Namco's Time Crisis series is notable for a lot of things in the grand timeline of arcade shooters, not the least of which being its focus on blazing through stages under the constant pressure of an ever-dwindling clock (hence the name). Those that haven't found themselves ducking and covering behind obstacles in local arcades over the years now have another chance to take the time-tested experience home with the PlayStation 3 release of Time Crisis 4, as long time fans are likely doing so as we speak.
Something will click when the opening mission loads, especially for enthusiasts of the coin-operated variety, as the soundtrack hums into high gear and the gunplay begins with little introduction or unnecessary fanfare. Add in the bundled Guncon3, now fitted with two analog sticks and a crap-load of buttons, and you've got the making of a pretty killer run through a present day Hogan's Alley. Only this time, Hogan is a never-ending, heavily armored gauntlet of terrorists and the helicopters they rode in on.
...you'd be hard-pressed to find a more faithful experience, outside of the murky smoke of a pizza parlor deep in the dying realm of the coin-op world
Even someone that hasn't played Time Crisis in years will find themselves right at home with the scenarios thrown out at the beginning. Guards hot-step from behind cover, taking shots with the precision of a gang of Stormtroopers. Then you pop out, fire like Rambo (screaming optional), and duck back before your own life bars are forfeit. Those that are new to light gun games might be adverse to the difficulty though. Time Crisis 4 gets brutal fast and offers up few lives at the start, but Namco was wise enough to allot more chances at victory to players persistent enough to soldier on past their first Game Over screen.
Playing the standard Arcade game can bring a lot of joy to hardened vets, but slapping that on a disc and calling it a day would be pretty uncharacteristic of the company that made Tekken 3 on PSone seem like a bonanza gift bag of gaming; thus explaining the presence of the Complete Mission mode. As the opening screens clearly detail, this is basically a Guncon first person shooter, for better or worse, mixed in with the standard shooting stages. The FPS levels serve as story bridges starring Captain William Rush, and segue nicely into Giorgio and Evan's Ambiguously Gay Duo domain.
At first, working the Guncon3 like a standard controller is about the most worthless thing ever, but once you get better at managing the initially awkward controls, the FPS becomes an enjoyable addition to the package, even if it doesn't look that hot by PS3 standards. It won't ever replace the excitement of taking cover on rails in the arcade mode—the pace is just a bit too plodding for that—but it does an admirable job of mixing light gun action with free movement. Something that Capcom's RE: Umbrella Chronicles would have been wise to attempt.
Speaking of Wii shooters, that's a decent gauge of how accurate the Guncon is here. It's not perfect, but it gets the job done, and you'll rarely have anyone to blame but yourself for that crucial missed shot. Playing split-screen with a friend certainly heightens the arcade experience, but PS3 owners with only two USB ports will need to spring for a hub (and a friend with the package). Either way, you'll likely play it as much as possible just to make sure the oddball LED markers don't go to waste, forever hanging atop your television like a mark of shame.
The greatest illusion accomplished by Time Crisis 4, aside from making the player feel masculine while controlling two of the most flamboyant leads in shooter history, is the transformation of your PlayStation 3 into a full-blown arcade machine. The price is a bit steep—only the most hardcore of shooter fans will feel like dropping nearly a Benjamin on this package—and hitting up eBay for an extra Guncon3 is a bummer, to say the least. Even so, you'd be hard-pressed to find a more faithful experience, outside of the murky smoke of a pizza parlor deep in the dying realm of the coin-op world.