The decline of light gun-based video games over the years has been fueled by an industry switch to DLP, LCD and Plasma televisions, none of which is capable of supporting light gun pixel detection like an aging CRT tube set. Within the last year, the engineers at Nintendo piqued the interest of light gun hopefuls by including an infrared sensor with the Wii console capable of detecting signals sent toward the set, much in the same way the old technology did. Light guns, it would seem, have a shot at a comeback.
Now, additional developers like Namco Bandai are tapping into the infrared trend, featured in their first offering using the technology exclusive to PlayStation 3, Time Crisis 4. A port of the popular arcade game, Time Crisis 4 comes with a pack-in grotesquely orange-colored Guncon 3 light gun and a pair of infrared sensors that sit atop a television. Both the Guncon and sensors utilize USB, so the first two slots on PS3 are required for single-player play. In this age of wireless accessories, the abundance of wires required for hook-up is a definite turn-off. And that’s a shame as handling the Guncon 3 controller feels more natural than the plug-and-play Wii Zapper.
What should have been a fairly straightforward translation of Time Crisis 4 to home console is mired by a series of oddities, all of which could have been avoided with different design decisions. The first loop is the inability to utilize the Guncon controller, which features a pair of built-in analog sticks and a small army of buttons, in the PlayStation 3 menu. The Guitar Hero III controller can navigate the menus, so why not this gun? The instruction manual makes no mention of this quirk either, so I had to figure it out the hard way.
The second loop falls into deal breaker territory, which is a shame as Time Crisis 4’s gameplay is a near perfect port of the arcade version and good, fast light gun fun. The calibration system has been designed to accept two shots from the gun, one to the upper left and one to the lower right portion of the screen, to triangulate the screen’s size and pinpoint aiming. The problem is no matter how perfect you align your shot with the target on screen, the aiming always seems a hair off to the side in the game — enough so to cause deliberate compensation as if you were Robocop and had a fault in your targeting system.
The final loop is an inexcusable omission from gameplay that is the heart and soul of any light gun or shooting-based game. While the menus offer an aiming reticule on-screen to select options, the actual missions and gameplay do not. Aiming is a crapshoot based on using line-of-sight down the gun’s barrel to point at the screen. Coupling the lack of an aiming reticule with a non-precise calibration leads to more than just a few missed up-close and long range kills.
Weapons variety and up-close on-rails chapters help to partially overcome the Time Crisis 4 issues. Shotguns, machine guns and grenade launchers don’t require precise aim, and multi-directional stands required thrusts of the Guncon to the right and left to switch areas covered see enemies get so close that it’s harder to miss than make the shot. That’s important considering the variety of swarming bug-like biological weapons out for your blood. Manning stationary machine guns on the ground or in a helicopter feels more like shooting kids with a firehouse; again, it’s hard to miss the mark when bullets constantly spray out with the added benefit of unlimited ammunition.
Namco Bandai’s attempt to evolve the series beyond its arcade inspiration falls short in execution. For the first time in the series, there are first-person shooter chapters sprinkled into the campaign. These missions are best compared to a stale 5-year old first-person shooter game; the enemies are all the same, the AI is horrific, the level design is uninspired, and chapters are far too long and monotonous. Thankfully there’s an arcade-only option, which is the only way to go.
If the design errors can be overlooked, Time Crisis 4 is what you expect: a fast, intense light gun shooter with decent graphics and the ability to make one’s arm sore for days after. Overlooking those errors isn’t necessarily impossible. Some players might not mind having an aiming reticule after an adjustment period, tucking away a small army of wires or learning to accept having to aim a hair to left on every shot. If you think you’re capable of making the adjustments and want some light gun action on your PlayStation 3, then Time Crisis 4 is worth a look as it’s currently the only player in town.
- Score: 7.1