If you've been to an arcade within the past few years, you'll likely have noticed that they're now dominated by games featuring proprietary peripherals instead of joysticks. Elaborate cockpit-style driving games, those crazy dancing games, and, of course, light-gun games, have become the norm. The attraction of these games is that they make sense to the nongaming mind. The joystick and button combination is a pretty abstract concept, really, but driving a car or pointing and shooting a gun are things most people know about. But, contrary to the mind-set of many hardcore gamers, just because it's accessible, doesn't mean it's not fun. Take, for example, Time Crisis 3, Namco's latest, and arguably one of its best, light-gun games.
The whole weapon-switching system works itself pretty seamlessly into the existing gameplay mechanics.
The narrative that drives Time Crisis 3 involves a pair of superagents sent to a small Mediterranean nation to beat back an invasion. The story isn't particularly impressive or engaging, but it provides enough context for your actions that it's excusable. As a sequel, the game doesn't mess with the fundamentals. Throughout the game, your objective is to shoot your way down a set path, using the "duck" feature to both dodge incoming fire and reload your pistol, all the while racing against a ticking clock. But the devil is in the details, and Time Crisis 3 adds a few twists to the gameplay, creating a more dynamic experience than was offered by its predecessors. Most apparent is the new weapon-switching system, which gives you instant access to a machine gun, a shotgun, and a grenade launcher, in addition to your standard pistol. Though these secondary weapons are more effective than the pistol in different situations, and don't require as much reloading, they also have a finite amount of ammo, unlike the pistol. The only way to replenish your armaments is by plugging a special yellow-suited strain of bad guy. The whole weapon-switching system, which requires you to pull the trigger while ducking, works itself pretty seamlessly into the existing gameplay mechanics and helps bring some variety into a genre plagued by repetition.
This should be a given by now, but in case you were unclear, do not play Time Crisis 3 with a standard PlayStation 2 controller. It's a light-gun game, it's meant to be played with a light gun, and the game is simply dumb without one. You can even buy the game with the GunCon 2 packed in.
More subtle than the addition of some new guns is the game's expanded use of scripted events. The Time Crisis games have always made good use of explosions, falling rocks, and other corporeal hazards to spice up the sometimes-predictable process of shooting bad guys as they slide out of doorways and pop up behind rocks, but Time Crisis 3 takes it to another level. There are some great set pieces where the environment around you changes dramatically, creating some thrilling action-movie moments. Take, for example, one sequence that puts you on a train while fighting guys with guns and ninjas--which, in and of itself, isn't that amazing. But, as the train crosses a bridge, a rocket blows the bridge out from underneath the train, leaving much of the train, including the part you're on, dangling over the river, hundreds of feet below. Now, you have to climb your way up to the bridge, dodging the bullets and loose containers. The game is peppered with great sequences like this, including an homage to Time Crisis 2 that replaces boats with jeeps, and it's this sort of inventive, enthusiastic level design that puts Time Crisis 3 head and shoulders above most other rail-based shooters.