Time Crisis 3 Impressions

We take a look at a near-final version of the PlayStation 2 version of Namco's latest arcade light-gun game.

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Light-gun games have been seriously out of fashion for years now, which is largely due to the decline in popularity of arcades, the traditional home of light-gun games, in the US. But Namco has continued to maintain its Time Crisis series, which has differentiated itself from the usual crowd of light-gun games by including a ducking mechanic, which lets you move out of harm's way and reload your weapon, and by featuring a constantly ticking clock, which creates a very real sense of urgency. Namco is in the process of bringing its latest Time Crisis game to the PlayStation 2, and we've been playing a near-final version of it.

Though the stars of Time Crisis 3 appear to be the same blond-and-brunet pair from Time Crisis II, they are, in fact, a new set of VSSE operatives. This time around, the action is set on the Mediterranean island of Astigos, which is part of the peaceful nation of Lukano. It seems that the Zagorius Federation, a less-peaceful neighboring nation, has invaded Astigos and is setting up ballistic missiles there, creating a possible international threat. This is where you, as Alan and Wesley, come in. Though you're usually shooting through wave after wave of bad guys on your own, you do receive some help from a young girl named Alicia, a member of a rebel group who has her own personal agenda. Though most of the characters in Time Crisis 3 are all-new, there will be some appearances by old foes, most notably Wild Dog, the sunglasses-wearing villain with a machine gun for an arm.

The general gameplay in Time Crisis 3 appears largely unchanged, with the big difference being the inclusion of a weapon-switching system. You still have a standard handgun with unlimited ammo, but you also have a machine gun, a shotgun, and a grenade launcher at your disposal, though the ammo for these weapons is limited. As such, you need to gun down specific enemies in order to replenish your armaments. The weapon-switching, which is performed by pulling the trigger on the GunCon while ducking, seems quite intuitive, and the new weapons should be a welcome addition and should add a bit more variety to the gameplay.

Since the design of the Time Crisis games has always been linear, the games have always relied on fast pacing; lots of intense, odds-against-you shootouts; and some really amazing set pieces--and Time Crisis 3 is set to uphold that tradition. For example, one of the more dramatic scenes we've encountered in the game so far takes place on a rusted tanker ship. We advanced through this level by blasting away at enemies as they popped out of doors and out from behind crates, until a boss character dropped some bombs on the ship. The explosions caused the vessel to capsize, and all of its contents, including a bunch of cargo containers, a bunch of bad guys, and Alan and Wesley, started sliding down toward one end of the ship. This scene seemed indicative of the sort of dynamic sequences that you can expect from Time Crisis 3, which also include a car-to-car shootout, reminiscent of the boat sequence in Time Crisis II, and a sequence in which you fight bad guys while hanging on to a train that's on the verge of falling off a damaged bridge. Fans of the series who enjoy these kinds of dramatic fight scenes have some good stuff to look forward to.

Time Crisis 3 appears to be approximately the same length as its predecessors, though like the previous Time Crisis games, it gives you a very limited number of continues to play with, just like an arcade game. However, you may be able to earn more continues based on how far you've gotten into the game with what you're given. Also, like its arcade counterpart, the PS2 game will include split-screen support for two players, and in order to retain the screen ratio for each player, the game will use a letterbox effect.

The visual quality of Time Crisis 3 seems to show marked improvement over that of Time Crisis II, and it probably should, since that previous game was first released about five years ago. As mentioned, the environments in the new game also seem more dynamic, and the characters themselves appear more detailed, though the most noticeable improvement seems to be the new game's really nice particle effects, which are used for smoke and explosions.

We don't anticipate too many significant changes between what we've played so far and the final version of Time Crisis 3. That's not necessarily a bad thing, especially since what we've played seems perfectly stable and seems to have plenty to offer. Time Crisis 3 is scheduled for release later this month.

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