I remember as a kid, if I was extraordinarily good, or if it was my birthday, my parents would organise an evening at "The Hive", a popular arcade along Marine Parade in Napier.
My friends and I would trot in with a fresh $10 bill each and feed it to a disgruntled, overweight booth attendant who would silently issue us with a roll of twenty cent coins, each good for several minutes entertainment on whatever machine happened to be vacant at the time. If you were skilled, and all the buttons actually worked, you could just about clock Cabal (two player, of course), and despite sneering at the less dexterous party members who sat on Frogger all evening, we were all genuinely excited whenever a crocodile was thwarted and a level gained. Through the audible hum of various electronic equipment, and if you listened carefully, you could almost hear a life-long obsession being formed, and although twenty years has passed I can still remember the joy of arcade gaming, and the anger when you discovered the fat git behind the counter had given you a bent coin that wouldn't fit in the machine.
The "light gun" genre of arcade games epitomised the progressive thinking of the 80s that also gave us the Compact Disc, the Space Shuttle, and an overwhelming fear of imminent nuclear war. Most arcade models work in conjunction with a cathode ray tube, as these conventional television tubes were the only affordable way of mass producing such a system. Cathode ray tubes are now finding a new home in our many fine landfills throughout the country, so when someone suggested that Time Crisis 4 should be released for the home console market, a new system compatible with LCD and Plasma technology was required.
Enter infra-red. It's not new, in fact it's how the Wii manages to make you look like such a good tennis player. As a control mechanism for Time Crisis 4, it's been combined with a fluorescent orange plastic gun (probably motivated by litigious reasoning rather than a sense of public duty, but admirable nonetheless) called the G-Con 3. The G-Con 3 synchs up with two sensors placed either side of your television during a worryingly short configuration procedure, after which it can be used to control menus, and of course, the game itself.
Time Crisis does indeed have a plot, technically speaking. It's just that after about five minutes of trying to figure out what in the hell is going on, you just don't care any more. I did manage to learn that the Western Order Liberation Front (W.O.L.F.) is about to smuggle a top-secret U.S. military weapon from... somewhere... to... somewhere. It turns out this weapon is some kind of radio-controlled biological entity called the "terror bite", and it comes in four different flavours, each resembling (and therefore named after) some kind of insect: dung beetle, bee, mite, and mantis. Unfortunately, the character acting and voice-overs are ridiculously camp, but the actions of the protagonists appear altogether serious, as if the game is actually unaware that it's mocking itself. Not only has the story been written by a committee, the artwork resembles a mix of Devil May Cry and Daredevil Dan, and not in a good way.
As for the method of control, you don't have to use the G-Con 3, a conventional sixaxis will work as well. But then, you've just forked out $154.95 for what exactly? No, the G-Con 3 is invariably and inextricably linked to Time Crisis, and always will be. It's just baffling that not only is it firmly right-handed, it has two analogue controllers which must be used to move, and control the camera angle respectively. Not only do you have lateral and vertical movement and camera control, you also have the free-look of the gun itself, which means the only successful way to hit anything with any degree of accuracy involves sighting the thing like a real gun. Herein lies the problem.
As mentioned earlier, the Wii Remote is infra-red (in addition to its accelerometer functionality), and there are a multitude of shooting games you can get for the Wii platform. What makes these infinitely more pleasurable to use is that the Wii remote is not only lighter, but it can be held in a relaxed stance by your side, or in front of you if you're seated, and although there's a learning curve, it's not prohibitive. The G-Con 3 is absolutely covered in buttons, has two small analogue sticks that completely lack the fine motor control demonstrated by the sixaxis, it requires two hands and one eye to operate, and looks to be built by people even less physically capable than that.
Moving around in either the free-look FPS mode, or the completely-on-rails Arcade mode (yes, it is 2008 - don't panic, you haven't been transported back ten years) it's easy to see the legacy of this title, not only with previous iterations, but with other railed-in titles of yore. With basic, linear environmental objects and extreme backlighting that makes the whole affair look like a PlayStation One title, we're treated to a trip down memory lane, albeit with a few extra textures and the lack of a "insert coin" animation.
I'm not quite sure where this sudden urge for bad retro gaming has come from, but it's a worrying trend. This year we've seen the release of Army of Two, which wasn't actually a bad game as such, but featured unfathomably inappropriate dialogue that would have hit the cutting room floor even if uttered during a Stallone movie. It's one thing to have an appreciation for the technology and attitudes that motivated us to progress in this industry, quite another to repackage it and sell it again to a new generation in a blatant attempt to cash in.
So, can the one redeeming factor pull us through? Yes, you can use the disk under the leg of a wobbly table to level it. If it wasn't for the fact that every single light gun game ever ported to a console has been utter rubbish, I might have been able to appreciate what was required to achieve this technological tour-de-merde. I've grudgingly given it half marks for one reason alone; it's the best of the worst. If you absolutely have to buy a light gun game, then you can't do better than this.
Do yourself a favour and play it first though.