Practically from the moment Sony announced the PlayStation Move controller, so-called ‘hardcore’ gamers have been more than happy to brand it a device aimed at ‘casual’ players. It could be argued that they have a point – especially when you consider how closely some Move titles resemble undemanding Wii-standard shovelware – but in the days before the launch of the peripheral, one title stood out has an illustration of how Move could ensnare old-school gamers: Time Crisis: Razing Storm.
The omens were certainly positive: the Wii has proven to be a fertile platform for light-gun games, and the increased accuracy promised by Sony’s Move wand should make it even more suitable for this kind of genre. Now the game is finally with us we’re happy to report that Time Crisis: Razing Storm is a success – although possibly not as emphatic a one as we might have previously hoped.
Although the game carries the title Razing Storm, that release only constitutes one-third of the overall package. What we have here is actually a collection of some of Namco’s latest arcade light-gun releases, with Time Crisis 4, Deadstorm Pirates and the titular Razing Storm presenting three very different styles of play.
Razing Storm is the focus of the collection, and offers intense machine-gun blasting that feels very different from the usual Time Crisis gameplay. In fact, it has more in common with series spin-off Crisis Zone, which received a conversion on the PS2 a few years back. Instead of the traditional handgun, your default weapon in Razing Storm is a rapid-fire machine-gun capable of long periods of sustained fire. This alters the complexion of the gameplay considerably; whereas in the original Time Crisis you’re concentrating on accurate shots and conserving your ammo, in Razing Storm you can happily spray fire in the general vicinity of your enemies without having to worry too much about precision or how many bullets are left in your magazine. The ‘cover and reload’ mechanic remains, but this time your character simply holds up a sturdy shield rather than ducking behind scenery, which neatly avoids those awkward moments of disorientation that were present in the original Time Crisis titles.
The arcade mode of Razing Storm replicates the experience perfectly, and it’s even possible to play co-operatively with a friend. As the central focus of the package, Razing Storm gets special attention in the form of two additional modes, but sadly neither is particularly entertaining. Story Mode is an entirely new experience set within the game world of the arcade version of Razing Storm. Instead of being on-rails, it attempts to imitate the controls of a first-person shooter, with often painful results.
The Move controller acts as your eyes, moving your aim around, and pushing the cross-hair against the sides of the screen moves your viewpoint in that direction. The Navigation controller (or your DualShock) moves your character forwards, sideways and backwards. The configuration is inspired by the traditional twin-stick setup that you might see in a 360 or PS3 FPS, but it’s beset by catastrophic issues, including over-sensitive controls, clumsy motion-powered actions and a cross-hair that slowly drifts out of sync with the Move wand itself. Other setups are offered in the option menu, but the whole concept is so half-baked that there’s little pleasure to be gained even when you find a balance to suit you. The second new mode – online play - also uses this style of interface, and is similarly disappointing. Namco may have had aspirations of going toe-to-toe with the likes of Call of Duty and Medal of Honor with this portion of the game, but players are ultimately fighting more with the controls than each other.
Moving onto Time Crisis 4, what we have is basically a perfect translation of the coin-op original. When you consider the age of the game (it was launched in arcades in 2006) and the fact that it’s already made an appearance on the PS3 in 2007, you could argue that this is the least appealing of the three games on offer. The visuals are sharp, but the character models do seem a little boxy at times. Matters aren’t helped by the fact that the storyline – which revolves around using insects as biological weapons – is ludicrous, even by the series' deranged standards. Still, the inclusion of Move support is welcome, and gives even over-familiar players a reason to revisit.
The final game in the collection is possibly the least well-known. It’s also the most casual of the lot, and ironically these two factors end up making it the one you’ll probably play the most. Deadstorm Pirates owes a massive debt to Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean movie franchise and features ghost ships, epic ship-on-ship sea battles and hordes of undead enemies. It’s radically different from both Razing Storm and Time Crisis 4 in that you don’t have to reload and you can’t take cover from enemy shots. Because you can keep your finger jammed firmly on the trigger, the game is far more accessible for casual players than its siblings. For the most part, Deadstorm Pirates is merely a case of pointing and shooting, with rewards for quick reactions and accuracy. Occasionally you’ll get to use the motion control capabilities of Move a little more inventively; for example, steering a huge pirate ship to safety involves turning the controller in a certain direction, as you would the ship’s wheel.
Despite the fact that it’s saddled with a truly toe-curling storyline, appalling acting and a script so fishy you’d think it had been stuck at the bottom of Davey Jones’ locker for the past three hundred years, Deadstorm Pirates is astonishingly good fun – especially when you’re playing with a friend, as you’re able to harness additional power by focusing your shots in the same place.
All three games in this package feature workmanlike visuals, and the graphics on offer certainly aren’t going to cause any jaws to drop. Deadstorm Pirates looks especially ropey at times, and despite its headline status, Razing Storm swerves from gorgeous to PS2-quality in the blink of an eye. Although there’s nothing here that is particularly ugly, it’s unlikely that you’ll be dazzling any friends with these aesthetics.
Longevitiy is a problem with many arcade conversions, and the games contained in this package present no exceptions. If you’re not the type of player who revels in beating high-scores and bettering their game, then Time Crisis: Razing Storm might not find long-term favour with you. Each of the three titles is undeniably challenging, but once you’ve blasted your way through them there’s little else to bring you back, besides trying to strangle a few more points out of each level.
Much has been said about Time Crisis: Razing Storm’s issues with Move calibration, so it would be remiss of us to finish this review without at least touching upon the subject. In short, the accuracy of Move with this particular selection of games is decent, but not entirely infallible. Crosshair drift does occur occasionally – usually when you’re playing for an extended period of time – but we found this often had more to do with incorrect calibration than anything else. On the whole, Move doesn’t grant the same level of precision that you tend to get with traditional guns – such as the GunCon 3 (which, incidentally, is also supported within this collection) – but it’s perfectly workable, and will please most gamers.
Although it was heralded as a knight in shining armour for hardcore Move users, Time Crisis: Razing Storm isn’t quite the killer app that will sell the peripheral to veteran players. Time Crisis 4 is already available on the PS3, and Razing Storm’s story and online modes are so poor they’re not even worth considering as part of the package. Thankfully Deadstorm Pirates is a proper nautical hoot, and its inclusion alone makes this a worthy purchase for trigger-happy fans of arcade light-gun titles.