Genre : First-Person Shooter
Publisher : Namco
Release Date : October 19, 2004
Pre-order 'TIME CRISIS: Crisis Zone': PlayStation 2
What's in a light gun? A game with any other controller would play as sweet.
Not true, Mr. Shakespeare! In all of my gaming experience, however great or small compared to anyone else, the only games I've beaten and really wanted to go back and play again were light-gun enabled.
I remember, in the distant past, when the first person I knew bought a Nintendo. Don Vanderschaegen had the light zapper and Freedom Force (by Sunsoft, the best light-zapper game made for NES) hooked up to a big-screen TV. Playing that game on a 50” TV instantly made my Atari 2600 feel like a relic, and I was ready to give up just about anything to go to Don's house and shoot terrorists!
Years later, the newest shooter title is Time Crisis: Crisis Zone. Following Time Crisis 3 in the series, Namco brings us another opportunity to slay the bad guys like a seasoned Spec Ops officer. The URDA has taken over a complex called Garland Square on the outskirts of London. The complex consists of a small boutique mall and an office building for high-tech business, with a large public square in the middle for relaxation. Unfortunately, today is no day for relaxation, as the URDA has taken control of the entire complex, but the rationale behind their occupation is unclear. As leader of the STF squadron, Claude McGarren is sent in to neutralize the terrorist foes.
All civilians have either escaped or been killed, as the only live individuals remaining in the complex are hostile forces, and because of this, STF has been given the green light to use all means necessary to neutralize the URDA threat. The complex can be secured in three independent battles, securing the shopping center, retaking the central square, and eliminating the opposition in the office complex. As the ranking field operative for STF, McGarren is given the option of which order to proceed, but all three areas must be reclaimed.
Now it's your turn to shine. Guide McGarren through these sequences in any order you wish, but do it carefully. Things have changed a bit since the last run in with hostiles in Time Crisis 3. It seems your department's budget has been cut in order to divert funds for occupation operations in a distant Arab country, leaving you with a skeleton crew, and all munitions (grenades, shotguns and pistols) have been transferred, leaving only machine guns in your possession. Thankfully, the quartermaster made an error ordering ammunition last month – she transposed the decimal point two places to the right, and you posses 100 times the ammo your unit was approved for. (It really is amazing what a case of Scotch and a cute fly-boy stationed in Paris can still get these days!) The only major hitch is that the URDA has been amazingly over-funded somehow, and not only do they have grenades and ninjas, but they have about 75 men to your one. This is where all that ammo is going to come in handy. To top it all off, they also have helicopters and a ... TANK!
Just thinking about this mission brings on a worse headache than a three-day pass in Bangkok. But, it's time to go, and there's no backup. Launch into one of the areas, and take back the turf, blasting through the area with your machine gun from one scene to the next, eliminating the opposition slowly but steadily in a tactical progression that leads to the heart of each mission, where you face the bosses in each scenario. They are a tank with rockets, aft mounted machine guns and a hefty cannon; a helicopter customized with more firepower than anything out of a Rambo movie; and an odd pair of lieutenants, one huge dude with an automatic shotgun and a ninja with an endless supply of throwing blades. Even though there are seven on your team, it ends up that the rest of the group isn't very good, so McGarren ends up leading through the levels and killing nearly everyone. The guys lay cover-fire once in awhile, but they aren't much help.
The odds are almost impossible, except McGarren has the coup de grace. Although budget cuts have taken all the experienced members of his team, he still retains his skills and intuitions. Because of this, as the player controls McGarren throughout the game, he communicates when a deadly bullet is on its way. A bright red ring appears around the attacking enemy, and a ding sounds to audibly let you know the assassin is about to fire. The visible ring is just a continuation from Time Crisis 3, but the sound is new. It seems the audible and visual cues combine to make death easier to evade, which is welcome news with all the firepower these guys are packing.
So, when the deadly shot comes, how do you survive? Very much the same was as in Time Crisis 3, McGarren can hide behind obstacles and he again carries his trusty impenetrable shield. Yes, this thing can even withstand a direct blast from the tank's main gun! Oh well, as unbelievable as it sounds, the return of the shield and disappearance of munitions options significantly change the most recent offering in the Time Crisis series from the others. With the scenes again timed, it seems the pace has been kicked up a notch, making it necessary to kill the enemy in a bit of a hurry.
Removal of the options of shotgun, pistol, and grenade reduce the tactical nature of the game, and serve to make the missions more an exercise of timing, basically knowing when to fire the unlimited supply of machine-gun bullets or hide behind the shield or a desk. Also adding to the “hold the trigger and blast 'em all” theme is the removal of any friendly forces from the field of fire, making the tactic of laying blanket cover fire a little too effective.
That said, the game is slightly improved visually from Time Crisis 3, and the environment makes a huge leap forward through the implementation of very destructible surroundings. Windows, boxes, desks, and PCs (but no PS2 consoles) are all readily available for destruction from your weapons fire. Truly, the proverbial poop hits the fan as McGarren destroys nearly everything in sight while eliminating the enemy. It almost makes one wonder if there will be anything left worth saving when he's finished.
Movement is automatic like prior offerings in the series, and you again need to hold a button or the d-pad to move out from behind cover to fire. This really makes operating the light gun a two-handed operation unless your hand likes being cramped up. This means that if you have a second light gun, and want to take on Garland Square “Clint Eastwood” style, it would be a very good investment to get a third-party pedal to integrate with the system; unless you would like to get carpal tunnel syndrome.
Pedal? What pedal? If you are familiar with the arcade version of this game, a pedal is available to step on to move out from behind cover, this lets your foot to respond to warnings and reloading, while your hands can then focus on the killing fields.
Audibly, the score matches fairly with the game, keeping in the tradition of Time Crisis offerings, but we do hope it will sound a bit more polished on release. Overall playability is great, and we found only a couple spots in this build where the light gun had difficulty being recognized by the system.
Today, I'm still one of those poor people without a TV that spans more than a yard on the diagonal, but I've got my friends, and you can bet I'll be hauling my system and GUNCON 2 gun over to their place. When you get in front of a big-screen with these games, it's a whole 'nuther world. If you haven't bought a shooter in recent history, and ever had fun with one, Time Crisis: Crisis Zone will fill the bill for you again to relish in the wonders of using a light gun to kill enemies instead of a controller – it feels so much more ... natural. If you already have Time Crisis 3, this is going to feel much more like a run-and-gun title than a tactical piece de resistance for shooter titles, but it still looks to be good fun.
So, with McGarren destroying nearly everything in sight with his machine gun, what's the big deal about securing Garland Square anyhow? Let's just say that the answer is a deep, dark secret, and if you expect the saga to end with this scenario, you will be pleasantly surprised to find another saga awaits you six months after securing Garland Square, and it will be a true test of your timing, as the shield becomes indispensable.
On our wish list: Namco provides a pedal recommendation for purchase to use with Time Crisis to make it a truly wonderful shooting experience.
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