Games have changed a hell of a lot in the last 10 years, but the Time Crisis series has steadfastly refused to grow up. While everyone else was jumping on the mature bandwagon, pumping out Emo music-backed introspective monologues about the state of the world, Time Crisis was content to deliver bubblegum action, packing some serious soft metal.
We love Namco for this, and we love them even more since catching sight of Time Crisis 4. It would have been very easy for some suit with a sales chart to decide this latest gun game should feature a gritty plot, heroes with personality disorders and a game world caked in grime. What we're getting is more shiny office environments, blue-sky exterior shootouts an armada of stealth jets targeting the US and only you, a buddy and a pair of Guncon 3s can save the day. Business as usual.
The main enemy is once again the returning Wild Dog - now packing an arm-option weapon that enables him to strap on extra weapon types. He starts out with a simple grappling hook that can snare you, but eventually he'll use a gravity defying option to toss cars around the screen as makeshift missiles.
Tour of terror
Fans may be wondering how Namco has managed to resurrect Wild Dog for one more mission. This time he's leading a coup d'état on American soil in a story that takes in California and Colorado using bio-weapons that take the form of insect swarms called Terra Bites. Handily, the new Guncon 3 is more than a match.
Visually, the game is a mish-mash of PS3 tech and classic coin-op design. The characters are pretty much the same bunch of neon-punk hairdos, camp leather suits and attitude that you'd find in any movie released in 1993... or starring Jean-Claude Van Damme. Even Dennis Rodman would have trouble competing with heroes Georgio Bruno and Evan Bernard. Where the 'next-gen-ness' of Time Crisis 4 crops up is in the scale of the shootouts. At times, the classic waves of enemies give way to Battle Screen stages in which you must shoot a set number of enemies within a strict time limit. These sections involve dozens of terrorists on screen at once or hundreds in the case of the new enemy bugs.
The Battle Screen stages will be your first chance to try out the new Guncon 3's analogue sticks. Pushing left, right or up you'll select a relevant view and be able to skip from enemy wave to enemy wave to stay ahead of the onslaught. Battle Screen is played in the Coin-op mode, for PS3 a new FPS mode is being worked on. This will be an exclusive five-stage FPS mode featuring free-roaming gameplay using the analogue sticks to move and the gun to nail the enemies.
The technology behind the Guncon 3 actually resembles that of the Nintendo Wii and represents a new direction for the Time Crisis series. Sensors placed on your TV will not only pick up where you aim, but also the pitch and movement of the peripheral itself. New moves in the game will take advantage of this, enabling you to lean from cover, jump and crouch and even use some secret weapons by titling the Guncon 3. It also throws melee attacks into the mix when used with the FPS mode.
As well as the FPS mode, the PS3 edition of Time Crisis 4 will also see the return of the Crisis Missions and Mini Games. Crisis Missions will involve shooting through a set of exclusive challenges, killing waves of enemies within a time limit or a set order. These will likely make more use of the Guncon 3 tech too, with challenges revolving around ducking and jumping barrels and stealth kills. The Mini Games will be more multiplayer based, offering you the chance to shoot it out with a friend for high scores and kudos.
Though these latter game modes will play much like any Time Crisis from the last five years, it's in the use of the Guncon 3 technology that the game will shine. That FPS mode sounds fantastic fun and the as-yet-unspecified online gameplay should also be hugely interesting.
But, at its heart, we're looking forward to Time Crisis 4 because it has fundamentally refused to grow-up. Its heroes still wear snakeskin cowboy boots and colourful leather jackets, resembling a riot in an overcrowded Spanish youth hostel, and the only female involvement comes from the eye candy who talks you through each stage. We're not complaining! Time Crisis 4 refuses to change in any real sense and we love it all the more for being so stubborn and defiantly retro.