Crash Time 4: The Syndicate Review
Game: Crash Time 4: The Syndicate
Publisher: RTL Interactive
Available on: Xbox 360 and Windows PC (Reviewed on Xbox 360)
The Crash Time series of games – of which there have been three previous ones to date – are loosely based on a German TV show called Alarm für Cobra 11 – Die Autobahnpolizei. They haven’t always been met with the greatest of receptions but this is the fourth game in the series, so there must be somebody buying them. The TV show is famed for its crazy amount of car chases and elaborate crashes so it would be easy to assume that this mentality would be brought over to the video game world. After coming out in Germany over a year ago, Crash Time 4 has finally made its way over to British shores. We got it, played it and are now here to tell you all about it.
STORY: Crash Time 4 follows on with the same basic story as the previous Crash Time games. The game follows two Autobahn police officers, Ben and Samir, as they get themselves involved with the Syndicate, an underground organisation that has their fingers in multiple pies around the city of Cologne. As you progress through the game you’ll have to chase people down – some of them members of the Syndicate, some of them not – as well as doing your usual job with the Autobahn Police Force, which usually involves just driving around until a new job comes in over the radio. It could be seen as realistic, but a lot of people will simply see it as boring.
If you’re looking for a game that has a deep and involving story then you’re absolutely looking in the wrong direction with Crash Time 4. The story is there, sometimes it’s literally laugh out loud funny, but that’s rarely the intention. If you’re a fan of cheesy 80s police TV shows then you may get some enjoyment out of how terrible the story is, but there’s nothing for anyone that wants anything even remotely intellectual.
GRAPHICS: There are a lot of games that are coming out on the current range of home consoles that look absolutely amazing, they’re at the pinnacle of what the consoles are capable of at this moment in time, we get excited about them coming out, we look at each frame of animation frothing at the mouth. Crash Time 4: The Syndicate is not one of these game, not by a long shot. There are good aspects of the game, in general the city looks good and if you’re just glancing at the screen for a moment then things don’t look too bad; things are vastly different if you’re the one playing the game though.
The models of the cars don’t look bad, but if you look a little closer you’ll notice that the textures are extremely bland. A trick that developers often utilise to keep the processing power down within their games is to create two textures for game models, a low resolution texture for objects that are far away and then a high resolution texture that will get loaded once you’re a little close. All of the models in Crash Time 4 looks as if the developers simply forgot about adding that high resolution texture. In a time when we’re getting treated to some truly stunning games, there’s no other way to describe the feeling of looking at something like Crash Time 4 than simply disappointing.
SOUND: It’s hard to concentrate on any aspect of the sound design within Crash Time 4: The Syndicate without ending up talking about how downright terrible the voice acting is. A lot of the time what the main characters are saying, as well as all of the characters that they’ll end up talking with in the game, sound as if every single one of their lines is forced. As if they were held at gunpoint while in the sound booth. It’s extremely easy to laugh at it, and I hope that at least in some small sense, this was the whole point, but I have a feeling that the entire game was meant to be taken seriously; which is utterly impossible. Aside from the voice acting, the sounds within the game do their job, the cars sound fine – as does crashing them – so there’s nothing really bad about it, but there’s also nothing particularly good either.
GAMEPLAY: As far as the gameplay goes, you’ll be spending the vast majority of your time driving around the city of Cologne, waiting for something to happen, completing the mission that appears and then doing the same thing over and over again. You can usually speed things up a little by driving over to the area of the city that the next missions is triggered in but there’s no easy way to see which part of the city this relates to. Nothing on the map indicates where you’re supposed to be going, and nothing in the list of places that you can spawn at does either. This means that although the missions will trigger eventually, you’ll have to be in the right place at the right time in order for them to do so, usually meaning that you’ll be spending a huge deal of your gaming time driving round the city hoping that the next place will be the correct one.
Once you’re in a mission though, for the most part, they’re actually quite fun. There are a couple of missions which totally break the mould, asking the police to take part in races for no reason whatsoever, but you can usually see these coming a mile away so you’ll be able to mentally prepare yourself for the crappy mission that you’re about to take part in, hoping that the next one won’t be so bad. A lot of the missions will give you the task of driving to a particular part on the map within a time limit, or tracking down and stopping a Syndicate gang member that’s speeding away from you. These mission types seem to repeat themselves a lot throughout the game and if you find yourself enjoying them, then at least you know what you’re getting yourself into. However, if you don’t like them and you like a little bit more diversity in your games, then you’re out of luck with Crash Time 4: The Syndicate. Sorry about that.
If you get fed up of the missions, but you don’t mind the way that the cars handle in the game (which is understandable), then you would probably enjoy the Single Race mode a lot more. In this mode you simply pick a car, pick a track and race against a few more A.I. controlled cars in a simple, classic race to the finish line. This is probably the best mode in the game, as you don’t have to contend with the terrible voice acting and horrible missions, it’s not a great example of a racing game but at least in this mode it doesn’t highlight its own flaws quite so openly.
Another aspect of the game that deserves a mention, merely because it’s becoming a rare feature in racing games in recent years, is the addition of a split screen multiplayer option. A lot of games over the years have ditched this method of play in favour of online multiplayer but it makes an appearance in Crash Time 4: The Syndicate, as does online play, so you’ve got the best of both worlds.
LONGEVITY: If you’re one of the people that enjoys playing Crash Time 4: The Syndicate then there’s plenty for you to be doing in order to extend the life of the game. Of course there’s the main Patrol mode, where you can simply drive around waiting for the next call to be put in, chase the bad guy down and rinse and repeat until you’re bored. Thankfully, however, there are other modes to be getting on with. You could sit back and take part in a normal race, if that’s more your thing, either on your own or with friends over Xbox LIVE. One interesting thing is that Crash Time 4: The Syndicate has split screen multiplayer, something which is becoming quite rare nowadays and the game should be commended for including this seemingly dying feature.
VERDICT: The only time most people could possibly have fun with Crash Time 4: The Syndicate is when laughing at the terrible story and voice acting and in that respect at least, the game is actually rather fun. It’s clear that the game is not supposed to be enjoyed in this way though, so you’ll only be able to enjoy it for so long before you start feeling embarrassed for the script writers. The gameplay falls flat and the fact that you’ll often find yourself lost without a clue about what you’re supposed to be doing next makes the game feel more than a little bit broken. If you’re the kind of person that enjoys laughing at horrible gaming attempts, then you may want to pick up Crash Time 4: The Syndicate, if you’re not that kind of sadist, then you’ll want to steer clear as if it’s the plague.