When I was 13 years old I got a BB gun for my birthday, and it was all over from there. I spent countless hours on sunny days (of which there are many in Los Angeles) pumping the handle, compressing air into the chamber, and firing tiny bits of steel at harmless aluminum cans. I began to love guns.
Make all the penis jokes you want (Oh don't tempt us... ~Ed), but then try shooting a gun for a while and tell me you don't get a thrill. There I was, a child with a squeaky voice about to trip over puberty, and yet I had a small taste of what it was like to be more. I could smite cans from afar. I felt like a god. OK, sure, I was only the god of aluminum cans, but you have to start somewhere.
So gun games have always held a special place in my heart. Who cares if Lara Croft has guns-a-plenty? I may control her, but she points the weapons and she fires them; all I get to do is press the 'X' button. The gun interface is a whole different experience. It is much closer to the real life action of firing a gun and thus much more of a cheap rush (now if only they made one that kicked).
Enter Time Crisis, the latest from Namco. A success in the arcades, can the home version stand up to the challenge? After all, it has to compete with the crisp precision of Virtua Cop 2 and the unrivaled mayhem of Die Hard Trilogy. All things considered, Time Crisis hits the target solidly, but is just off of the bullseye. No cigar. No cupie doll.
Here is the plot in a nutshell (yes I said plot). Rachel MacPherson, the daughter of the President of the Republic of Sercia (don't look at a map) has been kidnapped. You play as superspy Richard Miller who is exactly the right kind violent, gun-toting sort of espionage agent for the job. No need to look for clues or solve puzzles: Just blast the enemy. While this part is the same as the arcade, Namco also includes another PlayStation-only mission where you infiltrate (read 'gun down') the headquarters of the evil terrorist group Kantaris.
While the first mission is strictly linear, the special mission has a few different branching paths that really increase the replay value. The Kantaris base is disguised as a luxury hotel and casino and is full of bad guys in bellhop uniforms. I actually liked this one better than the original scenario. Both missions are very difficult.
And don't think that you can just blast your way through anything with that rapid-fire auto-loading cheater gun you bought. Time Crisis only works with Namco's Guncon. While this will irritate those of you who have already purchased a light-gun, the Guncon is a good gun in its own right, and is more accurate than any other gun on the market.
The gameplay is very straightforward: shoot the bad guys and don't get shot in return. However , Time Crisis' best feature is a new twist on the gun game: the ability to duck. To reload your six-shooter, you don't just point away from the screen and shoot, you must duck behind a wall or box or other concealing object. To do well, you must rapidly emerge from cover, fire off a few well placed rounds, and duck back to safety before you get shot. This gives the game a more 'dangerous' feel, makes it less important to memorize where the enemy pops-up next, and is an innovation I would like to see in more gun games in the future.
To control the ducking, you can either use a button on the front of the Guncon (which made it very difficult to aim I thought), or you can press any button or the D-pad on the controller in port #2. This is best done with the foot. My controller of choice for stepping on is the extremely deserving-of-abuse Biogrip. And don't think you can just keep hiding behind that wall forever; there's a reason its called Time Crisis. Take too long and you'll be just as dead as if someone let you have it with an UZI.
Unfortunately, all is not sunshine and lollipops in the world of executing deranged terrorists. Gaming veterans will be a bit disappointed that the six shooter that you begin with is all that you ever get. There are no powerups and no bonus weapons to be had. Forget your friends, because there is no two player mode. Also, sometimes it seems a bit random when you get shot. Peek your head out at the wrong moment and blam! Ouch!
But the biggest flaw holding back the game are the 'saturday night special' graphics. Time Crisis looks like a PlayStation game from about two years ago: blocky polygons, boring textures, and plenty of breaks around the edges. There is also very little interaction with the background. The graphics are functional, and don't impede gameplay, but they are just disappointing when compared side-by-side against other 1998 games.
Despite this, Time Crisis is quite a good game and a very worthy challenge for any gun-toting lunatic in your house. Feelin' a little impotent? Looking for that rush of power? Cans too immobile to thrill you? Pick up Time Crisis, oil your holster, and put that old crappy controller on the floor. Those terrorists are just dying to get shot.