Genre : First-Person Shooter
Publisher : Namco
Release Date : October 19, 2004
Buy 'TIME CRISIS: Crisis Zone': PlayStation 2
When the chance was offered for me to review this game, I jumped at it. Being a huge fan of the Time Crisis series and owning the first three titles, it just seemed to be a given. I had played the game in the arcades, but not much and not often, as it quickly left the local arcade. The game is fun, but not exactly groundbreaking; it's Time Crisis with a machine gun, and even then, it does not live up to the name very well (well the story and voice acting match up, but that’s not necessarily a good thing). With its high action, energy and the quick gameplay tempo, it’s at least a thrill ride for a little bit.
The shooting genre has been one of the very few to avoid being toned down and made easier with every new release. While other games generally seem to be made for the less avid gamer, shooting games have generally remained untouched by the hand of simplicity. Part of that is based on the general premise: you shoot things. Generally, the difficulty is determined by two aspects, how much time you have to shoot the object, and how difficult it is to shoot the object (size, speed of movement, and so on and so forth). Players can enhance the difficulty for themselves by adding artificial requirements to their shooting (i.e., only shooting the targets in the head). No matter what the reason might be for one's enjoyment of the shooting genre, this style of game has long been a staple in arcades. Even with their great arcade presence, shooting games have not really seen the same level of popularity on consoles. I imagine that is due to people not owning light guns and having a hard time justifying the purchase for just a handful of titles. This fact is even more pronounced on the most recent consoles (Xbox, PS2 and Gamecube), as there are almost no titles within the genre for the Xbox and only a few more for the PS2.
Crisis Zone's story is quite faithful to the Time Crisis series, as it is full of the cliché terrorist activities we have all grown to know and love (if you’re a TC fan anyway). Terrorists have taken over a mall, an office building, a hotel and a park… take that, soccer moms! Your role is the lead of an anti-terrorist squad set out to save the world. You must accomplish this equipped with nothing but a machine gun, a never-ending supply of ammunition and an indestructible riot shield (grenade-proof, bullet-proof and even tank-proof – I sure am glad that the terrorists don’t have access to these indestructible shields). At times, however, I wondered why I didn’t just throw down the gun and beat down the terrorists with my "Shield of Gibraltar."
In some ways, Crisis Zone departs from the standard Time Crisis formula (unlimited ammo and cover + handgun with the occasional upgraded weapon = fun?). In the previous titles, there was an emphasis on accuracy, and it was important to shoot the people relatively quickly so they couldn’t shoot you back. This installment changes the formula quite a bit by giving you a fully automatic assault rifle from the get-go. Ultimately, the result is that it changes slightly from an accuracy-centric title to something that almost resembles spraypainting the garage. To me, this single change was probably the most detrimental one, as I didn’t have nearly as much fun by pulling the trigger and waving the gun around as I had when I was actually aiming at targets. Another change that caused a bit of disappointment is the lack of a two-player mode. The other games essentially always included this two-player option, and it allowed for a couple of friends to compete with each other in order to get the best score.
So is the gameplay purely graphics here? Almost. I thought the best part was watching the environment become Swiss cheese as your hot lead flies through it without prejudice. Shooting people is always fun, but in Crisis Zone, I had more fun shooting objects: sending magazine pages flying as I plastered them with shell after shell from my machine gun, and watching skis explode into splintered shrapnel (which was particularly enjoyable, as my secret identity sells the pesky things over the phone). The effects in play when destroying the various objects strewn around the stages are basically the best I have seen. You can take out chunks of sculptures, reshaping them into deformed masses of pottery; computer monitors explode; basketballs deflate; glass shatters and all of it caused by the barrel of your smoking gun. I have never had a game make me feel so good about destroying everything in sight.
Another thing that enhances the enjoyment of the game is the dual gun mode, which allows you to use two at once if you happen to own two Guncon2 units. It also provides the chance for two people to play at the same time, but so far, the only way most people may have even one unit is through the purchase of Time Crisis 3. I don't know if there was a technical reason for this, but Crisis Zone only works with Guncon2, which means that any of the original Guncon units won't work. I had to borrow another Guncon2 gun from a friend in order to experience the dual gun mode, which made the game more enjoyable. I felt like a character out of a John Woo flick (minus the cartwheels and trench coat), and I rather enjoyed causing twice as much mayhem on the screen. The manner in which your enemies twitch and recoil as you pump round after round of lead into them is also pretty cool. It’s the most realistic rag doll effect I have ever seen in a shooting game (in that action flick sending-bodies-flying sort of way), although apparently everyone has some impossibly resilient body armor. It took a dozen shots or so at a near-point blank range to take out the average grunt, so it made me wonder if I was using fully-automatic pellet guns. Another oddity: sometimes, I was carving up solid rock statues like they were made out of chocolate, while at others, I couldn’t shoot through a cheap wooden box. Naturally, it was usually an item that terrorists were taking cover behind that I couldn’t shoot through… go figure.
The sound is much like the sound in previous Time Crisis games. The report on the guns sounds less than realistic, but certainly more than suitable. Similarly, explosions are nothing impressive but not condemnable either. The music is fairly decent mixing some upbeat techno with orchestrated string sections (not that you can really hear it over the mostly constant gunfire). The voice acting is a touch below average, falling into the bad category but not so bad that it's funny. Keep in mind that both the audio and graphics are pretty old, as this is a port from a pretty old arcade game (1999, if my memory serves me correctly). The audio is perhaps a touch less aged in sound than the graphics are in appearance. The characters look a touch pixelated here and there, and everything could be just a bit smoother. When you throw in the chaos of a gun fight (magazines flying, stones shattering, etc.), you get a fairly immersive visual experience.
If I were to say one thing to sum up this game, I think it would be “short.” I was able to clear through Crisis Zone in a couple of hours, and I was even taking breaks to write things down. I imagine that the average gamer should get an hour or two out of the story mode. The place where you get some replay would be the mission modes, which are constructed special circumstances with specific goals: don’t destroy any public property, destroy all the public property, or shoot terrorists only in the left thumb (okay, I made up the last one). These missions are much, much harder than the story mode, frustratingly so, at times, but they help to bring some additional gameplay, at least, until you realize that they are all basically the same. It’s a solid choice for a rental and will provide the average gamer with a day or two of fun, especially if you already have a Guncon2 unit. Even if you don't, you can still play with a controller… but it’s just not the same.
Score : 6.8/10
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