Sadly, you don't see a lot of arcade-style light-gun games these days, but Namco Bandai is nobly keeping that tradition alive both in the arcades and, soon, at home with an upcoming PlayStation 3 version of Time Crisis 4. This is the fourth entry in one of the longest-running light-gun series we can think of, a series that pioneered a unique cover mechanic whereby you could actually avoid incoming shots from enemies rather than just taking them in the face. The fourth game in the franchise won't quite shake up the formula to such an extent, but the developer has nevertheless added some interesting new gameplay in the transition to the home platform.
The first thing we noticed about the Guncon 3--Namco Bandai's latest in its popular line of light-gun peripherals--was that an analog stick juts out from the side of the barrel. You'll use that stick to control your movement in the PS3 version's five first-person shooter-style levels. Wait, movement? FPS levels? Indeed, Time Crisis 4 will deviate from the series by giving you several opportunities to run around freely and shoot at the same time. These five levels will be interspersed throughout the game's arcade campaign mode, and while we didn't get to actually play or even see any of the new stages, we figure they'll add some nice variety in between the more traditional arcade elements.
And yes, aside from these new FPS levels, Time Crisis 4 will provide that same light-gun action you know and love from the arcade. We got to try the game's first two arcade levels, the first of which was set in an office building where we had to fight off a bunch of typical heavily armed thugs. Some had riot shields, some had rocket launchers, but they all went down after a few well-placed shots with the Guncon. The second level had us blasting our way through a cave, where we were assailed by legions of trilobyte-looking gross bugs called "terror bites" in addition to the gun-toting mercs.
The game's action is a little more complex than in past games. We had four weapons to work with in our first level, including a shotgun and machine gun in addition to our standard pistol, and we had to duck behind cover and pull the trigger to change up our weapons. At some points, you'll actually have to defend more than one front at a time, such as when our ragtag band of fighters reached the joint between two hallways. We holed up behind some cover in the corner and had to fight off enemies coming at us down both passages. To control which way we were looking, we simply had to aim the Guncon offscreen in the direction we wanted to turn.
Time Crisis 4 looks like it's upholding the series' trademark gameplay with aplomb, though time will tell whether the new FPS levels will be a good fit for the otherwise guided action so common to the franchise. Namco Bandai is doing some work to tighten up the game's visuals on the PS3. It will run in 720p resolution, though we didn't see a lot of other obvious signs of improvement in the preview build we played. Still, we're glad to see light-gun games of this fashion still trickling out, in whatever form they take.