Haven't brought out this account in ages (has it been a decade already?), but I wanted to release a public service announcement regarding this game, especially to those of you who are about to post a review about the timing, the weapon switching, the hardness, what have you. What I describe is intended to reflect the impressions I have of this game and remark upon what makes it worth 5 stars. For the TL;DR version, see the LAST paragraph below.
This game is like a gym apparatus next to other games... it's less of a game and more of a tool for improvement. You may not find it great for playing around; that's because the game is here to test your ability and sharpen it. Just like huffing and puffing on a run or sweating while lifting weights, the ordeal this game will put you through may be agonizing mentally and/or physically. There was an age of gaming when this was acceptable, unfortunately, most of you are either too young to know of this age or are of a demographic that doesn't regularly use mice to play FPS. You are forgiven for both, though the latter group is about to get a grim reminder about what level the old guard of PC FPS were capable of playing at back in the day. This game is doable for the likes of us. I would pay money to see someone accomplish the feats necessary to beat this game with a controller.
If I were the author of this game, I would put a disclaimer here for the modern audience that states that this game will require the patience of a saint to complete and master. I say this because I recall my young days playing this game and reaching the end after hours of play. I actually graduated from every gun course and fought the boss at one point. Within about an hour and a half of revisiting this game some number of years later, I made it to Alma's SA-GRII course after skipping over a few courses that are extra credit. That leaves only 5 unlockable course sets left out of 18. This game is as beatable as I remembered it. Now let me tell you what beating it necessitates and means. Consider this the game guide below.
First, selecting the weapon. Yeah, that's a bummer, isn't it. You have to quickly grab it from your inventory to get a good start at the course. Why do this? It's simply a small exercise in putting the cursor where you need it. Over many attempts, your hands should get used to traveling the inventory. You will be drawing your weapon in split seconds after a while, but of course you must give it a while. It's like not expecting to grow muscle just from a few lifts at the gym.
Trust me, this will be the least of your worries over time. How quickly you draw your will also roughly correlate to how quickly you can center your aim on a target, too, so don't neglect the act of drawing your weapon from the equation of improvement. Getting better at grabbing the weapon is a sign of improvement in the general skill of aiming.
Second, beating the timer. Don't let every fail get you down. Think about how to hit your targets faster. Perhaps it's not hitting the center of every target that is important, but rather what sequence you are starting in or how your weapon can be used. The interesting thing about drawing the gun from an inventory slot is that you might find you are already aligned with a target upon drawing. Use that aiming position to your advantage.
Some guns will be more successful if you take your time shooting in bursts rather than using rapid fire, especially if your timer only allows you a magazine and a half of shooting, rather than two whole magazines. For the guns that aren't rapid fire, they are likely to be made useful with their alternative effects, such as holding the mouse button down to charge for explosive blasts (hint for free: that's how Alma's Matador works). Little nuances like this must influence how you approach each challenge.
Third, this is a challenging exercise. Exercise yields results of utility more than satisfaction unless satisfaction for you means becoming better than you were before. If you wanted a walk in the park that yields instant satisfaction and giblets, the most this game offers is destructible space ships moving in the background (it's funny to drop one after a failed course in collaterally damaging rage). In summary, this game makes you better at aiming with a mouse. Expect nothing else from it.
When you complete this exercise and return to whatever FPS you play by mouse, you will find that your aiming skills and reactivity will be god-like. Heads will suddenly look slow and large, managing weapons will be a cinch now that you can use whatever swapping button you desire, and zooming features on your guns will feel like cheating. This is the result of the aiming zen you will obtain through the practice of playing this game. Drilling through this game each minute could be worth 15 minutes in any other game thanks to the game making it simple and quick to re-enter courses.
This game is solid for its purpose. Its entertainment value is reserved for those honestly seeking a challenge, but its applicability to FPS training is undeniable and timeless. Its only purpose is to provide a difficult but beatable challenge that allows one to quickly re-enter each course or revisit later. These two features demonstrate that the game does not punish a player for failure. Each element of gameplay is purposed towards challenging the player to overcome it... even drawing the weapon to shoot. The design philosophy of the game is consistent while not crossing the fine lines between [difficult and impossible] or [rewarding and punishing]. Furthermore, the game is useful in developing skill in the genre it emulates, so long as the player has the patience to pursue improvement. This game is not designed for instant gratification and therefore cannot be recommended for such. You will spend a lot of time on this game. (5/5)