Time Crisis 3

Time Crisis 3

Written by Charlie Sinhaseni on 11/7/2003 for PS2  

(Note: We had been kicking around a reviewable copy of Time Crisis 3 for about a month now but it had some bugs and issues that we felt would be worked out in the final build of the game. This review is for the retail boxed product and not the gold master that we received in early September.)

If you’ve been to an Arcade within the past five years chances are you’ve been exposed to the Time Crisis series of games, Namco’s excellent lightgun franchise. Taking a detour from your standard lightgun shooter, players were given more control over the action and were allowed to hide from enemy fire as opposed to staying stationary while being pelted with bullets. This lead to some pretty intense action and as the series gained popularity Namco developed a sequel. Time Crisis 2 didn’t change the gameplay formula too much but it did add the much-needed two-player support that’s the trademark of most lightgun shooters. On the third round Namco has thrown some new weapons into the fray, all of which make a rather significant impact on the gameplay.

We’ve also got an entirely new storyline that details the struggles of a small island nation under attack. The beautiful island of Astigo has been taken over by a rogue army. They’re not just there to take in the sights though; they’ve already set up nuclear warheads that are capable of attacking the nearby nation-states. It’s now up to you to play as our favorite heroes as they’re saddled with diffusing the situation and restoring the world’s balance. Along the way you’ll encounter some familiar faces (Wild Dog) and some not-so-familiar faces (newcomer Alicia) but the storyline is merely a device to allow you to mow down endless hordes of baddies.

What differentiates TC3 from its predecessors is the new weapon select system. While the idea was kicked around a bit in TC2 you were only given access to the weapons for specific sequences. This time around you have these weapons with you at all times and can use them at your own leisure, provided that you have enough ammo. You now carry three weapons in addition to your standard handgun. First is the machine gun which is handy for mowing down hordes of enemies or taking down machines. Then you’ve got the trusty shotgun that really works wonders in tight corridors. Last is the grenade launcher which is devastating for groups of enemies and heavy machines. A problem with the weapons is that you’ll never have to reload them. As long as you have enough ammo you can stay up and fire until your cache is depleted. While this make may sense if you could only carry 20 or so rounds for the machine gun but consider that you can hold about 200 rounds and you begin to notice how this can be a problem. This essentially makes you a one man army who can deal out massive amounts of punishment without consequence. On the other hand it's damn cool to replicate the feeling of being Ah-nold in Commando.

Another problem is that the game tends to rely too heavily on the additional weapons. There are some sequences that are just too difficult to beat with the standard handgun, forcing you to rely more and more on the grenade launcher and machine gun. I like the addition of the new weapons; I just think that there was a little too much emphasis placed upon them. This is especially noticeable because the game is now populated with an abundance of vehicles, most of which can take 20 or 30 rounds from the regular handgun to take out. Sure, you’ll mow through them with the shotgun and machinegun but by the time you’ve finally dispatched them with your handgun it’ll be time for you to ice down that index finger.Although the game takes place on one island the three levels have a distinct feel to them. The first level pans out like a miniature version of the D-Day invasions with you running through fire lines and eventually travelling through trenches to take out a giant flak cannon. The second level takes place within the city confines and has a more claustrophobic feel while the third level takes place at the enemy base of operations, lending the game a chaotic and militant feel. This game is also significantly longer than its predecessors, at least twice as long. This is your veritable double-edged sword; on one hand we have a game that has that much more to offer, giving you a longer story that is deeper and more engrossing. On the other hand, this is a lightgun shooter. There’s a certain window that games of this type need to fit into as to prevent strain and cramping on the gamer. This is typically the 10-20 minute range, a target that the first two Time Crisis titles hit, but the 3rd game is in the 20-30 minute range, making it difficult for some to last throughout its duration. I can’t really fault the designers for wanting to give players more to chew on but it’ll definitely get to you and you’ll really feel the strain towards the end of the game.

Many of the series’ detractors tend to complain about the lack of enemy variety. In order to combat this steps have been taken to add some more variety to the game. For starters the machine gunners now have health bars, making them harder to take out. New to the game are yellow guys who are basically like the standard blue guys except hitting them will give you ammunition for your other weapons. Speaking of blue guys, they come in different flavors now. You’ve still got the standard cannon fodder but some of them now wield flame throwers or toss knives at you. The red guys are still in the game but they’ll go to the extremes in order to avoid being hit. They’ll go prone, crouch behind objects and even do the much-vaunted “shoot dive” that seems to be all the rage in action games nowadays. Of course there are plenty of other enemies including ninja-like foes, mini-submarines, machine gunners on motor bikes and plenty more.

Even with the new enemies I’ve still heard some complaints, all of which are basically unfounded. Think about this for a moment, how often do you encounter armies where people dress differently? This is a war, people, not a fashion show. It makes absolutely no sense to dress people in a variety of garments, especially when you’re trying to convey a sense of unity. No one ever seems to complain about the fact that you kill endless amounts of similar looking Nazis in Medal of Honor so it’s about time that they got off of Namco’s back.

