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Time Crisis 3

Developer: Namco
Publisher: Namco
Genre: Light Gun / Shooter
Players: 1-2
Similar To: Tekken Tag
Rating: Teen
Published: 01 :26 : 04
Reviewed By: Ryan Newman

Overall: 8 = Excellent


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Way back when, Sega introduced the world to 3D light gun games. Sure, you had your Duck Hunt and your Mad Dog McCree, but it's when you toss in some polygons, a flashy targeting system, and a combo system, that is when you have something special. While Saturn owners were blasting up construction sites and office buildings, PlayStation owners were left with similar titles that were, at best, mediocre. Then came Namco with Time Crisis and their own light gun, the GunCon; finally, PlayStation owners were going to have a good reason to have sore arms. Years later they are continuing to support the genre, when so many have abandoned it, allowing a new generation of gamers the joy of getting a little taste of an over-the-top arcade game in their home. A fine release, Time Crisis 3 settles in well with established norms, refusing to really bring innovation to the table but still delivering the same exhilarating bad-guy-blasting experience.

Gameplay: 8/10
For of you who don't know what a light gun game is, and there is no shame in that seeing as how arcades have all but vanished, they are like those old carnival games where the player shoots at rows of ducks. That's the most basic example, of course. In the earlier days, games like Duck Hunt had the player shoot at a few objects. Virtua Cop upped the ante by adding additional weapons (machine guns, for example; which where represented simply by an increased rate of fire) and a combo system. The sequel, Virtua Cop 2, added branching paths within the levels. Time Crisis' contribution to the sub-genre came in the second release, and this was the ability for the player to take cover. In the Virtua Cops and earlier titles of the 32-bit generation, the best way to not get hit was to either shoot the projectile before it got too close or kill the enemy before they could shoot. Now take the example of the carnie ducks, but imagine that they have the ability to roll, slide, duck for cover, and wield rocket launchers - this is what playing a light gun game is like.

The biggest attraction that light gun games hold is that they really feel like an arcade experience. Right when console games where reaching the same plateau of performance as their arcade counterparts, the light gun shooters had already mimicking the flashy arcade style extremely well and the guns that came with the titles really enhanced the experience. Time Crisis 3 is no different, as it continues to throw creative enemies towards the player, who ignore their aching arms to pull their guns up and blast whatever they can. While the game can be played without the gun, it isn't recommended. The main point of there being a release without the peripheral is because Namco has a number of light-gun titles and some people would rather not have 5 guns. If you're new to the series, then you will be happy to know that buying the game with the gun isn't all that expensive - especially when compared to a few years ago. So not only will you get to experience something unique, but you will also have the chance to get some definition in those forearms.

Unfortunately, Time Crisis 3 is a little too much like the arcade. For the arcade versions of these games to really grab players, they have to be relatively short, consisting of only a few missions with each containing a handful of levels, and move at a fast pace. The hope - and it's a realistic one at that - is that players will either be too sore to continue, too intrigued to stop once they learn the enemy's patterns, or remain interested by the quick action and new environments. This has tended to be true for the home versions as well, but unfortunately, the home isn't the arcade, and players will want more to play once they breeze through the three stages. The home version adds a few features, but nothing that will really give the game the kind of longevity it needs; for instance, story mode is the arcade mode, but with cheesy cutscenes in the middle to tie it all together. The difference between arcade mode and the sub-mode of story is that story mode starts from the beginning and arcade mode allows the player to continue on whatever stage they left off on, and also adds the ability to let a second person play. The solo route means playing through the game with a computer-controlled friend who isn't too bright. The story is strange, but not the good kind of strange like in Ace Combat 4, but the bad kind, the kind that is both generic and random. Other modes that are exclusive to the PlayStation 2 are Rescue Mission Mode and Crisis Mission Mode: Rescue mission mode features a third character, Alicia, and adds a weapon-upgrade feature (meter fills up as she kills people, filling it upgrades a sub-weapon) and a semi-sniper mode; Crisis mission is an objective-oriented mode which means the player will have to kill 30 enemies within a given time limit and so on. To be fair, these do add quite a bit to the original game; however, these kinds of games can be beaten so quickly that they won't be enough to satisfy most players. The game would have benefited more from bulking up the actual arcade mode as well.

