Review: Time Crisis: Razing Storm (Sony PS3)

Time Crisis – Razing Storm
Developer: Namco Bandai
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Genre: Arcade Shooter
Release Date: 10/19/2010

As old and seemingly outdated as they may appear compared to modern first person shooters, I have long harbored a love for light gun games. My interest in the genre began before they technically existed, as my first gaming experience of that type was actually with an old-fashioned infrared shooting gallery at Walt Disney World when I was about five or six; not the one that still stands in Frontierland though. This one, now long gone, was in the back left corner of what was once called the Fiesta Fun Center, a huge arcade in the lobby of the Contemporary Resort (the big A-framed hotel that the Monorail runs through.) To this day, it stands in my memory as my all time favorite arcade. I spent hours playing there, never knowing that just a few years later I’d be having a somewhat similar experience in my bedroom shooting ducks on my TV.

The genre has steadily evolved over the years, going through both peaks (House of the Dead) and lows (Mad Dog McRee.) This is also true of home consoles where we had classics (Elemental Gearbolt) and stinkers (Target: Terror.) In many ways, these games can be seen as the forefathers of current blockbusters like Halo, Killzone, and the Call of Duty series, so it seems only fitting that Namco’s newest installment in the Time Crisis series would seek to steal back a little of its lost thunder. Does it succeed? Read on to find out.

1. Story

This being a light gun game, and a collection at that, there’s not much story to be had here, though what little exists is somewhat expanded upon in the “FPS” mode. Basically, there’s an uprising in a nondescript South American country when a revolutionist/terrorist attacks the United States in his bid to…well… piss off the United States, I suppose. So in true George W. Bush fashion, in charges the S.C.A.R. team (Strategic Command And Rescue), a hearty band of muscle bound stereotypes lifted straight from the old G.I. Joe cartoons we all pretend we didn’t watch religiously twenty plus years ago. What transpires is a mixture of plot and acting so cheesy that one can’t help but think that this was made to be a parody of the entire genre. There are a lot of laughs to be had here, and half the fun is in figuring out whether or not that’s intentional, but that MST3K aspect isn’t enough to give the paper thin story a passing grade.

The same can be said for the other two titles included in this collection, Time Crisis 4, and Deadstorm Pirates. There are storylines to both, but you’ll be hard pressed to remember any of it once the credits roll.

2. Graphics

I won’t lie. As far as light gun games go, this is the best looking of the bunch. The game’s frame rate stays steady, and while the level of detail is not on par with today’s modern first-person frag-a-thons, it’s nonetheless very easy on the eyes. There’s constant movement, cinematic camera tracking, massive explosions, and gigantic robotic monsters of all shapes and sizes. Sure, it looks low tech and almost childish compared to something like, say, the Killzone 3 beta. But there’s never a single point in the game where after some huge explosion blows out half a building, or a giant spider mech jumps from the roof and lands a foot from your face, you’ll say to yourself “Now that just looked awful.”

Time Crisis 4 still looks like Time Crisis 4. It’s still a great looking entry in the series, but shows its age compared to the newer game. Deadstorm Pirates looks like a ported up Wii game, but the art design, which seems to borrow freely from the Pirates of the Caribbean films, more than makes up it.

3. Sound

Ugh. Once again, a Japanese light gun game with a horrible mixture of gun-metal screaming and synth-metal that ages a new game back ten years. It’s such a bizarre mix. The title screen and and cut scenes are accompanied by a generic “moan-metal” band, but once the bullets start flying, you’ll wish two of them flew right into your ears. What is their obsession with crappy 80’s hair metal? And SYNTH 80’s hair metal at that? I would have loved for this game to have had an over the top, bombastic Die Hard style orchestral score, but alas, it was not to be. Its soundtracks like this that make one appreciate the custom soundtrack abilities of the 360.

And the voice acting is even worse. Every time one of my cohorts said “Great shooting Alpha One!” or “Way to go, Alpha One!” or “I wanna bear your children, Alpha One!” I just wanted to shove my Move down his throat and waggle his spine out his nostrils.

