Each installment in Namco's terrific Time Crisis series has added its own twist to the basic shooting-gallery philosophy most light-gun games abide by, but the fundamentals have remained the same. Time Crisis: Crisis Zone, a 1999 arcade game that is just now making its way to the PlayStation 2, doesn't try to reinvent the genre, or even the Time Crisis series, really. Rather, it begs the following questions: What if you had a machine gun, and what if you could obliterate the shooting gallery itself? The resulting game still feels pretty familiar, and perhaps isn't as challenging as any of the core Time Crisis games, but the pacing is faster, and it's pretty satisfying viscerally. It's a decent buzz, but with a limited number of levels and a decided lack of depth, it wears off pretty quickly.
The players are different, but the scenario in Crisis Zone is pretty familiar--Cobra-style terrorists have taken over an urban complex consisting of a shopping center, a park, a hotel, and an office building, and a crack antiterrorist team, led by you, has to infiltrate the complex and shoot absolutely everything it can. If you've played a light-gun game in the past six years or so, you've probably played a Time Crisis game--and so, in turn, picking up Crisis Zone shouldn't take long. You'll move automatically in the first-person perspective around a series of environments, plugging enemies as they pop up, run, slide, and jump into your field of vision. Pressing an alternate button on the Guncon2 (Namco's light-gun peripheral, which the game supports and basically requires for the right experience) will cause you to duck down behind a riot shield, and will at the same time automatically reload your weapon. The riot shield concept is a new one, as the other Time Crisis games had you ducking behind whatever environmental cover you could find. It seems to react a bit more quickly, which is a good thing, since the urban terrorists seem to be much better armed (and much better shots) than their Time Crisis cousins.
The Crisis Zone thugs seem to be wearing much sturdier armor too, and can sustain a lot more damage before they'll go down, which is, of course, why you'll be packing a submachine gun rather than a simple handgun. What this means on the mechanical level is that rather than squeeze the trigger every time you want to fire a round, you can just pull until you're out of ammo. This will certainly spell relief for those who are both light-gun game fans and carpal-tunnel sufferers. The submachine gun isn't quite as accurate, but its sheer firepower makes the action feel a lot more visceral, and you'll ultimately end up causing a lot more damage to the environments around you. The game actually encourages you to shoot up the joint a bit by awarding you combo points for shooting enemies and anything else that's destructible, and the sets are pretty well filled with destructible items, ranging from racks of CDs to room-filling pieces of scientific equipment. There's a pretty consistent glass-and-steel quality to the three main levels in the story mode, and you'll be gunning down the same half dozen or so types of terrorists for the duration of the game, but the types of incidental stuff you'll be destroying in the periphery is varied and helps give each zone a slightly unique feel.
Crisis Zone also makes destroying all this stuff pretty fun with a pronounced physics system that causes cans of tennis balls to launch their payload wildly into the air, glass and ceramic vases to shatter fairly realistically, and concrete pillars to crumble like you're in The Matrix. The inanimate objects are, in some ways, more fun to shoot at than the actual terrorists, who generally move in predictable patterns and make up for their lack of guile with sheer numbers. Not everything is destructible, though, which can cause for some annoying inconsistencies, like when you can shoot your way through statues presumably made out of rock, but that rather ordinary looking two-by-four can act as the ultimate Kevlar for the bad guy standing behind it. Your riot shield is also conspicuously sturdy, able to shield you completely from grenades, a barrage of stinger missiles, and a point-blank shot from a tank's main cannon.