Platform: PlayStation 3
Much time has passed since the lightgun game last enjoyed the spotlight. About a decade ago Sega's Virtua Cop and House of the Dead titles and Namco's Point Black and Time Crisis games were hugely popular in the arcades, not to mention the Saturn, PlayStation and Dreamcast consoles. However, as the next wave of systems arrived and the FPS became the dominant action genre, the simplistic, on-rails shooting of the lightgun favourite looked increasingly past its sell-by date. In a way, the Wii has changed all this, and games like Ghost Squad and Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles have given the lightgun game another chance. The question Time Crisis 4 poses is whether this renewed interest is limited to the Wii, or can Namco-Bandai revitalise the genre on PlayStation 3 as well?
Of course, part of the genre's problem has been technical. The G-Con technology behind Namco's old-school console lightgun games was based on CRT displays, and the current console systems are designed to work with Plasma and LCD HD screens instead. To get around this, Namco-Bandai has designed a new G-Con 3 controller which works along similar principles to the pointer functionality in the Wii's remote, with a sensor built into the gun that works with signals emitted by infrared modules mounted on the screen. Unfortunately, Namco's implementation isn't quite as brilliant as Nintendo's. Instead of a sensor bar we have two separate emitters which dangle from weighted rubber straps attached to the top-left and top-right corners of your screen, connecting to the PS3 via USB. More shockingly, the G-Con 3 itself has a USB connection, which instantly makes it feel old-fashioned after more than a year of using the lovely wireless Wii remote.
The real problem, however, is that this setup isn't just messy, it's also functionally flawed. The G-Con seems to need a minimum of about four feet between gun and emitters to operate effectively, and even once you take that into consideration, calibrating the system using the game's five-point, four corners and a centre target routine can take several goes before you get a decent result. If you use a 32in or above screen when playing on your PS3 you're fine, but if you tend to play games on a second set or PC monitor, then you might want to think twice before investing in Time Crisis 4.
Once you're up and running, the first thing that will hit you is the sheer complexity of the G-Con 3. Packing two analogue sticks, a trigger, two side buttons, two shoulder buttons and two buttons above the butt, it's clearly not designed for the kind of simple point-and-shoot lightgun experience we all know and love. This turns out to be the case. Even in its Arcade mode, Time Crisis 4 seems obsessed with taking the genre somewhere new.