The sound effects are much better. You can clearly hear bullets whizzing past, bass-heavy explosions that make the floor vibrate, and the screech of metal on metal as giant robot badniks stomp about in scenes that feels like Metal Gear Solid 4 filtered through a Michael Bay movie. But over it all, you’ll still have to endure the seemingly endless “Go get ’em, Alpha One!”‘s to the point of annoyance.

Time Crisis 4 is still Time Crisis 4, and Deadstorm Pirates has a surprisingly enjoyable score that sounds like it could be spliced right into the middle of films like Hook, Pirates of the Caribbean, or any old Errol Flynn pirate movie and you’d never notice. In fact, of all the games on this disk, Deadstorm has the best music of the three, and makes the horror of Razing Storm much more bearable, and dare I say it, evens it all out.

4. Control and Gameplay

Pick your plastic, gentlemen. I did not have a GunCon to test the difference between it and the Move controller (I’m not 100% sure all three games even support the GunCon at this point) but for the most part, you won’t miss it. Even without one of the plastic gun peripherals (which actually make games of this type slightly harder since it makes using the reload/cover button more challenging) the Move works amazingly well, is highly accurate, and is just a hell of a lot of fun… in the ARCADE games.

The Move button doubles as both your reload button and, in a welcome departure from previous Time Crisis games, replaces the need for cover with a rather effective riot shield. So instead of having to balance between firing, moving your reticule off screen to reload, and ducking behind cover, you can simply alternate between holding down the fire button and hitting the Move button to both hide behind your shield and reloading simultaneously.

Razing Storm’s story mode is another matter entirely. The game plays exactly like what it is: a low brow FPS ripoff designed by Japanese developers trying to cater to Western audiences while having little to no understanding of what makes for a good FPS title, and whilst simultaneously cramming it into an an engine that doesn’t feel like it was built to do what the developers are forcing it to do.

In story mode, you must use the Move and the Navigation Controller in a control scheme that plays just like the worst of the FPS’s available on the Wii. And just like those titles, your aiming AND turning is accomplished with the motion controller, which makes accurate aiming incredibly difficult. If you aim too close to the edge of the screen, you’ll end up turning when you didn’t intend to and wind up with a bucketload of buckshot in your back.

The cover system is even worse. Areas you can use for cover are highlighted with neon green visual markers. When you run up to one, you’re supposed to lift the Move up to go into cover, and point it down to step out of cover. Nine times out of ten this resulted in my character instead staring up or down into the Heavens or Hell he was about to send himself to because he wouldn’t just crouch behind a damned boulder like I wanted.

And just in case you were wondering, the multiplayer mode for this title uses the same engine and control scheme, but it won’t matter to you much, since no one plays it.

However, again I can’t exactly give the controls a bad score because the Move works so well in the straight rail gun offerings on the disc. So just as with the music, I’m going to have to score the controls as a middle of the road affair.

5. Replayability

All told, this game packs more gameplay onto one disk than any light gun game to come along since Elemental Gearbolt, but you’ll still be glad you only paid $49.99 for it. None of the arcade games will take you more than 45 minutes to complete, even on the hardest settings (though Time Crisis 4 offers a much higher difficulty level than the other two) and the story mode can be blasted through in just over an hour, assuming you’ll be able to stomach it for that long.

There’s an additional game called sentry mode, where you’re a prison guard using non-lethal riot guns to stop prisoners from escaping, but it’s even more of a shooting gallery experience than the arcade games, with a fixed camera and prisoners that duck behind concrete barricades that feel for all the world like the pop-up targets of old school 8-bit light gun games. This mode can also be rushed through in roughly a half hour or less.

And then there’s the online mode. As stated above, the multiplayer runs in the same environment as the story mode, but there was never any one time that I tried my hand at it when there was more than 300 people playing it. If you’ve ever wanted to see what a first person shooter that took place in a ghost town felt like, here’s your chance.

In addition to all these modes, there are world leaderboards for each game with high scores you can aspire to beat, but there’s no real motivation to do so. They’re nice to have, but they neither add to nor take away from the experience.

