Time Crisis 3
With light-gun titles fading, the arrival of the genre's best is cause for great celebration. We review the third installment of the venerable Time Crisis series.
Namco / SCEE
By Kikizo Staff
There's an inherent comfort to be found in the familiar. And having long since ceased to offer even a modicum of innovation, the light-gun genre is nothing, if not familiar. You shoot things, things shoot back; the very paragon of simplicity, yet, like its arcade brethren, the 2D shooter, the genre has over the years become increasingly marginalized. However, having captured the imagination of fans since its inception in 1996, one series has almost single-handedly borne the fortunes of this flagging genre. That series now enters its third iteration.
While it retains much of what was introduced by its antecedents, Time Crisis 3 amends the series' formula, albeit only slightly. Like past titles, Time Crisis 3 utilizes the 'duck' mechanic, a simple technique that allows players to take cover behind environmental objects, and in doing so, reload their weapon while simultaneously avoiding enemy gunfire. The amendment alluded to above is the introduction of multiple weapons, effectively allowing players to switch between four different sidearms -- standard handgun, machine gun, shotgun and grenade launcher -- at any given time. The only caveat is that, handgun excluded, each weapon has a limited supply of ammunition, more of which must be garnered by shooting specific enemy units, all of whom are color-coded for easy identification. As with the introduction of the ducking mechanic, allowing players to switch between multiple weapons introduces a layer of strategy, however slight, to proceedings, and the game, it must be said, is better for it.
Ironically, the Story mode offers little that could actually be construed as a story, at least not a good one anyway. The narrative is functional, though entirely derivative and serves little purpose other than to explain the player's appearance in a series of increasingly outlandish encounters. This mode, initially the only one available, comprises three stages, each of which are in turn made up of three areas. These are bookended by cutscenes that chart the player's progress as each sequence then segues into another, even more improbable scenario. While the presentation is sorely lacking, the precise orchestration of each gunbattle truly demonstrates Namco's mastery of this domain. From the timing of enemy movement, to the patterns that are created in order to shift the player's focus around the screen (or divert it momentarily), each scene is masterfully crafted.
Having completed the Story Mode, fans will be pleased to uncover the Rescue Mission mode, something that is almost an entire game in and of itself. While she remains relegated to cutscenes in the main game, Alicia Winston is the star of this particular mode. Essentially, it charts her progress (which is not dissimilar to that of the Story mode) across the island, and though players will revisit many of the locales from the Story mode, it throws in a number of gameplay quirks to keep things interesting. Most notable is the fact that Alicia's weapons can be upgraded with continued use, allowing her to improve the rate of fire and effectiveness of each weapon -- handgun excluded. Also, continuing will see you start the entire stage over, as opposed to simply picking up where you left off. Each of these stages is significantly shorter than those found in the Story mode though, so this doesn't present too much of a problem. Taking a leaf from Konami's Silent Scope series, Alicia will at times be forced to use a sniper rifle in order to pick off groups of enemy units. These sequences are entirely new to the series, but provide a welcome variant of the typical Time Crisis gameplay.
As with Time Crisis 2 before it, Time Crisis 3 can be played by two players simultaneously. Few people are likely to do so given the constraints, however. The split-screen mode is rendered nearly unplayable because of the small size of each player's screen and the expense and hassle of garnering two copies of the title, two GunCons, two PS2s and two TVs to utilize the i.Link mode ensures that only a select few will ever make use of that particular option.
Voice-acting remains of the ilk most commonly associated with the genre, that is to say, bad. The term 'camp' is often associated with such dialogue that is purportedly intended to be humorous and to an extent this can be tolerated. But given the quality presentation found in other Namco titles, it remains baffling why they persist with cutscenes so bad that most players will simply skip past them, often without having even watched them once. It begets the question, "Why bother with them in the first place?" As you would rightly expect, the soundtrack comprises a varying selection of gunshots, explosions and the cries of enemy units in the throes of death, all of which serve their intended function well enough.
Although an incremental update as opposed to a major enhancement, Time Crisis 3's visuals are noticeably improved upon those of its predecessors. The cutscenes highlight many of the engine's inadequacies, such as the lack of sufficient antialiasing, and at times, poor texture work, but given that the player's attention is otherwise occupied throughout the game, these blemishes can be overlooked somewhat. Perhaps with the next installment, Namco will see fit to lavish upon fans a title with significantly improved presentation.
There is little here to suade critics of the genre, but then, it was never intended to do so. Fans of the series will be well pleased with the title, and rightfully so. The latest in Namco's flagship light-gun series is without a doubt the best such title currently available on the home market.
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Time Crisis 3