I'm a fan of light gun games and I have killed more than our share of generic bad guys in Time Crisis 4, Ghost Squad, and House of the Dead in the arcade so I was a bit intrigued when the boxed copy of Time Crisis 4 showed up on my doorstep. I realized this would be my chance to finally see the end of the game as I never felt like spending the $4-7 it would take to finish the game in the arcade. I was also interested to see how Namco handled the light gun aspects of the game. After playing through the game and the various other content I have very mixed feelings on the package Namco is putting out.
What I like about Time Crisis 4 is that Namco went all out with the hardware. The GunCon 3 is very solid feeling, has a great trigger feel, and is fairly comfortable to hold for long periods of time. The button placement on the second grip takes some getting used to but I was able to master everything after about ten minutes of game play. There's no rumble support in the gun which is a bit disappointing but somewhat understandable given the form factor and costs of the product.
The best piece of engineering though is the LED transmitters. Coming up with a solution that will work on every TV is tricky but Namco's solution is simple and elegant. There are two LED transmitters that are attached to L-shaped brackets with a weighted rubber tether attached to the bracket. All you have to is place the LED on the front of the TV and the rubber tether keeps the transmitters flush against the TV. The tethers are long enough to work on old school CRT TV's as well as ultra-thin LED TV's. It took me a minute to figure out exactly how the system worked but once you have them on the TV it's a very good fit.
It's a nice setup but it does assume that your have a TV and that your PS3 is within seven feet of your TV. If you have a projector or your PS3 is a good distance away from your TV you're going to have to be a little creative in how you hook this up. I imagine you could get a USB extender cable for the IR sensors and the Gun Con 3 but that's something to consider if you're looking at the game and have a somewhat exotic setup.
Time Crisis 4 is an solid adaptation of the arcade game with a few additions bundled into the package. Outside of the arcade mode there's a challenge mode, and a new FPS mode. The arcade mode is solid but it seems like the folks at Namco just ported the code over and didn't bother to change any of the content in the game. One of the new features in the arcade mode was the ability to rotate the field of view to take out bad guys approaching from either side of you. In the arcade version you clicked off the side of the screen to switch screens but with the PS3 version all you have to do is move the thumbstick on the GunCon the direction you want to turn. The problem is that the instructions from the arcade version are still in the game as clicking off to the sides doesn't work in the home version.
As a game the arcade mode isn't bad but it only took me a few hours to get through the game and that was with a few retries. The game gives you extra lives after you play the game for an hour and once you complete the first level of the game you can skip to the second. The game itself isn't too bad if you like the Time Crisis formula but I'm not sure it's something I'll ever play again now that I've beaten the game.
The FPS mode is a decent addition but not something that I really enjoyed that much. The first problem is that it's a bit brand X (lots of crates and bad guys) and the second is that the concept doesn't work that well. You move and look with the thumbsticks but then you have to find the bad guys on screen with the GunCon controller. As someone who plays a lot of FPS games this took a lot of getting used to as I'm used to lining up a reticle on someone and pulling the trigger. It's a nice attempt but it's something that just feels a bit half baked. It was also a bit distressing to find out that the game only takes about three hours to get through as there are only two main levels (plus a bonus third level) available in the game. This is one of those arcade game features that you really don't realize until you have access to it at home.
The one big failing of the game is the multiplayer supports. It's built in and it works well but Namco isn't selling the GunCom controllers separately which means you have to buy a second copy of the game if you want both players to have a light gun. Why Namco isn't selling a bundle with both controllers for an extra $10-20 or selling the controller separately for $30-40. It's a major miss and something that really could have helped sell more copies of the game. The other downside of the game is the cost, at $70-80 the game is a bit of a premium over other, better games on the market and that added cost isn't something you can amatorize over other games as Time Crisis 4 is currently the only game that supports the GunCon 3 controller. That could change in time but it's something to consider before you plunk money down on the game.
Time Crisis 4 is about as average as they come and while Namco deserves some credit for adding a few new bells and whistles it's really hard to recommend the game to anyone who's not a hardcore light gun fan. Even then it's still a bit of a reach to spend that kind of money on a game.
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