Sadly, the shortage of levels and functions has become a norm in this sub-genre. Actually, compared to past releases, Time Crisis 3 is generous with its additions. I think one of the problems I had was that the novelty of such an experience has worn off quite a bit, and I know gamers who plunk down the $60 will want something more - as would I. Of course, inherent to games like this, there is built-in replay value of trying to beat one's own score, which is strangely strong in light gun titles. Trying to make it through levels without damage and with better combos is all part of the fun, and rarely does it get old railing on a guy whose only weapon is a hatchet.

Despite there not being any real branching paths in the arcade mode, the game does do well in making up for this by having such a cinematic feel. On one level, there is a fantastic scene where the player is inside of a barge that is being bombed, and as their character holds onto something, the player has to shoot at enemies who are sliding down as the ship tips on its side. The enemies are also a varied lot. Some sport sleek looking armor and attack at close range with claws, some have more generic garb and use rifles, others with bazookas, etc., and there is also a class that is stronger and has better aim. Taking these grunts down will be done by the standard pistol, or by machine gun, shotgun, or grenade. Acquiring ammo for the weapons comes by way of killing enemies who have them, but this also brings up interesting situations: if some enemies are in the back of a jeep, does the player blow up the tank and kill them all or do they dodge the fire and kill each men individually to get more ammo? There are also bosses (remember those?), attack helicopters, submarines, and all sorts of over-the-top enemies. It's all very action movi-ish, just without the personality of a Steven Seagal.

I was hoping for a little something more this time around. Sadly, it's a pretty standard release for the genre. Then again, this isn't a genre that is busting with new entries all the time, so the feeling of similarity might not be applicable to many people. It also doesn't hurt that the presentation and included modes are high quality. Hopefully next time Namco will take advantage of their standing as the sole company continuing the fine tradition of shaking a plastic gun at a television screen, but until that release comes, Time Crisis 3 should satisfy the Dirty Harry inside you.

Graphics: 7.5/10
A very clean look permeates throughout the game - menus, characters, objects, buildings, everything is sharp and vibrant. The different levels are varied and, like the enemies, they are designed well. Weapon effects aren't as abundant as one might think, so it won't look like a machine gun-wielding on-the-edge cop was in the room that was just shot to hell - and that kind of sucks. The technical quality of the cutscenes aren't really up to par with the rest of the game either, which is odd considering Namco's love of them.

Sound: 7.5/10
The music and effects are good; they are kind of generic, but also a little exaggerated, which suits the game. The lighthearted music fits in well with the graphics, giving the game a somewhat cartoony presentation that emphasis quick action. The voice-overs during the cutscenes are particularly bad - bad in a funny Resident Evil 1 kind of way, mind you. Since most of what will be heard is gunfire, you can always just hum your favorite tune - just think of that as the poor man's custom soundtrack.

Control: 9/10
The GunCon 2 is a nice light gun, but it sure isn't the most convenient controller in the world. My set up goes as such: GunCon 2 is hooked to a splitter, the splitter's ends go into the PS2 USB port and one connects to another splitter, the second splitter connects directly into the television, and the PS2 is connected into the second splitter. Why? WHY? Why is all of this necessary? Is it to make the gun more accurate? Sega's stunner hooked into a regular controller port and was accurate. Is it because of the extra buttons? The gun has a directional pad, start and select buttons, as well as buttons on the bottom and sides to act as ways to select menu options, but mainly to come out from cover (the player automatically seeks cover in the game) to shoot. I would guess this is acceptable, but it sure makes everything look messy when it's hooked up. Unlike most other light gun games, reloading is done by ducking (automatic), and choosing a different weapon is done by shooting away from the screen; this method works, it just takes a little to get used to. The gun is also extremely light, but the chords weigh it down; this is also awkward at first, since the weight isn't distributed well. The gun is accurate, though, and that's really all that matters.

Overall: 8/10
Namco's Time Crisis 3 rests comfortably on its laurels. While remaining an entertaining title, they have failed to take the series, and the genre, out of the standard routine it has been in for some time now. The additional console-only modes are enjoyable, but an extension to the core of the game would've been more welcomed. If you have the gun already, then trying Time Crisis 3 is a no-brainer. If you don't have the gun, this is a great place to start, but renting first, if possible, is recommended; $60 is a lot to put down on a relatively short game, and if the experience isn't one that is enjoyed, the past releases in the genre won't change your mind. In short: the latest release is a good, but slightly disheartening.

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