6. Balance

As said above, aside from Time Crisis 4, there is no real challenge here, especially in Razing Storm’s arcade mode. The time-based frantic rush play of the older games has been removed. There is no time limit to completing levels here. And whereas Time Crisis 4 allows you to switch between four different weapons at will so long as you have ammo to waste, Razing Storm only has one main weapon that has unlimited reloads, only switching temporarily to the occasional shotgun, sniper rifle, or rocket launcher to deal with brief diversions from standard play. When you add this to the shield/reload one-press combo that the Move button offers, what you end up with is a game that is by far the easiest of the series. You would have to be a blind man with Parkinson’s Disease to not finish this game.

Things don’t get any better with the story mode. Yes, it is longer and more challenging, but the challenge comes from a lethal combination of the aforementioned horrible control scheme and the astoundingly bad AI. Your teammates are just as likely to shove you from behind cover and out into the open as a handy decoy as they are to offer any real assistance.

7. Originality

The changes to the game play from previous iterations of Time Crisis makes Razing Storm stand out from its predecessors, but not enough to make it any great evolution in either the series or the genre as a whole. There is nothing in the game’s thirty minutes of action that will stay with you after it’s over, the music is generic as it comes, the levels and action sequences are lifted from the likes of anything from Silent Scope to Sons of the Patriots, and the acting is straight out of what used to pass for Saturday morning cartoons. And while some might say the story mode is a unique addition, it amounts to little more than a poor man’s imitation of a much more advanced and nuanced genre. Quite frankly, Elemental Gearbolt’s inclusion of RPG elements and fantasy/sci-fi storyline is more original than anything you will find here, and that game came out on PS1 twelve years ago.

8. Addictiveness

Despite what you may think, the arcade modes offered here are highly addictive. You will find yourself going back to all three trying to beat your top score, earn that one missing trophy, and enjoy the humor, both intentional and otherwise. In the time I spent with it, I never could do just one playthrough. I would complete the arcade mode, and then immediately either switch to one of the other arcade games or go right back in on a higher difficulty setting.

It’s just one of those mindlessly fun games that makes you hearken back to a time where replayability and addictiveness all depended less on the story and presentation than it did on how many quarters you’d saved up. As long as you avoid the horror of the story mode, this is a game you’ll have a hard time putting down, especially when playing with a friend.

9. Appeal Factor

Aside from having something to kill time with until the movie starts and your girlfriend gets out of the bathroom, are there really that many people out there who still give a crap about light gun games? I do, but the lack of sales for fantastic games like House of the Dead Overkill lead me to think not. It’s unfortunate, but there’s not much more to be said. This is a genre that for the most part has been left behind and far eclipsed by the modern FPS, so its only real appeal with be that of nostalgia from old arcade haunters like me. I honestly can’t see any diehard fraghead giving this even a passing glance.

10. Miscellaneous

Some might question whether the disk is worth $49.99. I can understand that. But for me, Deadstorm Pirates alone was worth the cost. It’s fast, addictive, and funny as hell, and even more fun with a friend. If you are on the ropes about this one, go watch some videos of Deadstorm on Youtube and it very well could be the deciding factor for you. As cheesy as it may be, it’s just that good. If Disney licensed Sega’s House of the Dead Overkill engine to make a Pirates of the Caribbean light gun game, the end result would be Deadstorm Pirates. So for those of you who have been fortunate enough to experience the fun of House of the Dead Overkill, you will find a welcome home in an addition that was essentially thrown in to justify the sticker price but ended up stealing the whole damned show.

The Scores
Story: Bad
Graphics: Decent
Sound: Decent
Control and Gameplay: Decent
Replayability: Mediocre
Balance: Bad
Originality: Bad
Addictiveness: Decent
Appeal Factor: Bad
Miscellaneous: Good
FINAL SCORE: Below Average Game!

Short Attention Span Summary
Time Crisis – Razing Storm is a hard animal to classify. It’s in equal ways both horrible and fantastic, but only for those who know what they’re getting into beforehand, are willing to turn a blind eye to the story and multiplayer modes, and crave the kinds of experiences its better components have to offer. Fans of arcade light gun shooters will find it well worth the price, especially for Deadstorm Pirates, but everyone else should probably wait till this hits the $19.99 range before giving it a try, unless of course you have an itch for some Move shooting that The Shoot failed to scratch.

And Time Crisis 4 is still Time Crisis 4.

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