Replay Value: 4
Time Crisis is one of Namco's oldest franchises, dating back over a decade in age it came about shortly after Sega's light-gun shooter Virtua Cop, and three years after Konami's Lethal Enforcers. Time Crisis would become the most well known of the light-gun shooters, and Namco didn't limit the appeal of gun games to simply shooters, as the GunCon controller also received three Point Blank games - an amusement park-esque game with tons of shooting galleries to partake in, it was great fun. Back on topic, Time Crisis isn't exactly a franchise that Namco has milked vigorously, as this is only its fourth iteration, having seen only one spin-off, Crisis Zone. So here were are, a new era of games, a new controller, and a new Time Crisis. But what's gone wrong here that, for the first time ever, we're playing a sub-par Time Crisis? Quite a lot...
For starters, we're in the next-generation. We've got consoles with so much horsepower that developers don't even know what to do with it all. And before you think I'm about to slight the visuals, I'm not; the visuals are actually the least of this game's issues. It's the GunCon 3 and its calibration. For starters, the setup process is absurdly weird, not to mention quite a bit tedious. You have to setup these two LED receivers on top of each side of your TV set. They come with a base that unfolds, which allows them to hang on the edge if you have a flat-screen. The USB end of the receivers gets connected to the PlayStation 3, as does the GunCon controller itself.
Already, I'm tied up in a web of wires in a console world where everything has gone wireless. Okay, fine...a setback, maybe this makes the aim unquestionably tighter. Nope. It doesn't. Time Crisis 4 is the the sloppiest playing game the series has ever seen, and that goes for any Namco light-gun title. The receivers do nothing for the game's accuracy, as the crosshair's movements are greatly delayed, lacking instant response to your movements. This causes frustration, as it's nearly impossible to play and aim as instantly as you could using the GunCon 2 on the PlayStation 2.
Worst of all, calibration is never correct, no matter which calibrating method you use, two-point/standard, or five-point. While the crosshair will aim correctly when you're checking it during the menus, you'll quickly find it out of sight when you're playing (and the eventual sniper objective will prove that much). Combine that, on top of the ill response time, and you've got a nearly unplayable game. Additionally, if you're confined to a smaller gamespace, you have to have the gun five feet away from the screen (there's a red LED indicator on the gun), otherwise it won't shoot right.
The GunCon 3 itself isn't a very ergonomic controller - it's not comfortable to hold. The off-center handle makes holding the gun awkward, despite it being necessary for the analog stick - I'd rather it be traditional. Thankfully, the game allows you to change the way you cover/reload, as the default setting of holding down a button in order to shoot was stupid. I reverted it back to the classic setup, where pressing a button triggers cover and reload.
Unfortunately, switching weapons is done only by pulling the trigger when you're covering, and so you will often unintentionally switch a gun - all thanks to poorly implemented design. On top of that, I also hate the multiple screen encounters, where you have to turn left, right, or face center as enemies come at you from all different sides. It's annoying because instead of just being able to control your sight using the joystick, you have to aim your gun off-screen towards the direction you want to face.
Time Crisis 4's arcade mode can be completed in about 30 minutes or so - the standard time, in other words. There is also a first person shooter mode that allows you some extra freedom in conjunction with the analog sticks mounted onto the gun. Mini-games that require you to shoot flying targets are also present, but they don't do much to alleviate the overall experience. All of those extra features are useless when you have a completely broken targeting system that simply can't respond or calibrate accurate.
Time Crisis 4's gameplay is ultimately marred to the point of being barely playable, and it's a damn shame, because I've loved this franchise since day one (just look at my older reviews). Namco should've attempted either a wireless route or just leave the traditional video adapter plug-in approach for the receiver (one for SDTVs, and another for HDTVs).
As I mentioned earlier, Time Crisis 4 isn't bad looking - it's pretty passable. Since it's an on-rails shooter, albeit with a first-person shooter mode, you aren't really granted a whole much in the way of freedom and exploration. So, what you see is what you get. From what I can tell, the game features pretty average visuals all around, just enough to not be a bad looking game. There's good use of anti-aliasing for a smooth picture, and there isn't any shimmering to be found in the background. Everything is well defined and easy to distinguish, but the texture work can use some polish, as it seems to look more like a high-definition PlayStation 2 game than anything else. Still, the framerate is superb, and the character detail is pretty solid for a game like Time Crisis.
In terms of audio, I could swear that a lot of it sounds like it was pulled straight out of the previous Time Crisis game. You've got the absolutely standard barrage of sound effects here, none of which are really very satisfying to hear anymore. There is voice acting, as there always has been in the series, and while it's intentionally cheesy (I hope), it does the job just fine. Still, I can't help but feel that Time Crisis 4's audio deserves more - it's such a chaotic game at times that it needs to have that superb level of polish for its sound.
Likewise, the game as a whole deserves more. Time Crisis 4 is surprisingly...well, bad. And it pains me to call a Time Crisis game "bad", because I simply don't know them to ever be anything other than great fun. While the GunCon 3 setup, what with its kooky TV mounted receivers and such, is awkward and tedious, it's the gun control that ruins the entire experience. The delay in response and the impossible aim calibration ruins any chance of Time Crisis 4 being good. If, by any chance of luck, Namco somehow manages to issue a downloadable fix, the review will be revised with a new score and retracted. Until then...I must urge you to stay away from Time Crisis 4.