in most light-gun based titles.

Another really disappointing aspect of Time Crisis II is that the game suffers immensely from bad graphics. The dreaded PS2 jaggies make frequent and unwanted appearances throughout the game, lending TC2 an appearance that seems sadly behind the curve. Add in the simple polygonal characters, a lack of significant light sourcing and you have something that suffers from a flat appearance. The sound effects and music are decent but the forgettable robotic voice overs do little to immerse the player into the story. This doesnít significantly tax the PS2ís abilities, making for a disappointing presentation overall.

Helping to mitigate this to some degree is that Time Crisis II supports Namcoís new Guncon2 controller, which is a cool, though flawed, piece of hardware. The game is also backwards compatible with the Original Guncon but can also be played with the standard Dual-Shock controller. Obviously, using one of the gun controllers is preferable since playing with the standard controller defeats the whole purpose and is incredibly awkward. The GunCon2 itself is solidly designed and a very nice piece of technology. Itís a bit nicer than the original GunCon, since itís a little lighter and sleeker in design, though like the original, it allows for accurate shooting and movement and hasnít really changed that much in its basic functionality.

Unfortunately, setting up the GunCon2 was a bit of a hassle, since you need to make 2 separate connections, which really seems a bit odd, and we also found that having the device connected into the RCA cables caused the picture quality to deteriorate slightly as well. Itís not completely clear why this happened, and it may be due to some kind of interference from having a multi-platform household with several different consoles on the same connection. This is understandable from that perspective, but the degradation and installation hassles mean that the GC2 is not the high-quality peripheral it could have been, especially given the steep cost of this. It works great with the game, and the loss in picture quality isnít severe enough to ruin the game but disappointing that these kinks werenít worked out in quality control.

Itís too bad that the GunCon2 technology was imperfect and it also seems to have been a bit wasted on such a disappointingly superficial game with little depth. Like the original, this is a standard arcade game port, and while Namco has added a few extras to sweeten the deal, gameplay gets repetitive in a hurry. The various mini-games, hidden objectives and multiplayer modes are nice, but in the end, they canít hide Time Crisis IIís problems. TC2ís flat appearance may have been acceptable, but Namcoís failed to fix the jaggie problems long thought defeated on the console.

Not strictly for that reason, the game thus has a very limited long-term appeal that deteriorates quickly into boredom. Once youíve played through it once, you wonít want to again, since the action isnít really that compelling or different. Time Crisis also suffers from the fact that it doesnít offer much that the first two PSone installments did and feels like more of the same.  Itís not a bad game but like so many other gun games, the actual length is too stingy and the challenge far too limited to make you feel anything but cheated. Playing the game with two players is a cool options, but in the end, not nearly enough to make the experience feel unique. Time Crisis II is an entertaining and challenging title with a few problems but the fun doesnít last long enough to justify the high price of the bundle. The problems we had with the GunCon2, while probably indigenous to an overly complex, overpopulated game room, are a nagging complaint. It may be better to view it as a rental than a purchase and from that angle might be worth your time.