Time Crisis 4 blasts its way onto the PlayStation 3 and into next-gen territory. But has time finally run out for the much-loved series?
Ever since the golden age of Duck Hunt on the NES, gun-toting shoot-’em-ups have always been popular on consoles.
Titles such as Lethal Enforcers, Yoshi’s Safari and The House of The Dead saw gamers flock to stores to satisfy their trigger-happy cravings, presumably to the horror of Daily Mail readers concerned with fears of copy-cat behavior.
The Time Crisis series has also enjoyed popular fervour among fans of the genre, particular in the arcades. The duck and cover feature differentiated it from the conventional point-shoot-kill-or-be-killed blasters.
And so the franchise found its way to the PlayStation… Back then it was one of the best shooters around, if not the best for many hardcore fans of the temporally challenging title. When versions 2 and 3 followed, gamers were just as satisfied with their fix of shooty nirvana.
Skip forward to 2008 and the gaming landscape has changed dramatically. Sega no longer make consoles, game developer budgets have risen dramatically, online gaming is commonplace and motion sensing technology has brought a new audience to the platform. Even social-networking will be a part of consoles courtesy of PlayStation Home.
Television has changed too. No longer do we have to make do with crummy standard-definition pictures. This is the age where high-def rules all.
So, it’s unfortunate that despite having its share of good points, Time Crisis 4 seems stuck in the past. It didn’t get off to a good start when it came to the initial set up.
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First, the new gun peripheral – the G-con3 has a wire attached to it. At a time when joypads have evolved beyond the need for cables, that tie to the console seems so last gen.
Not only that, but rather than provide a simple sensor bar like the one the Nintendo Wii uses, Namco provides two fiddly LED sensors that need to be attached to both ends of the television set. That could be troublesome if you happen to be playing on a projector.
Like previous Time Crisis titles, the storyline seems irrelevant once the action begins.
This time round a group of terrorists has managed to get its scummy hands on a top-secret government weapon codenamed “Terror Bites” – basically annoying insects specifically built for the purpose of war.
The game has two main styles of play: Arcade Mode and Complete Mission Mode.
Arcade mode pits players straight into the action, whereas the latter introduces a brand new element to the series, one which we hope never shows its face again – first person shooter missions.
There’s nothing wrong with trying to freshen up a franchise that’s been around a bit. But introducing first-person style levels to a conventional shooter just doesn’t work.
Navigating means having to hold the G-con3 with both hands, with one finger on the left analogue stick, with another needed on the right stick to look around. Add to this having to shoot as well and the controls feel clunky.
Controlling Agent Rush in these missions is made more tedious by the slow pace of the levels. Not only are they too big, they are also dull, grey and blocky and would look more at home on the PS2.
In fact the best thing that can be said about these missions is they make the player appreciate the more conventional Time Crisis-like levels.
Not that there are many of those…
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As mentioned, it is Arcade mode that forms the crux of the action here. Unlike Complete Missions mode, Arcade features none of the dreadful first-person bits and gives hardcore fans what they really want.
It’s a shame there are only three stages, though.
This scenario is common with the series, but – given the amount of space supposedly available on Blu-ray discs – fans could have been forgiven for thinking the game would be more substantial.
However, even these missions are not the best. Setting them on the hardest difficulty setting won’t offer the challenge of past titles in the series, nor the replayability.
Players no longer need to rely on a regular handgun in Time Crisis 4; pressing the trigger while in cover mode enables them to switch between shotgun, machine gun and grenade launcher. It’s an interesting addition, but does feel gimmicky.
There are some levels where the player mans a machine-like gun from a helicopter. That adds a little to the urgency, but it sadly requires little skill: simply holding down the trigger for rapid fire and aiming is enough to get through.
The added mini games made up of 18 tasks requiring players to hit coloured targets is fun at times, but isn’t enough to keep gamers coming back once the main game’s completed.
So does Time Crisis 4 hit the target?
The short answer is no. The game is too short, feels last-gen and the addition of a first-person mode is best forgotten. Die-hard fans of the series will at first love the feeling of nostalgia to be had playing a Time Crisis title after so long.
But ultimately, it’s a time crisis all on its own. Too little, too late.