Time Crisis 3 is, by itself, a good reason to get a lightgun, or, if you are me, getting two lightguns and pretending you are as badass as Chow Yun-Fat. It's a near-perfect arcade adaptation of the latest installment in Namco's famous series of take-cover shooters, and, given how much money and time it takes to get good enough at the arcade version to win, may actually save you a few bucks in the long run.
Once again, we come to the story as two secret agents are headed towards a terrorist group. This time, their mission is to stop an invasion before it starts, by the simple expedient, whether intended or not, of shooting every single person who looks at them funny. Explosions, gunfire, car chases, and intricate fight sequences follow over five levels of honed, polished twitch gaming.
Really, the problem here is that most of you are either into Time Crisis, or you're not. If you're not, then this review is pointless, and you probably aren't reading it; if you are, then your mind was made up, you're reading this entirely to see what I think and you do not actually care what my opinion is. With that in mind, I'll go on for the three people left in the reading audience who have no idea what in the hell I'm talking about.
That being said, Time Crisis 3 might be the best one in the series yet, and the series itself is the best thing going for lightgun shooters. Instead of the time-honored "shoot everything" gameplay dynamic, where quick gunfire is your only method of defending yourself from anything from thrown knives to antitank rockets, Time Crisis implements a trick where by pressing (or releasing, if you prefer) a button, your character ducks behind a handy bit of cover, while simultaneously reloading. You're safe while you're hidden, but there's a clock going at the same time. You have to get into the habit of popping out from behind cover, dropping all of your assailants as fast as you can, and moving on to the next location. If you're playing on your own, you'll have backup in the form of a CPU player who's visible at all times, and is generally only useful as a portable distraction.
In any given level, you advance from screen to screen by moving from hard cover to hard cover, occasionally being forced to improvise. Enemy soldiers can come from anywhere, at almost any time, and any one of them can be equipped with extra weapons or new capabilities. The ninjas are particularly troublesome, fast and agile with an annoying habit of getting right up in your face.
Further, Time Crisis, as a series, might be the most dynamic of lightgun shooters. The environment around you is constantly changing as your enemies react to your characters' assault; in a given level, doors blow out, buildings explode, ceilings and rock formations collapse, and an entire gunfight takes place in the hold of a ship as its hull caves in. The cargo begins to shift, your character catches onto something automatically, and your enemes slide helplessly into the ocean as the ship sinks. When you escape, it's into the back of a speeding jeep, as its driver frantically tries to outrun both other jeeps, and a terrorist lieutenant with a chaingun who's firing at you from the cargo door of a C-130 plane flying overhead.
What makes things slightly easier in this installment is the presence of a portable arsenal. Your characters begin with their standard pistol, with infinite ammunition, finite bullets in the clip, and relatively little punch. By shooting the yellow-suited troopers, you can pick up bullets for a machine gun, which has autofire capability, but uses up its magazine amazingly quickly; a grenade launcher, which blows enormous holes in both things and people but takes a long time to reload between shots; and a shotgun, featuring a large hitbox but a slow rate of fire. It's an interesting addition, and works out well; you change weapons by shooting a menu, which means it's only the work of a second.
The only real caveat to Time Crisis 3, as a home game, is that you need a lightgun. Period, end of statement, thank you for shopping. It can, ostensibly, be played with a controller, by moving a set of crosshairs around the screen with the control pad as you hammer on the X button to fire.
The problem is that the crosshairs, by necessity, don't move as quickly as you could if you were holding a lightgun. The entire game changes as a result; now, instead of a twitch game, where you react to events, it becomes a game of pattern memorization. You move through a level to figure out where everyone's coming from, and then have the crosshairs waiting for them as they arrive. It's much, much harder to swing the gun over to them as they pop up, so reflexes don't really play into it.
That's about the extent of it, unfortunately. Time Crisis 3 is just as fun at home as it is in the arcades. The "arcade experience" has been faithfully recreated, with every polygon in place and the challenge level intact, and the diehard shooters have already bought a copy. The rest of you, who might be on the fence about this, should budget enough money for a lightgun, if you intend to pick this one up.