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October 13, 2004
Crisis Zone - Review
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Enemies hiding behind walls.
Light gun games have been a pretty rare occurrence in recent years. Sega seem to have forgotten about the genre and while Namco release games periodically they seem to be limited to the Time Crisis series. C'mon guys, where is Point Blank - one of the all time greats! Crisis Zone is the latest game in Namco's light gun series, but includes a new gameplay element - machine guns as the main weapon!

Anyway let's start with rather predictable and not-too-exciting storyline. The terrorist group U.R.D.A. has taken over the newly opened Garland Square complex on the outskirts of London. Capturing hostages and holding the city to ransom, the terrorists will stop at nothing to achieve their deadly goal. As a member of the Special Tactics Force counter-terrorism division, it is your job to help secure one of the city's landmarks and suppress the hostile intruders - by whatever means necessary.

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Inside the shopping mall.
For those of you unaware Crisis Zone is a light gun game and, using the G-Con 45 peripheral, allows you to shoot at your TV to kill enemies. It's classic gameplay and generally tremendous fun. Those of you without a light gun (or two) can use the Dual Shock 2 controller - but in all honestly it's not recommended. It's awkward and no where near as exciting. If you have two light guns you can even enter a double gun mode to take out the enemies John Woo style! While you start out the game with the basic machine gun it is possible to unlock a shotgun, handgun, flame thrower, laser gun, grenade launcher, missile launcher and even a gatling gun. You'll need to do a bit of work to unlock them however.

Will it Work?

Just a word of warning to those of you with high-end TV's. Progressive Scan, 100Hz, Plasma or LCD TV's may have problems with the light gun. As these TV's become more popular this will cause problems for light gun games, so be warned to check your G-Con 2 (or the original) to make sure it's compatible with your new TV.

The bulk of this game is the Story mode which takes you through the main game. It's not long - maybe 30 minutes to complete, and in reality is more of a memory test. With everything on rails enemies always appear in the same positions, with the same attack patterns. Fortunately this game includes not only the arcade game (which is now five years old!!) but also 70 other unlockable features such as extra game modes, special game settings, new enemies and the aforementioned weapons. The Crisis Missions also return for this home port and are essentially a series of tests taken from the main game such as causing a certain amount of destruction in a limited time, or taking out all the enemies in an area without damaging any scenery and so on. In fact I probably got more out of these mini-games then the entire main game.

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Ready to be mown down.
Sadly there are some issues with this game. Firstly, and as previously mentioned, it's more a game of memory recall rather then skill. There's no strategy involved, no multiple paths, no surprise enemies. This severely limits the longeviety of the game. How many times can you play through the same 30 minutes of game, over and over. Also the choice of a machine gun as a main weapon worked well in the arcade where the guns have a recoil feature so you have to constantly re-aim, but on the recoil-less G-Con 45 it's simply a matter of aiming and holding down the fire button. Finally, although the Time Crisis games have always had some form of ducking for cover the use of a shield is a little ridiculous. This is particularly evident when you can dodge a missile from a helicopter or block a shell from a tank simply by ducking behind your shield - which never gets damaged. Surely Namco could have thought of something a little more interesting such as shields which become more damaged, or get blown away with large explosions.

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Red enemy = dangerous.
Graphically Crisis Zone is a solid, if not great, title. There are a couple of niggles however. Firstly, Namco must be commended for making almost every object in the game world breakable by bullets. It adds so much interactivity. The frame rate is also rock solid while the animation on characters is acceptable. What isn't impressive is the poor-ish textures and certainly the fog which appears over the screen when you press the fire button. This isn't like a muzzle flash, nor smoke coming out of the gun barrel, but a general fog over the screen. Why?

Sound is certainly a disappointing aspect with only Mono and Stereo available while the music is rather generic and the speech rather forgettable. Perhaps even more disappointing are the sound effects which sound no better then a B grade movie. Overall, certainly not a game which will be remembered for the sound.

I'm sorry to say but Crisis Zone is more of a devolution for the series rather then evolution. The graphics look good, the sound average, but the gameplay just hasn't changed at all. There is no innovation here and the fog the covers the screen when you shoot is damn annoying. A major disappointment and a game only for hardcore light gun fans. This game can be purchased with the gun for $129.95 or $99.95 without.

Review By: Dave Warner

GRAPHICSSimilar to other games, average textures, but interactive environments.
SOUNDStereo sound which is below what we've come to expect these days.
GAMEPLAYIt's not as fun as past games, and there's almost nothing new here.
VALUEDespite new game modes and options it's over far too quickly.
OVERALLCrisis Zone is a light gun game that takes the genre backwards if anything and it's certainly not up there with Time Crisis 3 which remains the benchmark. Still, there is enough reason to dust off you light gun for this game if you love the genre.

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