The PlayStation-exclusive Time Crisis series ushered in lightgun gaming for the console, and with good reason. The accuracy of the hardware, along with the use of cover in an on-rails shooter, was both revolutionary for the genre and provided a close approximation of the arcade hit despite missing the arcade unit's cover pedal. As the series went on, more innovations were introduced, including co-op play and lightgun support for new HDTVs. With the introduction of the PlayStation Move, the series is once again called forth to usher in a new generation of lightgun gameplay. This time around, it does so with three games compiled into one disc. Time Crisis: Razing Storm represents a good value as far as quantity is concerned, but quality is a different story.
From the onset, you'll be asked to choose one of three games to play. Time Crisis 4, already released to the console in 2007, returns in this package as the original arcade version instead of the enhanced one, and nothing is lost in the translation. The plot still revolves around two special agents as they try to take care of a terrorist organization that is using new robotic technology to take over the world. The game still revolves around you darting from one cover spot to another, peeking out to take care of any opposition in your path. Aside from your standard pistol, you have the ability to switch between a grenade launcher, machine gun or shotgun while behind cover, though your pistol is the only one with unlimited ammo despite its constant need for reloading.
Although it's at least three years old now, Time Crisis 4 still retains the qualities that make the series a fun ride. The cover system makes this more of a thinking man's shooter in the sense that you have to quickly figure when you should take cover, and the choice of characters lengthens gameplay by presenting you with different perspectives and different enemies. The addition of a selectable weapons system only strengthens the experience, since you have to start thinking about which weapons work best in the given situations. It's a classic that lightgun fans should have in their library without question.
Deadstorm Pirates, the only non-Time Crisis related title in the package, is a much different title in all respects. You take on the role of a pirate whose crew is searching for a legendary unclaimed treasure on an island from which no one has returned. Armed with your golden guns, you and a partner take on hordes of undead skeleton warriors, bats, giant snakes, piranhas and other creatures to get to the prize.
There are a number of gameplay mechanics that range from being completely unique to par for the course. The first thing you'll notice is the default amount of firepower. Despite the fact that the golden guns look like nothing more than standard old-fashioned handguns, you fire a constant stream of bullets every time you pull the trigger. That constant bullet barrage seems to have no consequence, though, as there is never the need to reload. With infinite ammunition and no need to pause gunfire, it's surprising to note that the level of difficulty is on par with the rest of Namco's lightgun shooters over the years. Another change has to do with the game sections where you need to steer the ship or vehicle to avoid obstacles. The sections aren't too difficult, usually resorting to you having to spin the controller in the indicated direction to fill up a meter before time expires, but they prove to be good distractions.
Time Crisis: Razing Storm is the final game in the package, and it's the meatiest of them all. You have three playable modes instead of just the free play and ranking versions of arcade mode in the package's other games. The story mode gives you full control of your character as you play the role of a soldier who's part of a military team trying to stop a general from unleashing a terrible weapon on the United States. Interestingly, the story only takes you through most of the plot while the arcade mode handles the epilogue. Arcade mode plays out more like the arcade game Crisis Zone in that you carry a riot shield that can deflect any sort of attack while you brandish a machine gun. Though it requires reloading, the machine gun sports an infinite supply of bullets, though certain situations will give you different weapons to handle, like shotguns and rocket launchers. The other mode, sentry, gives you the opportunity to play as the sniper from the story's prologue as you attempt to stop a prison riot by taking care of soldiers and prisoners with non-lethal ordnance.
Unfortunately, it's the titular game that has the biggest issues. While lightgun games are generally short affairs, this one feels much shorter than normal. It's still a fun experience, but it'll be over more quickly than the other games in the package. The story's disjointed nature also means that those going into arcade mode before story mode will feel disconnected. It's similar to watching a movie's ending before the beginning in that the story becomes less enjoyable when you get around to watching it the correct way.
Whatever advances the medium has made in the first-person shooter genre seems to have been thrown out the window. The enemy AI stands out in the open, waiting to be shot, and it has no inclination to hide behind the cover that's conveniently located nearby. Speaking of cover, it becomes more difficult to get in and out of cover because you can only enter cover in certain designated spots. Even then, you have to position yourself perfectly at the spot to initiate cover; once you're there, you're protected but have nothing else to do. You can't lean over to get a peek of what your enemy is doing, and you can't do any blind fire to force them into cover. It's a sad experience that drags down the game tremendously and the controls, which will be discussed later, only makes things worse.
There is both local and online multiplayer here, though they play differently depending on the game chosen. The arcade mode for all three titles supports local co-op play, where both players complete the story together but compete for higher scores on each level. Both Deadstorm Pirates and Time Crisis: Razing Storm have players sharing the same screen space and, like other lightgun games, it works well in creating competition to shoot the target before the opponent does the same. For Time Crisis 4, however, the screen is split horizontally with smaller visible boxes for each player, much like Resident Evil 5 did in split-screen play. It was done to preserve the unique perspectives as seen in the arcade title's two-monitor setup, but due to each player's amount of visibility, it becomes problematic when you play this on anything but a large screen TV. Sentry mode's multiplayer is also much easier to handle since players take turns shooting criminals instead of doing it all simultaneously, so there isn't much of an issue. The real issues come from online multiplayer, which takes the mechanics from the Story mode of Razing Storm and turns it into a standard deathmatch game. Every issue in story mode is present, and that explains the lack of people playing the mode during the review period.
