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In Memory
Sean Pettibone


Time Crisis 4 (Playstation 3)

This is Namco-Bandaiís latest installment in their long-running shooting franchise and marks the series' first appearance on next-gen hardware. Utilizing the new GunCon 3 controller, players will encounter some familiar light-gun game elements as well as some fresh first-person style levels. In addition to the standard arcade mode, thereís also an extended mission mode that includes extra stages. The gameplay is fairly straightforward, for the most part, though players now have the option of switching between screens in some areas, though this doesnít really change the basics. Time Crisis 4 is a decent game though its short length, high price and, limited extra modes reduces itís replay value, making it good rental candidate.

Based on the previous installments of this successful light-gun series, players are probably already well-acquainted with Time Crisis' basic gameplay and styles, and this fourth installment's new features and enhancements are decent enough, but they don't really change the basic premise that makes the gameplay so appealing. As you'd expect, the game stays true to its arcade shooter roots for the most part and you probably won't need a lot of explanation before you start playing. Players begin the game with a decent arsenal of bullets and guns, and can earn additional weapons such as machine guns and flame throwers as they defeat enemies. As you shoot, your magazine empties rounds and you'll have to press the reload button to fill up again. Additionally, you lose energy whenever you're hit and can't take too many shots or you'll be defeated. Many of the enemies also hide behind barriers, which can be difficult to break down, which makes them hard to knock down. The plot is fairly straightforward and unfolds during a series of chapters. This time around, a group of terrorists have attacked a somewhat nameless city and are preparing some brand new weapons to throw against you. Instead of the usual soldiers with guns blazing, now you'll also have to contend with swarms of robotic cyber-bugs that crawl around and attack your position. These require special weapons to defeat, and faster reflexes as well. Once they've crawled onto the screen, they'll drain a lot of your energy quickly. For the most part, the game stays true to the Time Crisis conventions, which makes for a generally satisfying but unsurprising experience. However, there are a few levels in the Mission Mode that attempt to introduce a first person shooter mode to play.

It's in these real-time sections where things fall a little bit flat. Instead of the traditional light-gun approach, you get a watered down mode where you control the movement instead of being on rails, which is a cool idea. Unfortunately, the implementation leaves a lot to be desired. Instead of using an intuitive system, you instead have to battle the controller, using the attached d-pad to move while another button on the Guncon is used to aim, it's difficult to use even after you get accustomed to it, and the choppy graphics make for an awkward addition that actually detracts from the overall experience. These levels are quite annoying and frustrating and make Time Crisis 4 less enjoyable than a straight shooter would have been. On the bright side, the developers have also added a few extra modes, such as mini-games which consist of mainly target practice games and an individual stage mode where you have to meet certain criteria, such as number of kills or shot accuracy, in order to progress. The single-player mode is fairly enjoyable, but the game also supports multiple players in co-op modes where you can work together to defeat each stage.

Most of Time Crisis 4 is set in a series of militaristic locations and airport hangars, and while the smooth and crisp graphics make it easy to pick out targets and enemies to attack, the overall presentation of the game is somewhat bland and generic. The enemy polygons look very-much like a last generation game with simplistic character models and environments that never really reach the level of sophistication and depth you'd expect from a current-generation game. You won't really be impressed by the voice-overs, which are pretty bad and the overwrought music score which makes you feel like you're watching a bad movie. You do have to factor in that this is based on an arcade game, and probably wasn't designed with the PS3 in mind, but still the game's lack of polish and graphical detail is fairly obvious right from the main menu which makes for a disappointing aesthetic experience overall.

Theoretically, you can indeed play Time Crisis 4 with a standard PS3 controller, but this approach is basically completely defeating the purpose of the game. However, since the Guncon 3 isn't available separately, those who want to try the multiplayer modes will probably have to make due with this since the cost of two bundles is prohibitive. Using the Guncon is fairly simple, with most standard PS3 buttons mapped to the controller, which allows you to navigate through the menus and control the character's movements in the FPS mode using the attached mini-controller. It's a fairly accurate device, though you might need to use the calibration software a few times before you get just the right feel. Setting up the device is fairly simple, you basically plug in the Guncon to the PS3's USB port, then attach the two sensor blocks to either side of your television and you are all set. You can move to the proper distance away from your set for the best shooting, and the indicator light on your gun will go on if you're standing to close to the screen. It's a fairly sturdy gun, and is very easy to use. It offers some fairly accurate shot tracking, though the fact that it isn't wireless is slightly disappointing. It does have a long cord which allows you plenty of freedom of movement.

While there are some elements of Time Crisis 4 that can be counted as innovative, for the most part, Namco hasn't strayed too far off its well-worn course. Most of the game still entails shooting at enemies while pausing occasionally to reload. At its normal stages, the game is a push-over and even when the difficulty is ratcheted up, there challenge level isn't really too high. Its arcade mode is fairly superficial, though is entertaining while it lasts. It's mission mode offers deeper gameplay while the mini-games try and extend the game's longevity, but don't add much to the overall experience. Time Crisis 4 is a disappointing effort with somewhat bland and unimpressive graphics. The presentation isn't helped by its undetailed character models or its one-dimensional predictable storyline that really doesn't help to put you into the game. Attempting the blend in FPS elements into the game probably sounded like a good idea on paper, but the execution is awkward and these stages fail to blend in with the main game. Time Crisis 4's mini-games and co-op play add some replay value to the experience, but its still a short and not very difficult game at the end of the day. The end result of this is a game that really doesn't play as smoothly or polished as you'd expect, and makes Time Crisis 4 a title that's enjoyable in short bursts, but not something you'd want to play for an extended period. The high retail price (currently nearly $100.00 US including tax) is another detriment and makes this definitely one better suited to renting than buying.  

- Michael Palisano


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