Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Game Review: Time Crisis: Project Titan


Time Crisis: Project Titan
  • Publisher: Namco
  • Developer: Flying Tiger Development
  • Release: PlayStation, 20 June 2001
  • Genre: 3D Action (Rail Shooter)
  • Players: 1
  • Save: Memory Card, 1 Block
A lot had changed in the Time Crisis franchise between the release of the first game and the Summer of 2001, the general release date of our current subject.  In the arcades, the sequel Time Crisis II made multiple long-lasting changes to the series formula, mostly for the better, and the spin-off Crisis Zone shook things up in its own direction as well.  But neither of these games were given home ports in a timely fashion.  Maybe Namco was just waiting for something better than the PlayStation to run them on, as both games were eventually ported to the PlayStation 2, another development in that aforementioned time frame.  But before those games came to be, Namco and third-party developer Flying Tiger gave PSone owners one more run with the gun, with the console-only sequel Time Crisis: Project Titan.


The story fails to live up to its potential.
Project Titan once again stars Richard Miller, the leather-jacket-clad one-man-army from the first game.  This time around, he has been framed for the assassination of the president of Caruba, a fictional Caribbean island, and has 48 hours to clear his name.  You won't be able to get a handle on the stakes outside of the opening cutscene, however.  Without wishing to spoil, the game has a nasty habit of discarding plot points at the end of each of its four acts, as if this inanimate work of software had somehow come down with a case of ADD.  With wishing to spoil, however, the real assassin (who looks nothing like Miller, by the way) pops up for the boss fight in act 2 and is abruptly killed in the following cutscene, at the end of act 3 we learn the president of not-Aruba was alive all along, and the fourth and final act deals with a titanium-enhanced army led by -- of course, -- Wild Dog, which is plonked upon us with virtually no foreshadowing.

Oh, and the first act takes place on a yacht owned by Kantaris, the villainess arms dealer from the first game's second story, but it neither resolves anything from that past plot, nor does it advance the current plot in any way.  It's just a total waste of a level which could have been better served showing Richard on the run from the not-Cuban authorities, for example.  And no, getting to see Kantaris's low-polygon body in a bikini top does not help matters.  While I'm digressing on the subject of graphics, Project Titan attempts a more detailed look than the first game, and it works for the most part.  One of its nicer touches is that enemies in each of the four acts sport their own sets of costumes, each still retaining the series' trademark colour-coding by rank.

So if the story's a giant waste of time, does the gameplay manage any of the heavy lifting?  Project Titan revives the rules set by the first game, meaning that you have to keep your time limit up lest you suffer death by the clock, and you have to guess when enemies will land direct hits lest you suffer death by loss of hitpoints.  There is a new mechanic added from the original game, where if you can land a combo of 30 hits on enemies without missing, you'll earn an extra life.  It's hard enough to get so that it doesn't break the game by offering you too many lives, but considering that none of the other Time Crisis games offer any methods of restoring player-character life, it's better than nothing.  Another change occurs in the boss fights, where you can switch to different cover positions while hiding.  Mostly, this is used to follow the boss as he, or it, moves from place to place.  Given its limited implementation, this isn't much more than a quick gimmick, although variations on this system were eventually incorporated into later games, namely Time Crisis 4 (Arcade/PlayStation 3, 2005) and 5 (Arcade, 2015).
In boss fights, you have to follow your targets
by switching cover positions.
Project Titan once again supports the GunCon light-gun controller, and once again offers the same degree of button customisation.  Regular controllers are also supported, and oddly enough, it is here that Project Titan offers its greatest improvement.  First of all, it supports the analog sticks on DualShock and other controllers.  But more importantly, there is a new lock-on mechanic where if you move your cursor close to an enemy, it will automatically snap to him.  It can even follow arms, legs, heads, and other body parts as the targeted character moves around.  This system isn't so overpowered that it makes the game feel like it's on autopilot, but it gives anyone the speed to come within shouting distance of the default record times.  Yet it was never implemented into any of the other Time Crisis home ports, and that's a real shame.

The story campaign in Project Titan lasts longer than in the original, adding an extra fourth act on top of the usual three (ironically, you have fewer continues to finish the game with than before), but unlike the home version of Time Crisis, there's no additional campaign to pad out the first-play length.  With that in mind, the game ends up as a niche title for only a certain kind of Time Crisis fan, namely the kind who seeks out more of the challenge of the original.  Anyone weaned on the newer, friendlier entries will get turned off by its tougher conventions, not to mention the relative lack of value.  If you are interested in the unforgiving early years of this franchise, I'd recommend you start out with the original Time Crisis home port first.  But when you're ready to move on, you wouldn't do too wrongly to make your attack on Titan.

(Lame joke is lame.)

Positives:
+ Retains the challenge of the original.
+ Lock-on system makes the game more playable for controller users.
+ A more detailed graphical style.
Negatives:
- Lousy story, with many dropped plot points.
- Awkward voice acting to match.
- Failed to implement modern conveniences from Time Crisis II.
- Multi-cover system works, but is limited to boss fights.
The Call: 60% (C-)

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