Despite having three completely different control schemes, they remain consistent through each of the games and game modes. For the arcade modes of each title, both the PlayStation Move and the Guncon 3 provide excellent accuracy and responsiveness while the Dual Shock 3, admittedly not the best option for a game like this, held its own, considering that very few people will choose to play the game this way. The Move, in particular, feels like it's the controller of choice with Deadstorm Pirates mainly due to the sections where you have to move the controller in a clockwise or counter-clockwise direction. Sentry mode also fares similarly with each control scheme, but both modes bring up an issue with the Move controller. With the T trigger used to fire weaponry and the Move button used for ducking/shields/reload/zoom, it's obvious that the game was designed with the Move being held in just one hand. Those who decide to opt for the handgun attachment will hold the controller with two hands since there's no other way the Move button could be hit, so it's a cumbersome experience for those who paid good money in hopes of having a more realistic arcade experience.
Story mode, however, is a completely different story with both the Guncon 3 and Move/Navigation controller combination proving to be the least accurate method of control. Aiming is fine, but movement feels sluggish, especially when you point the cursor at the edge of the screen to turn or look above or below your current level of vision. Entering cover is often unreliable because it requires specific positions for each controller, and bringing them back to shooting position causes the camera to go haywire, often resulting in your immediate death. Amazingly enough, things aren't better when using the Dual Shock 3 since the same sluggishness in movement is felt and, oddly enough, the game employs SixAxis controls for entering and exiting cover. It's an awkward mechanic, and its implementation demonstrates why no one has used it before.
The sound varies between great and acceptably laughable. Across all three titles, the sound effects are excellent. Every effect, from ships breaking to bullets hitting metal to various explosions, is delivered brilliantly, and none of the effects sound muffled or out of place. The music varies a bit per game, though. Time Crisis 4 retains the vibe of an action movie with a score akin to any modern film with a relentless pulse-pounding beat. Time Crisis: Razing Storm does the same, but the use of Five Finger Death Punch to bookend the arcade mode feels out of place since the series never went for the hard rock vibe before. Deadstorm Pirates tries to go for a lighter sea-fearing theme that isn't very memorable once you leave the game.
Voicework is a different matter, as the lines and delivery in Deadstorm Pirates are akin to the first Resident Evil game. Everything about it is terrible, but it's bad enough that it's laughable anytime you hear it. On the opposite side of the spectrum, the voices in Time Crisis 4 maintain the status quo for the series, where the lines are bad but the delivery is actually quite good. The dialogue still makes you shake your head, but at least the voices don't grate on your nerves. Time Crisis: Razing Storm falls squarely in the middle of all this, with the lines and delivery being fine, but the constant repetition of your squadmates' lines about how well or badly you're doing become irritating. The cache of voices for both praise and ridicule is small, so be prepared to hear them more often than you'd like.
As you would expect from a compilation, the graphics vary per title. Even though it's an old game, Time Crisis 4 holds up as the best graphically out of the three titles. The backgrounds are interesting and colorful, while the animations for each character are well done and the characters are well defined. The system can handle a multitude of characters well without frame rate drops, as evidenced by the appearances of large swarms of mechanical bugs, and the particle effects are also arcade perfect. As the newer title, Time Crisis: Razing Storm contains the same qualities as Time Crisis 4, though the color scheme, filled mostly with browns, feels antiquated when compared to the various locales and colors of the other game. Deadstorm Pirates, on the other hand, feels like a higher resolution PS2 title. Both the characters and the backgrounds don't feel as detailed, and the animations don't appear as smooth as one would expect. The same can be said for the particle effects, which feel a generation behind what the rest of the package offers, and the lack of numerous enemies on-screen when compared to the multitudes in the other games. It's not a terrible set of graphics by any means, but when compared with the other games offered here, it looks dated.
Time Crisis: Razing Storm is still a good game for lightgun fans who know exactly what they're getting into, but that doesn't mean it won't disappoint at some level. The poor controls of Razing Storm's story mode completely negate the chance of getting any enjoyment from it, and they make the rest of the game feel incomplete since the story doesn't get a recap in arcade mode. Even if you could get used to the controls, the brain-dead AI and other limiting factors annoy the player more than bring enjoyment to the title. Owners of Time Crisis 4 will likely lament the fact that they have to own the game again in this compilation to get some more time with the abandoned Guncon 3. Those who bought Sony's gun attachment will despise the fact that the location of the cover mechanic makes the game control awkwardly. Fans of the series will need no convincing when it comes to picking up this game, but for those on the fence, it may be better to take on The Shoot before going after this lightgun compilation.
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