Sadly, no-one here really seems to be much of an arcade gaming fan when I look around. However, these three have been out in the larger arcades for a fair while, and I expect the lesser arcades will have them filling up on change by Q2 2007, and I finally managed to get my hands on the three machines for a spin over the past few days, throwing enough cash into them to really give my opinion on how they play. It really led me to think; What do they actually bring to the table that makes them worthwhile?
Not a lot in the case of one. Unfortunatly, Time Crisis 4 feels like an amalgamation of more and more ideas being thrown into the pot, so much so that even for a veteren of the previous games such as myself (You’ll find “GAZ” and “CRH” littering Time Crisis 1, 2 and 3 cabinets up and down the UK, the same goes for Crisis Zone too), it can lead to a bit of confusion at times. The new additions are really minor distractions, with the biggest being firefights across multiple screens, where you move to the sides of the screen to change where you’re shooting, à la Resident Evil Survivor where you use the buttons to change where you look. Combine this with the gun changing, which easily confuses a lot of players who are new to Time Crisis, the “new” sniper rifle scoping sections, which are very akin to Silent Scope, except without all the good bits, and the Terror Bites, small insect enemies that crawl all over the levels and your screen who you are supposed to use specific weapons upon, and it’s really a mixture of so many elements that I saw an awful lot of money go into the machines for very little playtime in comparison to TC3 and 2 because players (Or should it be “punters”?) were simply too confused.
However, the visuals are stunning for an arcade, being the only game using Namcos new Super 256 arcade chipset, the game is very fast paced, it is much more of a challenge than the previous games and believe it or not, the poorly designed elements do come together to make a cohesive game, so long as you know how to play the game. I’m certain it’ll rake the cash in, even if it isn’t quite up to the standard of Time Crisis 2, still the ultimate arcade experiance. One final nice touch that I’ll mention is the addition of an extra speaker, placed on the gun stand in front of the player, which barks out all the communication from your allies over the radio as opposed to coming out of the main speakers. Heck, it even flashes at you; It’s a rather nice presentational touch that rounds off the arcade machine as a very atractive way to spend a bit of cash. The brand new lightgun, that sticks away from the traditional GunCon design, sticking to a more compact, more robust design, also makes the asthetic feel of the cabinet a lot nicer. Sadly, rapid pistol fire isn’t as much of a possibility in comparison to the bulky TC2 lightgun.
You can see the game in motion here, with the entire prologue level played for you to watch. It does mean that the game won’t be a surprise when you come to play it, but that just means you’ll end up spending less money.
Next up is House of the Dead 4. Following on from HotD 3 is a rather easy task, I have to say, with the disapointing lightguns and rather average gameplay getting in the way of what should have been an enjoyable game. House of the Dead 4 delivers a very, very fun game, with lots of violence, plenty of enemies and yet more quick moving, zombie blasting fun. The first thing that really strikes you is the cabinet itself; whilst they don’t look exactly like this machine, the stunning screen really is the first thing that anyone passing by looks at. Running Segas performance smashing Lindbergh system, which is basically a 3.06Ghz P4 with a Geforce 6800 256MB, 1GB of RAM and a HD plasma screen plus 5.1 support, it looks better than practically anything else out there. The new lightguns, a micro Uzi for each player with an additional button for throwing a screen clearing grenade, have a nice kick to them when it comes to recoil, and sport a much nicer reload mechanism. Reloading now requires you to shake the lightgun from side to side, meaning unlike HotD 1 and 2 you don’t have to aim away from the screen, and there’s no pumping the shotgun like in House of the Dead 3, which I found more strenuous than shaking the micro Uzi around.
The game itself follows a very similar design to the previous House of the Dead games, except with far more of whatever you played before. Enemies are larger and stronger, and they’ve also learned more moves. Zombies can now grab you, leading to a prompt shaking of the Uzi to throw them off, and they can even throw you down to the ground, ready to stomp on you unless you shoot them quick enough when you start getting back up. The first boss can even pick you up ready for a good biting, should you be too slow at shaking. Again though, it comes down to weak points; Shoot the enemies in the right places and they’ll fall down much quicker than if you don’t.
There isn’t too much to fault this game really; The cabinet looks sleek and inviting, the visuals are the best out there in the arcade world and the new controller fits the game perfectly. The bosses are a challenge, even if the first does feel rather unoriginal when compared to the first HotD 3 boss, there’s plenty to shoot and it can be just as scary as the previous games when it tries. Without a doubt the highlight of any arcade.
You can check out House of the Dead 4 in motion here, but you won’t get the full effect of seeing it in high definition at the arcades where it really blew me away, I have to say. The pictures here are a much better indication of the visual quality of the game.
Outrun 2 SP is slightly different to the other two, being a much older game running on Segas Chihiro system, an Xbox in disguise with a few bits added on for good luck. However, I’d go far enough to say it’s not as good as the other two; Whilst it looks rather nice, even for such old hardware, it feels almost exactly like the 1986 original. The music and the progression systemreally make it feel like there’s nothing more to set this apart from the first than a graphical update. The driving model is a lot more like a traditional racer though, with drifting, drafting and slightly more realistic crashes, actual steering as opposed to strafing and the selection of Ferraris to race is a refreshing change to the Testarossa of the original. There’s also a scoring system, that I really didn’t quite get the point of. For me, racing games at the arcade are always about speed; it’s how fast you can get across the muddy track, how many people you can overtake on the track, not actually how you drive, like PGR3.
The cabinet is in the rather garish Ferrari Yellow, quite why I’ll never understand (Who on earth buys a yellow Ferrari?!?!), but at least the lights actually function in accordance with your driving. The visuals are very attractive, with lush vegitation and all sorts of landscapes that you just know no-one would build a road through normally, plus all your standard urban areas that look just the same as any other racer. Probably the only redeeming feature I found was the ability of the cabinet to go online and upload or download highscores, so you can immortalise yourself for a day or two should you be good enough to beat the Japanese gamers who you just know will beat you down no matter how hard you try. In all honesty, I’d like my money back for this game; the original Outrun was available for playing at just 50p a go two floors below the OutRun 2 SP cabinets, and at least it has retro value.
I can’t find any video of it in action, but OutRun 2 SP is effectively OutRun 2006: Coast to Coast, alebit in a more expensive form. Feel free to check out pictures of the original cabinet here.