Of course, it’s not a total reinvention. Your movement and your point-of-view are as much on-rails as they ever were, and – as in previous Time Crisis titles – it’s all about aiming and firing while ducking in and out of cover using the action button. The game moves on from enemy wave to enemy wave and situation to situation, throwing various foes with various attacks at you, with a juicy boss battle at the end of each of the game’s three chapters. Along the way you can expect action in airport terminals, caves, forests and military bases plus a nice stretch firing from a helicopter at aircraft and armoured vehicles among the streets of San Francisco. Essentially we’re talking same old, same old, right?
Wrong. For one thing, the game now allows you to select between different weapons, with certain weapons – say, the shotgun or the SMG – more effective against some enemies than others. For another, the game’s slightly hackneyed plot (rogue military forces messing with biological weapons) allows for plenty of action with a number of different creepy-crawly mutants, all of whom need treatment from a particular weapon if you want to get rid of them damage free. In fact, the game has some other new ideas. A stretch where you use a torch to light your target area in darkened caves is fun, as is the odd sniping sequence or a frantic escape where you tap one button to pull yourself out of a sand hole while blasting another bunch of GM bugs.
However, the game’s most interesting new mechanic is also its most flawed. In certain situations you’re thrown into a two or three screen battle, with different waves of attackers coming at you at different angles, while you switch between the different screens using a quick flick of the G-Con left or right. It’s a nice idea, but does it work? Not really. In my experience you spend a lot of time flapping with the G-Con as you desperately try to get it to switch your view, and not enough time shooting the bad guys before they get to you.
Now, the arcade mode is fun, but all these new twists don’t make it feel any more relevant or any less dated than, say, Ghost Squad. That’s not necessarily a criticism when the gameplay works, but there are plenty of occasions when the tweaks actively get in the way of the fun – particularly when you’ve already used all your shotgun or SMG ammo at a time when the game demands you use that weapon, or when you keep failing parts of a mission because you can’t get the screen-switching move down pat. What’s less forgivable is that the game looks so dated. Remember how, in the early days of the Xbox 360, a lot of games looked like PS2 games with a few HD textures added and an HDR lighting engine layered on top? Well, Time Crisis 4 is a return to those good times. It all looks very crisp. You could even say that the clean, old-school look suits the style of the game. But in an age where gritty detail and lavish surface effects are taken for granted, Time Crisis 4 doesn’t really make the most of the PS3 hardware.