Time Crisis 3. Namco (2003) PlayStation 2

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The Time Crisis series has been a little hit and miss for me [intentional semi-pun]. Time Crisis was good in the day, but nowadays it struggles when compared to it’s peers. Time Crisis II is a great game, Project Titan was actually OK, and Crisis Zone was, to be kind, mediocre. So going into Time Crisis 3 I was hoping it would build on TC2, which again, was great.

Gameplay

You know the drill by now, Time Crisis 3 is an On-Rails Light Gun game, you are moved from section to section, and shoot at what is on screen, and you duck off screen to reload your gun and avoid attacks.

The “new” thing in TC3 is fairly novel, and combines some of the features from Crisis Zone*. You now get multiple weapons, which can be swapped while you are ducking off screen. You get a Machine Gun, like Crisis Zone, a shotgun, and a grenade launcher. All the weapons have a slightly different use, and means there is a tactic for when to use them. The grenade launcher will kill all within the splash damage, the shotgun will take out stronger enemies easier, while the machine gun allows for some screen spraying.

*The arcade port of Crisis Zone is from 1999, the home port was much later (2004) and after TC3.

To get more ammo for each gun, you need to shoot the yellow colour enemy, these are usually slightly harder to hit then the regular enemies, and if you’re able to hit them multiple times, you’ll get more ammo for a gun. If you are frugal with the machine gun, you can realistically play the whole game with it and never run out of ammo. There is a limit on ammo, so you can’t horde all ammo for 3 rounds then steamroll, so it is a waste to not use the better weapons, but with skill you can make the ammo last indefinitely.

Take my word for it, this guy is colour coded yellow...

Take my word for it, this guy is colour coded yellow…

One slight tweak here is that the Blue enemies are now the better ones, they will usually throw grenades/rockets/axes at you, so they tend to be the most problematic enemies. Making another appearance are the Red Enemies, who again, are the bastards that’ll shoot you the second they appear, but because you’re used to the Reds being evil, you prioritise them. It takes a while to realise the Blues can actually hurt you now.

The other feature from Crisis Zone is that some enemies have health bars. These tend to be machine gun enemies, but this is enough of a change in the gameplay to keep things interesting.

Mmmm, extra Machine Gun bullets

Mmmm, extra Machine Gun bullets

Story

Astigos, the largest island of Lukano (apparently in the Mediterranean) has been invaded by the Zagorian Federation led by General Giorgio Zott. They hold the islanders captive, and threaten to launch missiles that will kill all the remaining rebels. You take on the role of Alan Dunaway and/or Welsey Lambert members of V.S.S.E (Vital Situation Swift Elimination International Intelligence Agency) and are helped out by Alicia Winstone, the sister of the rebel leader.

Apparently Wild Dog had to make an appearance...

Apparently Wild Dog had to make an appearance…

Difficulty

Holy shit Time Crisis 3 is hard…  It doesn’t matter if I play on easy, medium or hard, you’ll still have your ass handed to you, there is just so much going on. The only way I could beat the game is because if you die and get gameover, you get more credits. Get gameover 9 times and you unlock infinite credits, and 9 lives… I can beat normal difficulty  of the main game on about 7 credits with 4 lives. On Easy it still takes me 5-6 credits and 4 lives. I am NOT good at this game.

Level 1-1 to 1-3 are ok, after some practice I can get through them unscathed. Same with Level 2-2. Every other level? There are so many clusterfucks to deal with, be it combinations of multiple blues/red, instahit melee enemies or sub-bosses. You really need to be ultra fast with the reflexes to avoid some of the cheap hits, and it means that Time Crisis 3 can be very frustrating.

Clusterfuck...

Clusterfuck…

However, this is where the weapon changing comes in, you can get good, learn the enemy placement and twitch like a Korean Starcraft player. Or, use the grenade launcher… Shoot those melee guys with the shotgun, machine gun down all the bastard reds. You would think it is best to save the grenade launcher for bosses, but no. Take out the hordes, most bosses have a simple mechanic, and dodging is easy. The fucking hordes of Reds with a million red rings of death are nigh on impossible.

