Just by looking at the name alone, you would be forgiven for thinking that Crash Time 4 is one of those budget games that sell for a tenner in a dark corner of your local GAME store.
The reality is much more interesting, but you need to take a look at its domestic German title for more of a clue ? Alarm fur Cobra 11: Das Syndikat
The game is based off of a popular Deutsch TV cop show of the same localised name, you see. Produced by stunt company Action Concept, the programme stars duo Ben and Semir as they bust crime on the Autobahnen.
It's essentially a modern-day Starsky & Hutch
, but in German. The game follows that concept to the letter, with the police partners tasked with having to eradicate a deadly syndicate that has taken root in Cologne.
Players achieve this by driving. Driving an awful lot, in fact. Much like Ubisoft's own Driver
series, you'll be spending all of your time in a souped up car chasing felons, shadowing syndicate goons and exploring the vast game world without setting foot on the pavement. It allows developer Synetic to focus on one gameplay mechanic to perfection, but it also puts the game at the risk of being tedious.
Past Crash Time
games have been similar in experience, but one notable difference in this iteration is that you no longer follow a linear mission structure. Instead, following an introductory set of levels, you're free to tour the cityscape or highways at your leisure, accepting optional missions when they become available. The action is presented in cutscenes which link various driving segments together.
The missions are pretty standard fare. In one, you have to shadow a syndicate car around the city of Cologne. For half of the mission, you can't get too close otherwise the driver will twig that you're onto him. The traffic is randomly generated each time you play, which makes for an interesting time as you attempt to 'look normal' while dodging passing cars.
The second part of the mission involves you chasing the syndicate car down as the driver realises who you are. To apprehend the gangsters, you have to stop the car by any means necessary ? usually this boils down to you crashing right into it so it spins out ? and holding it on the spot for a certain amount of time. During this countdown period, the bad guy will try to reverse and wriggle out of your grasp, but generally the AI isn't too smart on its wheels.
Inbetween missions, there are many things you can do in the city of Cologne to unlock some new crime leads. Surveillance cameras can be planted in specific areas to keep an eye on the game world ? up to five of these can be used to pick up on dodgy activity.
The syndicate does have the ability to notice and destroy these cameras though, so it becomes a strange tower-defence game on wheels in order to get new missions. Informants around the city can be used to chase leads as well, but only if you do favours for them.
For the first time in the series, a multiplayer mode will be made available for Crash Time
players. I wasn't able to play this part of the game, but I'm told it will feature several types of gameplay scenarios. Among these are your straightforward races, checkpoint chases and a Destruction Derby
style mode where players have to smash the crap out of one another. It'll support 8 players online, and 4 players in split-screen.
All of this madness takes place against a beautifully crisp and well-rendered backdrop, complete with cheesy cop show music riffing in the background and rather limp voice acting. At least, this was the case for the English version ? the German version had the benefit of getting the talents of the TV show actors to perform the various lines. While the game world looks impressive, I found several instances where the frame rate was a little jumpy on the Xbox 360 version.
There's still time to fix all of that though, although not an awful lot ? the game is heading for an end-of-November release for both the Xbox 360 and PC. While nothing in Crash
Time 4 is going to get you incredibly excited ? familiar gameplay, simple premise, unlicensed cars, awkward localisation ? if you're after a Driver
-esque game with a little more continental flair, then keep an eye on this one.
Transparency Alert: SPOnG was flown to Cologne to see Crash Time 4 at the expense of the publisher