Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Game Review: Time Crisis 3

Time Crisis 3
  • Publisher: Namco
  • Developer: Namco
  • Release:
    • Arcade, 2003
    • PlayStation 2, 21 October 2003
  • Genre: 3D Action (Rail Shooter)
  • Players: 1-2
  • Save: Memory Card (212KB)
Previously on the SDP, I reviewed Time Crisis II, which codified many well-received conventions which stuck with the rest of the series -- the "Growing the Beard" entry, if you will.  So, how do you follow that up?  With Time Crisis 3, obviously.  It follows much of TCII's example, sharing the same two-player setup and its improvements to the life mechanics, but does it do anything on top of that to set itself apart?  Oh, it finds a way.

In TC3, you play as yet another pair of colour-coded VSSE agents, but the circumstances they're dropped into are a bit different from the usual fare.  The setting is Astigos Island, a place heavily inspired by Greek islands such as Mykonos and Santorini, and it is currently under invasion by the army of the neighbouring Zagorias Federation, and its general (and the game's final boss), Giorgio Zott.  In terms of writing a believable story, that's already a step up from the megalomaniacal villain of, say, TCII.  In the various cutscenes, your player-characters also interact with a resistance fighter named Alicia Winston.  Whilst she doesn't have any effect on gameplay, this is an improvement from a storytelling perspective, considering that the usual role of women in Time Crisis games is that of the damsel in distress.  As arcade-based light-gun rail-shooters go, being a genre filled with excuse plots, I was not expecting the story in TC3 to be as juicy as it was, but there you go.  Granted, the voice- and motion-acting don't take themselves seriously enough to match the story, but baby-steps, people!


Shoot soldiers in yellow outfits for
special weapon ammo.
Story aside, TC3's unique selling point is its multiple-weapon system.  How it works is while you're hiding behind cover, you can pull the trigger on your light-gun to toggle between one of four weapons: the Handgun, the Machine Gun, the Shotgun, and the Grenade Launcher.  The catch is that, with the exception of the Handgun, ammo for these weapons is finite, and must be replenished by shooting yellow-garbed enemies (the same ones who gave you bonus time or points in previous games).  This is no quick gimmick, fortunately, but rather the game is designed around this additional functionality.  On the upside, the ammo-bearing mooks are just frequent enough that you should seldom run into shortages.  On the downside, there are also a lot of armoured enemies which take four or five regular shots to dispatch, not to mention all the bosses.  Yeah, I get the sneaking suspicion that the game wants me to use all those extra weapons.  You can still use your handgun for the whole game if you're a veteran raised on the old games, but your trigger finger will hate you for it.

In addition from the extra efforts put into the story and gameplay, the content has been buffed up considerably, too.  Both the arcade and Rescue Mission stories take around 30 minutes to clear, which doesn't sound like much, but is still an improvement for this series.  It feels like a longer journey, too, because each stage within each act takes place in a different setting.  In act one, for example, you go from a beach, to a wrecked ship, to fighting the boss on a moving Jeep.  That said, TC3 seems to have copied its action setpieces from the last game.  The first act's boss takes place on a set of moving vehicles, the second act takes place on a train, and the third act includes a mini-boss battle with, of course, Wild Dog.  As with the home port of TCII, TC3 lets you unlock unlimited continues and ammo for both your main and sub-weapons through repeated playthroughs and other achievements.
The Rescue Mission mode adds weapon upgrades and sniper levels into the mix.
Previous Time Crisis home ports experimented with either a second story campaign or a set of extra challenges, but the PlayStation 2 version of TC3 has both.  In service of the former, beating the game once unlocks the Rescue Mission, a second story starring Alicia, the aforementioned resistance fighter.  Much of her story runs parallel to that of the arcade mode, so you get to experience some of the same setpieces from a different angle, but there are new experiences thrown in as well.  Every couple of stages, the format switches to a sniper-based setup, where you point your scope at distant targets and move on when they're all gone.  These bits finally make use of the GunCon 2's extra functions: whilst zoomed in, you can use the D-pad on the back of the gun to move your field of view around without going back into hiding.  The multi-weapon system from the arcade mode also shows up in Rescue Mission, but with a twist.  Each of your three sub-weapons has their own experience meter which fills up with use, and when filled, increases that weapon's damage, fire rate, and/or ammo capacity.  It's a neat addition which even further encourages the use of your alternate weapons, but I wonder why they couldn't have patched it into the arcade mode as an unlockable extra.

Time Crisis 3 is yet another example of how to do a sequel right.  Now that Namco knew what they were doing, they were free to experiment with new mechanics.  And not only did they do so, but they managed to design the game around them, for better or worse, so they come across as less a tacked-on gimmick and more an integral part of gameplay.  Having a more intriguing story than the usual arcade shooter fare is a bonus, as well.  Is it the best light-gun shooter around?  I'd love to say so, but there's one other game which makes a strong case for that title, and you'll find out about it soon on the SDP!

Positives:
+ The multi-weapon system.
+ A longer run-time compared to the rest of the series.
+ The "Rescue Mission" mode in the PS2 edition.
+ Probably the best story the series has ever had and will have.
Negatives:
- An over-reliance on armoured enemies.
- The action setpieces seem recycled from Time Crisis II.
- Motion and voice-acting is still a little campy.
The Call: 85% (B+)

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