Many people will have fond memories of Time Crisis from back in the old arcade days where there would always be a large crowd gathered to watch a couple of guys frantically wave their plastic guns around. It was quite possibly the revenue generator that many arcade parlour owners have retired in the Bahamas on to this day. So naturally, when Namco announced that a PS3 version was in the works, nostalgia kicked in and I desperately searched my wallet for $1 coins. Sadly, however, Time Crisis 4 fails to recapture the fond memories of the arcade version. And it's not just the fact that I don't have eight random strangers all watching my every move with an awestruck expression on their face.
Right from the unpacking stage, Time Crisis 4 sets you up for a mediocre experience. Firstly the gun controller that is included is a putrid bright orange colour. It's almost shameful having this thing sitting next to your PS3. My cat even refuses to go into the lounge with this thing lying around. Secondly, although the original arcade gun was big and clunky, the PS3 gun is an abomination of analog sticks, buttons and random chunks sticking out at all angles. Time Crisis 4 is also bundled with infrared sensors that must be attached to the top two corners of your television set. Namco have cleverly attached two rubber "sticky" flaps that can lie along the top or down the back of your TV, which weights them down and doesn't leave any residue behind when moved. However, they didn't give much thought towards the placement of the wires which often droop down in front of the screen or get tangled up too easily. Finally, both these sensors and the gun controller are both USB powered, which for most PS3 owners (of the 40GB model) means that both your USB ports are taken up instantly.
Once past the frustrating calibration stage, you can finally get stuck into the game itself. From here, things started to look positive again, with the Arcade Mode being a familiar affair to the original. The cheese-crusted storyline concerns specialised US army soldiers, who all look like they auditioned for Final Fantasy, going up against a terrorist organisation known as the Western Order Liberation Front. This group of bad guys, otherwise called W.O.L.F, have developed a new secret weapon known as "Terror Bites" that they plan on unleashing on the world.
Without giving the plot away, these pathetically unoriginally titled "Terror Bites" are genetically engineered bugs that want to eat your face. They come in the form of scarab-like beetles through to flying wasp-like insects and at several times through-out the game you'll need to fend off hordes of them. But don't worry, as you'll be picking off plenty of human enemies as well. Most are armed with basic guns, but as you progress through the game you'll come across rocket launchers, knife throwers, shield-bearing units and plenty more. Each type of enemy will require particular targeting to aim at weak spots and different weapons will be more effective against certain enemies as well. For example, shotguns are perfect for close range, machine-guns great for swarms of insects and grenade launchers are ideal for taking down large vehicles such as helicopters or tanks.
In Arcade Mode, all of your movement is "on rails". Which means you get little choice over the speed and the direction of which your character moves. All you need to do is keep targeting objects on the screen and watching your ammo count. After eliminating a wave of enemies, you get moved to a new location. Reloading and taking cover are linked together so every time you duck behind an object, you automatically reload your gun. However, there are certain sections of the game where you will have enemies approaching from different directions and you will be able to turn left and right in order to fend them off.
Apart from sore arms and extreme repetition (expect to hear the announcer say "RELOAD" about three thousand times), the Arcade Mode offered several hours of enjoyment. Unfortunately this is the best part of Time Crisis 4. In a bold new move, the PS3 version introduces a first-person player mode to the franchise. This is where the additional analogue sticks and buttons come into play, removing the "game on rails" aspect and giving you freedom of movement. Initially this sounds brilliant, but it seems that even Namco were unsure as to how to tackle this concept properly.
For starters the graphics in this mode are almost PS2 quality, with flat textures and terrible map design. Although the Arcade Mode is full of brilliant detail and destructible environments, the FPS Mode reminded me of playing Wolfenstein. Despite all of the controls being only on the gun, they did work fairly well. The left analogue stick is located near the front of the gun along with two shoulder buttons for L1 and L2. Meanwhile on the rear of the gun you have the right stick and two more buttons for R1 and R2. Moving around using these two sticks (one for movement, the other for looking around respectively) felt natural and comfortable. But when you have to then aim and target enemies using the gun sight, it turns into a bit of a nightmare. Imagine playing a normal FPS but having to hold your controller at eye-level and move it around the screen. Although it has plenty of potential, another frustrating aspect is that you walk at a painfully slow rate. This is great considering the clunky targeting system but some of the maps are huge and take forever to explore.
Lastly, Time Crisis 4 includes mini-games which are essentially just like target practice games for the Nintendo Wii. Objects will fly across your screen and you have to shoot particular targets in a set amount of time. There are about 35 different modes, each with their own twist on the idea and could make for a good party activity. Except for the fact that you have to be Billy the Kid to succeed in any of them, thanks to the insanely hard requirements for each one. The game is so quick to punish you for anything that it removes any casual fun from the game. My orange brick of a gun nearly became part of my television screen at one point.
Of course it wouldn't be Time Crisis without multiplayer, and if you find some other sucker with a road-safety-vest coloured gun, they can plug in and share the torment alongside you. The game even allows you to use a standard PS3 controller but honestly, who the hell would even attempt this? The lightning fast reflexes and precision need for shooting is hard enough with the proper equipment, without an unnecessary handicap. At the end of the day, this game will be a great rental title to experience a light-gun game on the PS3 and for true hardcore Time Crisis fans who will probably enjoy the challenge.