Here's what comes in the over-sized box: The Time Crisis 4 game with instructions in a standard PS3 box, a bright orange wired Guncon 3 gun controller, Guncon 3 instruction manual, and the wired USB LED markers.
Setting things up was no problem. You plug in the LED markers into one of the PS3's USB slots, then place them on top of your TV. The markers have long rubber straps that work well for securing them on top of your TV. As I read the instruction manual later, I realized I put them on upside-down, but they still worked fine. Then, you plug in the Guncon 3 into another USB slot. If you have another Guncon for 2-player that uses another USB slot. If you don't have spare slots, a USB hub can be used.
When the game starts, there are various screens about save files, disclaimers, and a gun calibration screen. You then get to choose if you want to play an Arcade game or a Complete Mission game. There's also an option screen that lets you make various game adjustments, including reconfiguring all the buttons on the gun, if you like. You can install the game to your harddrive to improve load times as well.
The gun itself has two thumb-sticks, six buttons, and a trigger. It's intended to be held with two hands while you play. I had a little trouble getting used to this. I think I'd prefer to hold the gun with one hand for aiming. Also, it would have been nice if the gun was wireless like the standard PS3 controllers. Although, the USB wire that connects the gun to the console is quite long, something like nine feet. In the FPS mode of play, you control movement with one thumb-pad and where you are looking with the other. This can be a little awkward when you're also aiming and pulling the trigger to shoot the bad guys.
The Arcade game plays just like a gun-based shooter plays in an arcade. There's a cut-scene, then you get right into shooting waves of bad guys as you are moved through the area. Bad guys pop-out from various directions, the camera moves automatically to point you at new groups of them. You have to kill them all before you can advance. By default, you are located behind some sort of cover where you are safe and reloaded but can't shoot anyone. There's a timer too, so you can't just sit there for long. To shoot, you press the reload button, which causes you to pop-out where you are vulnerable to attack, but also able to shoot the bad guys with abandon. There's an adjustment on the options page that allows you to reverse this setting such that you're exposed by default and under cover only when you press the reload button. This button is located on the front of the gun, where you left index finger is.
You also have a choice of weapons: a pistol, machine gun, shotgun, knife, and grenades. Later in the game, you can pick up a couple other weapons. In Arcade mode, you can change weapons using the trigger when you are reloading behind cover.
There are some twists as you play, for example the bad guys sometimes release swarms of robot-like insects called "Terror Bites". Often the game will tell you the best weapon to use, then you just blast the swarm and shoot any that stick to the screen. Another twist involves a multi-screen battle in which you have bad guys coming at you from more than one direction and you have to move the gun to switch screens and frantically fight them off. I had a little trouble getting the gun to switch screens here. In another situation, you are shooting bad guy vehicles from a helicopter. There's a good variety and level of challenge.
The other mode of game play is called Complete Mission. This mode has all the same game play as Arcade mode, plus some extended mission levels in between. These extended missions involve a completely new style of play for the Time Crisis series: true first-person shooter gaming. The FPS missions play very much like other FPS games. You're in control of movement and where you're looking/aiming, by using the two thumb-pads. As you move through the map, you encounter bad guys that you shoot using the same selection of weapons from the Arcade mode. In FPS mode, switching weapons is done by hitting a button on the back of the gun repeatedly. Bad guys drop ammunition that you can pick-up and use. Plus, there are other items to find which give you perks like new armor, healing or an extra life.
If you stand still for a few seconds in FPS mode, your life bar will be restored and a message will pop-up reminding you of what you need to do next. There's also a map screen you can check and a red dot on a radar screen which shows you where you need to go. Beth, a character you meet in the initial cut-scene is often in contact with you, guiding and directing you as you play.
It's also possible to play Time Crisis 4 with a standard PS3 controller. I tried this and although it certainly was not as good as using the Guncon, it was reasonable and I managed to do fairly well with it. This feature comes in handy if you want to try out the 2-player mode but don't yet have another Guncon 3. 2-player mode is done with a split screen. It's split down the middle with player 1 on the left and player 2 on the right. I did notice that the graphics didn't look as good with the 2-player split screen. Also, 2-player play is only available for Arcade mode.
There are extras that come with Time Crisis 4. There's a mini-game where you shoot targets as they fly across the screen. If you hit enough of them you get to give your initials for the high-score list. This shooting mini-game has a number of variations and difficulties you can try as well. Once you complete the Arcade and Complete Missions modes, the other extra, Crisis Missions, is available. It's just more target and quick-reflex practice shooting.
The graphics look nice. They are nothing spectacular or cutting edge, but the game runs in 720p and looks good. Still, 2-player split screen mode didn't look as good. The sound and music fit the game well too. It's high energy dramatic stuff that heightens the tense mood.
The gameplay in Arcade mode is action-packed fun with only short breaks in between. I found myself hitting pause just to take a break from the hectic pacing. While it's fun it's also always the same. So, much of the game involves remembering what to do in various situations that pop-up (i.e. when to duck and when to blast away). The FPS mode is a little slower but it's nice to be controlling what you're doing. Though, as FPS's go it's nothing special, just a simplistic FPS. Movement is a little slow in the FPS mode, it would have been nice if there was a way to run.
Replay value is a bit of a mixed bag. The FPS missions are nothing special, so you probably won't want to do them over and over again. The Arcade mode is always the same, but it's very high-paced and fun. It's also fairly short (about an hour total). So, you'll probably enjoy playing it over again from time to time if you're looking for some high speed action. Playing this game with a friend is probably the most fun.
The Learning Curve isn't too bad. There's no training mission to slog through, you'll jump right into playing. In FPS mode, there are some buttons to learn on the gun controller. But, you can adjust the buttons any way you want on the options page. In FPS mode, it can be a little awkward to be using both thumb-pads along with pointing the gun and shooting. But, I didn't have any trouble finishing the mission. There are also multiple levels of difficulty for both FPS and Arcade modes.
Time Crisis 4 is an exciting game with some fun and very authentic arcade-style play. This latest game in the series adds new FPS-style gameplay which is nothing special, but it does give the game more variety. The story and plot for the game is typical and not especially engaging, but it doesn't matter because it's really all about shooting bad guys with the fancy gun. The Guncon 3 controller worked well for me, though I found it awkward at times, especially in the FPS levels.