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Time Crisis 4
Score: 80%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: NAMCO BANDAI Games America
Developer: NAMCO BANDAI Games America
Media: Blu-ray/1
Players: 1 - 2
Genre: Light Gun Shooter/ First Person Shooter/ Arcade

Graphics & Sound:
Time Crisis 4 is the next installment in the rail shooter series that has always been a staple in arcades. Not only does this game come with a brand new Guncon model specifically designed for the PS3 (though I wish it were wireless), but it also has an FPS mode for the first time in the series.

But first, the graphics. Visually, the game is pretty nice. The buildings and rooms that you will be running through are full of little details like office chairs, computers or crates of different materials. Enemies, while not really varied, have enough distinguishing marks or color schemes to let you know exactly what kind you are facing.

The game's voices and other audio aspects aren't that bad either. I found each of the main characters' voices to be clear and for the most part intelligible, and thankfully they didn't repeat themselves so much that I got aggravated with them. The gunshots and other sound effects come through loud and clear and the game's background music is quiet and stays out of the way, but gets the job done.


Gameplay:
Time Crisis 4 is not only a continuation of the Time Crisis series with respect to the rail shooter Arcade, even though that is its primary purpose, but it also has another half, an FPS half. I'll just get right to the point and say that the rail shooter aspect is just as great as ever. I mean, not many games of this type transfer onto consoles and Time Crisis has been pretty consistent becoming a successful port. The First-Person Shooter part, on the other hand, while not bad, feels very flat and is by no means the best.

Each game mode creates half of the story. The rail shooter aspect follows V.S.S.E. agents Giorgio Bruno and Evan Bernard as they track down a batch of terrorists and get attacked by a new secret weapon that comes in the form of hordes of bugs (both flying and crawling). This mode is everything you want in a rail shooter. There are a few guns that are at your disposal, everything from a handgun to a machine gun and a shotgun. Before the prologue is over, this pair will meet up with Captain William Rush who has been tracking the theft of these new weapons, and that is the story behind the FPS game.

Unfortunately, this is also where a lot of the points get taken away from Time Crisis 4. When you start getting into the game, you quickly get the feel that the levels and situations that you run across in this mode were most definitely designed by rail shooter developers. The most noticeable aspect is how the enemy A.I. behaves. When you pop around a corner and an opponent jumps out from behind boxes, I tended to back up back around the corner and wait for the enemy to follow me. Instead, the enemy would stay back jumping back and forth behind his obstruction waiting for me to come back around and/or trying to shoot at me through the wall. It wasn't long before I started taking a very slow-and-steady pace with the game and goading the enemies out of their hiding places in order to pop them off before they got a chance to take me out. It just really felt like the levels were designed for me to jump out, stand still and shoot at anyone that pops out. I'm not saying this is bad by any means, it just feels very much like it isn't quite fully realized, and feels more like a rail shooter that gives you free movement.


Difficulty:
As you would expect from anything that comes from an arcade machine, Time Crisis 4 isn't all that easy, at least not in Arcade Mode. You have a limited number of respawns and I found myself going through them pretty regularly. Each time I played through a level, I would make a bit more progress, but it was never too long before I found myself having to start from the last save point again.

The FPS Mode, on the other hand, is pretty easy, at least for experienced FPS players. Like I said above, the FPS Mode doesn't feel like a full blown FPS, it feels like some middle ground that, for anyone expecting normal behavior from enemies, can be really easy to get through. I found that the enemy A.I. seemed to sit around and let me pick them off when they were waiting for me to come back around the corner.


Game Mechanics:
What has always made the Time Crisis series so different is its use of the Guncon. Time Crisis 4 introduces the Guncon 3 that has a couple of benefits over the previous version. For one thing, it doesn't use standard lightgun features. Instead it feels more like a Wii Remote. That is to say, you have to hook up a pair of sensors. Instead of a bar sitting in the middle of your TV, you hang two little boxes on the edge of the top two corners of your TV. Like the Wii-mote, the Guncon reads the IR signals coming off of the sensors to triangulate its distance from the TV and direction/angle you are pointing the gun. The other major difference between this piece of hardware and the previous one is that it also has a section jutting out around the end of the barrel with a second analog stick on it (the first being above the grip where the hammer of the gun would be).

It's because of this second analog stick that the game can take on its FPS twist. One stick controls the camera, while the other is used for shooting. Oddly enough, reversing which stick does which feels much better than if you kept it the way normal controllers are set up. The left stick (the one towards the front of the Guncon) feels better controlling the character and the right one is for the camera. It takes a whole lot to get used to this because while it is technically very similar to other controllers, your hands aren't next to each other, and you still have to aim your Guncon at the screen to decide where your bullets will hit. Like I said, it took a lot to get used to this, and I still feel like it would have been better to take a cue from the Wii and not necessarily use a second stick for camera control and have it where your gun points move the camera. It just feels more natural that way.

Time Crisis 4 is a great next step in the series and a natural evolution to the PS3. It really conveys the arcade feel of the game and the new FPS mode is a nice twist. While this mode is by far not the best FPS I've ever played, I hope the developers continue to improve upon it and make a more complete mode in future versions. People who've followed the game before should definitely consider purchasing this one. Is it enough to buy a PS3 if you don't already have one? That's hard to say, I guess it just depends on how much you've been following the series.


-J.R. Nip, GameVortex Communications
AKA Chris Meyer

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