Crisis Zone (Arcade, PS2) (1999, 2004)
Developer: Namco

Review by Faididi and Co.

Time for another Crisis

Story: Average

Garland Square, a state-of-the-art community center lying just outside London, has been taken over by a group of terrorists. Their leader, General Lynch, apparently wants to blow up the city with the nuclear reactor lying below Garland Square. Enter Claude McGarren of the Special Tactical Force (STF), a team of operatives armed with submachineguns, infinite ammo, and itchy fingers. Along with his fellow STF troopers, Claude must fight his way into the place and stop the villain from turning Britain's capital into radioactive butt sauce.

Gameplay: Above Average

Namco's Crisis Zone is a rail shooter whose gameplay is derived from that of Time Crisis. Claude will battle through 4 zones, blasting bad guys and taking cover to reload and to avoid enemy fire. As one of this game's differences, Claude can go through the first three zones in any order he likes.

Of course, the variable order of the levels isn't what really sets Crisis Zone apart from Time Crisis. Claude arms himself with something too hot for those VSSE dudes: a submachinegun with 40 rounds per magazine. This means Claude can flood corridors with death, easily taking out several enemies before needing to reload.

Then again, to keep things from being too easy, the bad guys are made tougher than the ones in Time Crisis. Almost all the enemies here can suck up multiple hits before kicking the can, so Claude's fully automatic piece doesn't make him as invincible as you might think. The bosses, like the ones from Time Crisis 2, include a few super powerful vehicles, such as a tank packed with hidden weapons.

The remaining differences are plenty, and they all help make things as lively as possible. Crisis Zone features many more mobile action points than Time Crisis 2, meaning that Claude will be moving around a lot while trading fire with the bad guys. (He can always duck to avoid enemy shots, thanks to the shield he carries.) The warning flashes from bad guys who are about to hit Claude are made more conspicuous, so our hero has an easier time knowing when he should keep his ass out of harm's way. The zones aren't much lengthier than the stages from Time Crisis and Time Crisis 2, but they aren't broken up into smaller areas, giving them a more continuous flow.

Controls: Excellent

Assuming the lightgun is calibrated properly, the controls are perfect.

Graphics: Excellent

The highly detailed characters are animated well, but the environments look especially impressive. Almost every part of the scenery can be busted up by stray bullets.

Audio: Above Average

Claude's submachinegun unleashes barrages of lead with a booming ferocity, and enemy shots clang sharply against his shield when he ducks behind it for cover. Building walls, office equipment, store merchandise, and sections of the boss vehicles alike shatter noisily when they're shot up. The voice acting of Crisis Zone is completely generic, seeing how all the characters are devoid of any funny accents or tones. Richard Miller's silence conveys more personality than Claude's ultra-normal speech does, but at least you won't be hearing any corny dialogue. Too bad Crisis Zone's music isn't as memorable as that of the Time Crisis games. Still, the tunes help bring out the frantic atmosphere.

Overall: Above Average

Coupled with the far more mobile action points and the destructible scenery, Crisis Zone's submachinegun-oriented action is an enjoyable alternative to the gameplay of Time Crisis. If you're searching for a rail shooter where you get to mess with some serious firepower, look no further than this.

Port: Average (PS2)

Unfortunately, the PS2 version of Crisis Zone hasn't appeared until five years later, after the release of the PS2 version of Time Crisis 3. The silly-sounding adjustment to its name, now Time Crisis: Crisis Zone, also doesn't help.

In any case, this port finally brings the game to the console, tossing in a few neat bonuses along the way. Those familiar with the PS2 versions of the Time Crisis games won't be surprised to find updated graphics and yet another single-Player Crisis Mission, which is a set of training exercises that occur after the events of the story mode. Furthermore, there are hidden options that let Claude equip alternate weapons and even dual-wield two submachineguns.

A far more impressive bonus is the new episode. Similar to the extra mission in the PS version of the original Time Crisis, this second episode is essentially a sequel, coming with its own zones, bosses (including an awesome mech), and music, but it doesn't offer multiple endings.

If this port feels like it comes up short, that's because it lacks 2-Player support and minigames. It should satisfy fans of the original Crisis Zone, but those who prefer to play together with a friend will probably want to try the ports of Time Crisis 2 and Time Crisis 3 first.

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