Contrary to what you may have read elsewhere Time Crisis 3 is a visually competent game that convincingly sets the tone and mood for the adventure. While the textures may not be the crispest and some of the enemies are lacking definition, the entire package comes together quite nearly to form one beautiful cohesive punch. The artists made good use of fogging and particle effects to represent water foam, smoke and ember. All of them conceal your view in a pretty convincing fashion and most times, hide lethal enemies who are just waiting to pick you apart.

Another plus in the visual side is that the game is inherently violent (it's a shooter after all) but it's not excessively violent. Yes, you're fighting with bullets but you wouldn't know it if it weren't for the gun that you were holding in your hands. There's no blood, gore of excessive violence to be found. No won't shoot off people's limbs or cause them to bleed all over the environments; they'll simply disappear from the screen as you go off on your merry way.Although there’s no Dolby Pro Logic II support the audio still does a fine job of simulating a surround sound atmosphere. Utilizing age old techniques pioneered by Aureal, the game simply raises and lowers the level of the sounds to help them feel closer and further away from you. It’s not the most perfect system available but for this type of game it gets the job done. All of the effects also have that loud, hollow noise that we’ve come to associate with arcade games. As you probably have come to expect, the voice acting is pretty bad but it’s much easier to tolerate this time around. Our heroes still sound like Ace & Gary from the Ambiously Gay Duo but their lines are delivered in more convincing fashion this time around.

Like TC2 you’ll unlock new features and modes as you play the game. Some of them are really simple to come by, such as beating the game or just losing the game, while others are more difficult and will require you to test your mettle a bit. They’re all worth it though as they’ll give you neat things such as unlimited ammo and a pretty entertaining rescue mode. TC3 is missing the mini-games that appeared in TC2 but to be honest they were quite lame and their absence doesn’t make too much of an impact. Rounding out the list of missing features is the double-gun mode, which had tons of potential but was hampered by the lack of a true pedal. The interface for it was just far too clunky and difficult to deal with so its omission is rather forgivable.

If you’ve seen the game in the Arcade you’ve probably noticed the two-system link play that takes place on those gigantic screens. With the home version you have a few options if you want to get down on some multiplayer action. You can hook up two GunCons to the PS2 and play on the same screen or you can hook up two PS2s and two TVs for some authentic arcade action. To be frank the same system multiplayer is basically unplayable because Namco decided to reduce the viewing areas to the size of postage stamps. Not only is it impossible to see the screen but the game runs at a horrid frame rate as well. We’re talking single-digits here, it’s seriously that bad.

Time Crisis 3 is available in two flavors; as a standalone product and as a bundle that includes the game and the GunCon. The bundle costs an additional $10 and includes the same orange GunCon2 that was bundled in with TC2. If you already own a couple of GunCons then you probably won’t need to pick up the bundle, but if you’re looking to pick up a second gun then the extra $10 is well worth the cash.

One of the reasons that we held off on reviewing the Gold Master was that we encountered some frame rate issues when playing in the single-player portion of the game. We’re glad to say that the final boxed product has none of these issues and that the game runs at a brisk frame rate that keeps the action fast and furious.

Minor issues and gripes aside Namco’s latest lightgun shooter is an excellent title that should satiate the desires of every single fan of the genre. It’s everything that you could have ever wanted from a shooter and much much more. Sure, there are some problems with the game’s length and sometimes the game relies too heavily on the new weapons, but the series feels fresh and new again. The series is teeming with life again and to be honest, I’m primed and ready for another sequel.
If you love lightgun shooters you’ll love Time Crisis 3. It effectively builds upon all of the series trademarks while adding some new weapons into the fray, making for an exciting game that marks the pinnacle of lightgun shooters.

Rating: 8.6 Very Good

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.


About Author

Gaming has been a part of my life for as long as I could remember. I can still recall many a lost nights spent playing Gyromite with that stupid robot contraption for the old NES. While I'm not as old as the rest of the crew around these parts, I still have a solid understanding of the heritage and the history of the video gaming industry.

It's funny, when I see other people reference games like Doom as "old-school" I almost begin to cringe. I bet that half of these supposed "old-school" gamers don't even remember classic games like Rise of the Triad and Commander Keen. How about Halloween Harry? Does anyone even remember the term "shareware" anymore? If you want to know "old-school" just talk to John. He'll tell you all about his favorite Atari game, Custer's Revenge.

It's okay though, ignorance is bliss and what the kids don't know won't hurt them. I'll just simply smile and nod the next time someone tells me that the best entry in the Final Fantasy franchise was Final Fantasy VII.

When I'm not playing games I'm usually busy sleeping through classes at a boring college in Southern Oregon. My current hobbies are: writing songs for punk rock bands that never quite make it, and teasing Bart about... well just teasing Bart in general. I swear the material writes itself when you're around this guy. He gives new meaning to the term "moving punching bag."

As for games, I enjoy all types except those long-winded turn-based strategy games. I send those games to my good pal Tyler, I hear he has a thing for those games that none of us actually have the time to play.

When I'm not busy plowing through a massive pile of video games I spend all of my time trying to keep my cute little girl fed. She eats a ton but damn she's so hot. Does anyone understand the Asian girl weight principal? Like they'll clean out your fridge yet still weigh less than 110 pounds.

Currently I'm playing: THUG, True Crime, Prince of Persia, Project Gotham 2 and Beyond Good & Evil. View Profile

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