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Time Crisis: Crisis Zone comes packed with intense fast-paced action, amazingly crisp graphics, a monstrous sound effects engine, fully interactive environments, and even a fair amount of "extra" modes to help boost replay value. On top of that you get a bonus "Guncon 2" light-gun controller when you acquire the game; which also means if you already own "Time Crisis 3" (such as myself) you now have that extra light-gun peripheral you've always wanted for co-op play. So why does a game that has so many good things going for it in-a-row leave one with that "hmm-could've-been-better" feeling? Let's take a deeper look.
First off, it's no secret and everyone knows that this game is a port of a fairly old arcade hit. Now that isn't all the time a bad thing, but in this case I think it's a fact that can't be overlooked simply because the gameplay engine isn't "ageless." What I'm saying is that what makes an older game a "greatest hit" is when you can pick up the game years later and still get a really good buzz off it. Only ageless gameplay can do that for you. That's why years from now, you'll still see gamers picking up and enjoying games like "Mario," "Halo," or "Gran Tourismo."
Crisis Zone leaves you with a bit of a "stagnant" feeling. It's that kind of feeling you get when you gulp down a sip of flat soda pop or bite into a stale potato chip from a bag that's been open way too long. Truth be said, this game was really just a sequel in a long line of sequels and probably one sequel too many.
I guess I shouldn't use the word "sequel" because Crisis Zone isn't really a sequel at all but more so a "spin-off" of the series. Maybe that's where in lies part of the problem as well. This time round we don't get to best the bad guys with our familiar dynamic duo, Wesley Lambert and Alan Dunaway and so it makes it kind of hard to get into the hero role. Instead, you're Claude McGarren, First Platoon Leader of a Special Tactical Force. Your mission is to liberate Garland Square, a newly built multi-level complex composed of department stores, hotels, a park and an office building. Obviously it's a real tourist attraction. Even more obvious is that it's also the perfect target for a terrorist operation. As platoon leader it's your job to lead the strike to liberate Garland Square from a terrorist group known only as the U.R.D.A and its cynical leader Derrick Lynch.
The gameplay is very "de-ja-vou" if you've already played through "Time Crisis 3" and so it doesn't leave much to look forward to. However, new to the series is the "riot shield" cover. The riot shield is a mobile barrier that special forces soldiers use in their everyday tactical operations, so you'll spend most of the game ducking behind this impenetrable shield rather than a nearby rock, desk, or cement wall. The shield is semi-transparent so you can actually watch bullets and other types of projectiles fly over your head before you come from out of cover.
In the past it was more of a gamble coming out of cover from behind a rock or wall you couldn't see past and more than oft resulted in catching a stray bullet you didn't see coming. The riot shield helps you better visualize what's actually going on around you so that's a bit of a plus.
What's not to like about the riot shield, however, is the lack of realism it brings to the game. It just doesn't feel right when you find yourself out in the wide open against a heavily armored helicopter or pinned in a small room by a heavy tank taking cover behind your MIGHTY RIOT SHIELD to dodge highly destructive projectiles like missiles and artillery shells. Do the words, "Do not try this at home" ring in anyone's mind?
I will say this though. The U.R.D.A are not like any typical terrorist cells you've diffused in the past. No, no, these guys are good. Really, really good. Heavily armed, highly-skilled, well-numbered and nimbly swift, these guys will flank you from all kind of vantage points. They come at you with guns, knives, aircraft and heavy artillery. Some will hit you from a distance while others will jump right out in front of your face and hit you with a devastating melee attack.
Now, it's true these kind of attacks aren't anything we haven't seen before in this particular game but you must admire how well these guys coordinate their attacks against your forces. From the time you see your first action you will constantly be bombarded with waves upon waves of enemy opposition. There are so many things going on all at once on screen that it's very easy to get distracted by an immediate threat and forget about the sniper off in the distance picking you apart with every shot and like wise it's easy to get so distracted by all the heavy artillery fire off in the distance that you never see the guy coming that jumps right in front of you out of nowhere and scalps you with his short sword. It's no wonder that the default weapon in the game is not a handgun but instead a machine gun. Believe me, you'll be highly grateful to have it at your service.
As you progress through the "Story mode" you'll be able to unlock other playable modes and weapons. Of course this is easier said than done. As I stated before the U.R.D.A is a very talented group of individuals and to make matters worse you only get to start the game with a lousy four continues. Now while I'm always up for a good fight I found the task of unlocking everything more "stressful and time-consuming" than I did "fun and challenging." After much teeth grinding you'll be able to unlock more continues to help you delve further into the adventure and unlock all those hidden secrets within.
Ok so we've established that the game is slightly outdated, the gameplay aspect doesn't really offer too many things in the way of new, the "riot shield" feature is cool, yet unrealistic, the enemy A.I is much more difficult to best and the lack of "continues" doesn't help matters. Even still, the game was still looking like a decent title overall at this point.
But then it happened. My good friend comes over to the house and we decide to tag-team the game. I boastfully unravel my "Time Crisis 3" light gun out its box and proceed to hook it into the second USB port. The game comes on and we both calibrate our guns. Cool, let's do this man. Of course, I, being the gentlemen that I am, pass my buddy the first player gun and I take ownership of the player two shooter. We begin "Story Mode" and I notice that my game isn't active. Not a problem. I've seen it time and time again. I know what to do, so I go to hit the "start button" on my gun to enter the game and...nothing.(Say whaa?) I figured that maybe I hooked up the guns wrong so I check my connections and try again....nothing.(Say, huh?) At this point, I open the instruction booklet to page 5, "Setting Up the Guncon 2 Controller." I look at the picture and my connections are surely right and so I start to read a little further down the page and then BAM!!....I see it! There in very tiny, very fine, print are the words, "Time Crisis: Crisis Zone is not compatible with the original Guncon controller."(Aww, Hell no!)
I look at the gun that comes with "Crisis Zone." It's called the "Guncon 2." I check out the gun that came with "Time Crisis 3." It says *drum roll* "Guncon 2." I look around for different features that one gun might have over the other one. Well, what do you know? They're the exact same guns! Now I'm starting to get irritated, especially being that my so-called buddy has practically forgotten I'm even in the room as he is quite engrossed in "his" game at the time. Of course, his fun doesn't last long at all as he soon finds out four continues doesn't go a long way.
Afterwards, I decide to conduct a test. I wanted to see if maybe I had a bad port on my system. After all, the ole' PS2 has seen some burn in its day. So I throw "Time Crisis 3" into the system and sure enough we calibrate our guns, we shoot the "co-op" mode and, wa-la, we're in. Everything works fine.(*folds arms and grudgingly taps his foot*)
The bottomline? Even with all of the small nuisances that were beginning to add up as I was reviewing the game I was still prepared to give the "Crisis Zone" the benefit of the doubt. BUT, the "gun compatibility" factor was simply too much to bear. Especially being that the guns are exactly the same! What does this mean? Is my gun from "Time Crisis 3" actually the original "Guncon" controller in a "Guncon 2" package? The world may never know. Shame on you, Namco!! A very disappointing and mediocre experience has forced me to pass a judgment of no more than 3 + Gin gems on this title.
Jevon Jenkins enjoys all types of games, especially those where the programmer's imagination is evident. He can be reached at : firstname.lastname@example.org.