It was all a bit too much of a grind, playing, dying, playing dying, getting a little further each time, getting an extra credit each time, it meant beating the game was possible, but it meant getting there took 7 hours longer than it should have done.

Other Modes?

Since you already get a machine gun in the main game, there is no one-player two gun machine gun mode, and that is a shame. But what you get in it’s place is a bigger side-game. Beat the story, and you unlock the Rescue Mission. This is the story from Alicia’s perspective, and starts before the V.S.S.E arrive, and then follows the glaring holes in the main story as to why Alicia keeps vanishing. This is 14 acts long, so it is longer than the main game, and it is also a bazillion times harder. I need to set it to VERY Easy, have 9 lives and infinite credits to beat this fucker. It is seriously hard.

This game adds a few features that make the Rescue Mission a much better game. Firstly, your guns level through hitting the enemies. The Pistol stays the same, but keep hitting with the other guns, and you’ll gain a larger magazine capacity, better performance (more rapid fire or higher bullet spread), and more damage. If you time your level ups, you will gain a full capacity of that gun, this is particularly good for spamming hard bosses with the grenade launcher.

My entire run on Rescue Mission is built around levelling up the grenade launcher on this boss to cheese it

My entire run on Rescue Mission is built around levelling up the grenade launcher on this boss to cheese it

The other thing, and this pisses all over that awful home port of Silent Scope, there is a sniper mode. Some of Alicia’s missions involve her sniping, it happens in traditional On-Rails style, but you point the gun at the screen, press the reload button, and the gun will zoom in where you are pointing the gun. It then allows you to shoot within the aiming reticule. It can be very awkward to get used to, but I complained that Silent Scope didn’t attempt anything like this, and Time Crisis 3 proves it was possible. It isn’t great, but it works well enough.

Pisses on Silent Scope

Pisses on Silent Scope

There are 3 proper sniping levels, and they do get a bit boring after a while but they are a nice touch. There are two further sniping levels, that annoyingly are one shot insta-gameover bullshit. You have to shoot the final bosses pistol out of his hand in 5 seconds (this links into a cutscene in the main story), and the final final boss is shoot a detonator to stop a bomb going off. If you make it to this section with 4 lives, and your last credit and fail, then tough shit all lives are lost. Gameover. It is very frustrating if you gameover on one of these bits, and is very off putting meaning additional runs seem a chore.

Conclusion

Time Crisis 3 is technically solid, the shooting is perfect, the duck mechanics are perfectly refined, the additional guns add depth, the Crisis Time (red rings of death) is improved, so technically, Time Crisis 3 is almost perfect as a light gun game. The issue here, is that it is insanely hard, and for a lot of people the difficulty will be off putting. I didn’t mark down Crypt Killer for it’s difficulty, but the game was more fun. You’d get hits because you lacked skill, what lets Time Crisis 3 down is the clusterfuck of unfair damage you will receive.

It took me probably 10 runs to beat the story mode (5 hours), and then 10 to beat the Rescue Mission (another 5 hours), that means I spent around 10 hours plugging away with this. It does means there is life to the game, and I barely scratched the surface of the “Crisis Zone” bonus missions, which are 30ish super hard kill 30 enemies in 40 seconds, and take no damage Point Blank style missions. But the amount of time I had to plough into it weren’t 10 hours of fun, it was more an hour or two of fun, followed by 8 hours of tedious grind.

Technically great, but not as fun as Time Crisis II.

Pros: Side mission are great, shooting is spot on, actually a coherent story, particle effects are pretty cool, some cool camera angles

Cons: Hard, not very fun

78%

Back in the day

Garnering favourable reviews, Time Crisis 3 scored between 60-80% in most reviews meaning it actually reviewed worst of the mainline games.

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