Time Crisis: Razing Storm review
Light gun games never really survived the death of arcades during the last decade, at least as far as North America is concerned. Virtua Cop, House of the Dead, and Time Crisis all became footnotes in the memories of our coin-operated youths. Meanwhile, arcades and light gun games continue to prevail overseas, and Namco has taken the first shot in what will hopefully be an ongoing resurgence for the genre using the Move. Despite it's title, Time Crisis: Razing Storm is actually a collection of three pitch-perfect arcade ports: Razing Storm, Time Crisis 4, and Deadstorm Pirates. All three titles can be played with either the Move, a standard PS3 controller, or the GunCon 3. We opted to try out the Move, as Sony's peripheral was already starting to collect dust due to its meager launch lineup.
Starting from the top, Razing Storm is the second spin-off of the Time Crisis series (following Crisis Zone), originally released in arcades in 2009. Like its predecessor, Razing Storm makes impressive use of destructible environments (I was often reminded of The Matrix lobby shootout) and mobile shields for cover. Aside from the onslaught of renegade soldiers you'll be gunning down, a number of mechs will also be constantly hounding you. Visually and thematically, the game is extremely reminiscent of Metal Gear Solid 4, especially when you're in the streets of a mostly monotone setting fighting mini-Metal Gears.
The story and dialogue is laughably bad, but in a super-cheesy good way. If the game took itself too seriously, the ludicrous action and over-the-top set pieces would not be nearly as fun. Still, I can't help but feel like the creators of this game designed it knowing full well that most arcades would be too loud for anyone to hear what was actually being said. Razing Storm is likely the shortest game of the bunch at approximately 15 minutes, but in addition to the Arcade Mode, there's also a new Story Mode. This is slightly akin to Tekken's Force Mode, where Namco attempts to elaborate and experiment with the franchise's signature gameplay, but unfortunately they've just turned out a shoddy FPS with remarkably bad enemy AI, a completely useless cover system, and surprisingly awesome cutscenes.
Next up is Time Crisis 4, initially released in arcades in 2006 and again for the PlayStation 3 in 2007. Although Time Crisis 2 will always be my favorite and Time Crisis 3 wasn't particularly great, Time Crisis 4 is where the series lost its way. Sure, the familiar rail-based shooting and two-player cooperative action is all here, but the locations and enemies and even the controls themselves have grown stale. Compared to the frenetic chaos of the other two titles in this package, Time Crisis 4 is painfully slow. The pistol has a limited clip requiring constant reloading, but the cover system is sluggish, especially when you see an enemy attack coming from a mile away and still get hit by it despite trying to dodge. If you can't get enough of the classic Time Crisis gameplay and skipped this title the first time around, it's a decent addition, but your enjoyment will quickly be overridden by nostalgia for the far superior earlier games.
Finally, we have the hidden gem of the collection. Deadstorm Pirates eschews pesky things like taking cover and limited ammo and instead requires both players to shoot in tandem to take down powerful enemies or objectives. The colorful and exciting Disneyland-esque stages are a vast departure from the washed-out aesthetics of the two Time Crisis games, and although the Goonies/Pirates of the Caribbean/Harry Potter-inspired plot are utterly forgettable and the characters are often overly obnoxious, Deadstorm is actually a great deal of fun where it matters.
In addition to shooting skeleton pirates and treasure chests and a kraken and a giant snake, there are also a number of sequences where players must work together by moving the motion controllers to dodge attacks or steer ships or boats. It's not just an epic adventure, but it also makes excellent use of the light gun/motion controller combination. Due to the short length of any of these three games, I wouldn't say Deadstorm is worth the price of admission alone, but I definitely would have bought it if it had been released on the PSN at a discounted rate.
Time Crisis 4 and Deadstorm Pirates both have limited credits available at first, but by playing repeatedly you can build up your continues. It's a nice challenge/reward system seen in many arcade shmups (I hate that word, for the record), and there's also an online-enabled Ranking Mode for purists looking to rock those worldwide leaderboards.
Although Time Crisis 4 and Razing Storm are fun on their own, Deadstorm Pirates and the Move compatibility pushes this collection out of "pass" territory and into a firm "rent or buy on the cheap" recommendation. It's much more enjoyable with a friend, and the Move/GunCon 3 make it as close to the intended arcade experience as you're going to get.