If this shortcoming is obvious enough in Arcade mode, it’s painfully so in the new Complete mode. Here Namco-Bandai surrounds the sharp shooting sequences you’ll already have seen in Arcade mode with a selection of additional chapters that turn Time Crisis 4 into a lightgun/FPS hybrid. Suddenly, those two analogue sticks in the G-Con come into play, one handling your viewpoint, the other handling movement, while the rest of the buttons deal with weapon selection, ducking, jumping and reloading. Meanwhile, you’re aiming and shooting at the bad guys just as you would in a regular Time Crisis game.
It’s an interesting idea, but not particularly successful. For a start, using two sticks plus aiming and shooting at the same time gives you a lot to get used to – if you can pat your head and rub your stomach at the same time you’re laughing, but if not it will take you a while to settle in. What’s more, this isn’t a great FPS by any means. The level design is dull, the visuals are even less enthralling than they were in the single player game, the checkpoints are poorly spaced and the find-key-to-open-door objectives are the kind of thing most real FPS games dispensed with years ago. Basically, the FPS sections are a chore to get through, and their only saving grace is that they’re relatively easy. If only the same could be said about the chunks taken from the regular Arcade mode. While the Complete mode cuts these down into smaller sections, you’re effectively being asked to tackle each one without using a single continue. Unless you memorise each wave of enemies and learn to anticipate every attack, this is practically impossible.
To round out the package – or not – there are no online options – not even leaderboards. Even the addition of some simple, multiplayer-friendly bonus games can’t make up for that omission. Long-time fans of Time Crisis or Lightgun games may get enough out of Time Crisis 4 to make this pricey purchase worthwhile; the Arcade mode is reasonably challenging and there’s enough bang and blast action to just about pass muster. Everyone else, however, would do better saving their £60 for something with more long and short-term appeal.
Much as I respect Namco-Bandai’s attempts to take this classic genre in a new direction, adding complexity doesn’t seem the best way to go, and the clutter-friendly, finicky approach taken by the G-Con 3 hardware only seems worse after the simple setup and easy play offered by similar games on Wii. If Namco-Bandai had wanted to integrate FPS and lightgun gameplay, it would have done better to look at the excellent example offered by Metroid Prime: Corruption, and – for all its many faults – Ghost Squad is a more immediately entertaining game. Expensive, badly executed and anachronistic, Time Crisis 4 is only half as much fun as it could and should have been.
Spoilt by clumsy hardware, a ropey FPS mode and a range of poorly thought out innovations, this isn’t the grand return of the lightgun game we might have hoped for. One for hardcore gun-nuts only.