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Time Crisis: Razing Storm
Score: 77%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: NAMCO BANDAI Games America
Developer: NAMCO BANDAI Games America
Media: Blu-ray/1
Players: 1 - 2 (Local); 2 - 8 (Online)
Genre: Shooter

Graphics & Sound:
Time Crisis: Razing Storm is an odd release for the Time Crisis line. Not only does it offer a few new modes that stray away from the license's core mechanic, but it also throws in a couple of extra games, one of which has already been fully released on the PS3, albeit, not with PlayStation Move support, like the Time Crisis 4 found on Razing Storm's disc.

Razing Storm itself has a few different modes, and in pretty much all cases, they are eye-catching. Both locations and character models look clean and smooth, while the Arcade's highly destructible environments explode into particle effects as satisfying as ever before. Locations vary from close-quarter interior levels, especially in Arcade, to slightly bigger locations in Sentry and more traditional feeling external locations for the franchises' first venture into the not-on-rails FPS genre.

Where the Razing Storm games try to get dirtier and grittier, both Time Crisis 4: Arcade Version and Deadstorm Pirates go for a more stylized look. In the case of Time Crisis 4, the design is given a futuristic perspective, while Pirates hearks back to sea-faring days.

Audio is okay, but nothing to write home about. In-game dialogue in all games is a bit over-the-top, but the audio itself is loud and clear so if an order is given, you won't have any problems hearing it. As for the game's background music, it doesn't really add a whole lot to the experience. Sure, it's pretty energetic and keeps the blood flowing, but it is also easily forgettable once the game is off.


Gameplay:
The Time Crisis: Razing Storm disc is broken into three games. There is, of course, the actual Razing Storm component complete with a Story Mode, an Arcade Mode, a new Online Mode and also an interesting extra mode called Sentry. On top off all of that though, the disc also contains the Arcade version of Time Crisis 4, as well as another arcade on-rails shooter called Deadstorm Pirates.

Razing Storm's Arcade Mode takes you through three levels of standard on-rails fun. Unlike other Time Crisis games, you are given unlimited ammo for the weapon you are currently using, and you don't really get to choose weapons. You start off with a standard machine gun and, as the need arises, are given other weapons like a rocket launcher, a cluster gun and even a laser guided satellite. Also, the Arcade Mode gives you an impenetrable personal shield that you can raise while reloading. This comes in handy when facing enemies that leave very few open targets or when several bad guys on the screen start lobbing grenades at you.

Sentry Mode is an amusing set of challenges that puts you behind the rifle of a prison guard during a riot. While you can't walk around, you can pull up your scope and take out the rioting prisoners one at a time. The level ends if you take down one of your guards, or if all of the prisoners have reached their final destination, either dead by your gun, or escaped. This mode has several levels per difficulty setting, and enough settings to let everyone find a challenging sweet spot.

Blazing Storm's Story Mode is by far the most disappointing aspect of the entire package. Not only are the controls hard to handle (more on that later), but simple tasks like reloading or taking cover involve Move controller movements that either don't make sense or if pulled off incorrectly, leave you being fired upon. In the end, it's just not much fun, and better left untouched.

The game's Time Crisis 4 entry pulls the Arcade Version out all by itself and allows you to go through the most recent standard Time Crisis story, as opposed to the spin-off story that is Razing Storm. I found this port, or really transfer from the last Time Crisis release, to be pretty solid and enjoyable. The need for precision in that game feels right, and whether you are using the PlayStation Move or the GunCon 3, you can get the job done.

Deadstorm Pirates doesn't really offer anything new to the on-rails shooter genre. The two characters take up their golden guns and shoot at any ghastly ghostlies that fly across your screen. As you move from location to location, you will get the chance to open chests to reveal a variety of prizes and power ups.


Difficulty:
Time Crisis: Razing Storm offers a variety of difficulty settings in the various gameplay modes. Typically, this means a change in the number of hits you can take or how many shots your enemies can stand, but Sentry Mode is a bit different since each difficulty setting is actually a new set of locations, each with harder to handle obstructions or more enemies to take down before the timer is up.

One aspect that can be changed to make the game harder or easier, at least in the Arcade Modes of the different games, is the number of continues each player has before it's game over. Naturally, upping that number means you can make your way further through the game's missions, though I did find pretty much every mode was doable in an hour or so each. The exception was Razing Storm's Story Mode that takes about twice that long ... if you can stomach it, that is. The mode's control scheme shows that Time Crisis should stick firmly to what it does best, on-rail shooters.


Game Mechanics:
Time Crisis: Razing Storm is compatible with pretty much any PS3 controller option out there. Not only does the game support the new PS3 Move motion controller, but you can also use a standard PS3 controller or hook up your old GunCon3, which came with the full version of Time Crisis 4 a few years back.

Personally, I found the Move to be the best setup for the various Arcade Modes, though sticking to the classic GunCon does feel good and is almost on par with the motion controller. In a distant third is the standard Dual Shock 3 controller since it just doesn't have the right feel for an on-rails shooter. I have to say though, the controls really break down when you attempt to play the Story Mode.

In Time Crisis's first attempt to break away from the rails, the control scheme, no matter which controller you are using, just doesn't feel right at all. In order to have all three types of controllers behave the same, the fact that the Move and its Navigation Controller only has one Analog Stick between them hearks back to many issues that have plagued the Wii's shooter titles since its launch. How do you control both the character's movements and the camera. Well, Razing Storm uses the same painful pattern set out before, namely, you use the Navigation Controller's stick to move the character, but if you want to look around or rotate the camera, you have to swing your cross-hairs to the edge of the screen and start the camera panning. The main issue with this is speed. Not only is there a lot of wasted time in even the best implemented versions of this scheme, but in the case of Time Crisis, the panning was painfully slow.

Unfortunately, the controller configuration is the same across the board, so even if you are using a standard controller or the GunCon 3, which has two Analog Sticks, you still have to perform the same painful movements just to look around.

Mind you, I only really had problems with the game's Story Mode and this control issue. Overall, the rest of the package is chock full of on-rails shooter fun, and for gamers who like to spend a lot of time on these games at the local arcade, this package provides enough variety to keep you entertained. Mind you, while it has several modes, they are each short, but most of the fun of these games is the replayability with a friend by your side.


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

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