Semir and Ben are back in their 4th title in the Crash Time series, a game that first appeared in 2008 based on the German TV series Alarm für Cobra 11. This time the cop buddy duo are taking on a massive crime syndicate across the autobahns and city of Cologne, and it's your job to arrest the criminals, find their secret meeting spots and generally put an end to the foul criminal goings-on.
As a budget title there isn't quite the same amount of spit and polish for all things visual. Whilst there is plenty of traffic and other things to bump into and destroy, the level of quality definitely isn't up there with the bigger hit titles, borrowing the tried and tested engine from previous games. There are plenty of different vehicles to drive around the quite extensive world though, and these do feel quite different from each other in terms of handling. Ben and Semir not only get to speed around in their squad cars, but also lend a hand at driving trucks, ambulances and even stretched limos as they complete quests littered across the map.
The trouble with Crash Time 4 is the game lacks a lot of structure. Whilst the open world nature of things is welcome, trying to find missions to go on is a bit of a struggle, not helped by the unfriendly and sometimes incoherent UI. The first hour of the game needs to be fought through before things really start to open up, and this may well come across as frustrating. Initially there is the thrill of the chase, to introduce the more fun parts of Crash Time, namely chasing down villains and hauling them off in a prison van. Once this first take-down is accomplished, things take a rather more mundane turn and you do end up wondering what it is you're supposed to be doing.
Left to your own devices, you need to try and find a number of points of interest where the criminals hang out and have their meetings. You're told to search every nook and crany as many of these hideouts are off the beaten track. The trouble is that in this initial stage of the game, you're not given much of clue as to where to drive your car too. This isn't helped by the 'Areas' selection, which features a big wad of locations in an intimidating menu – select one that has nothing for you to do in and a blanket and unfriendly message pops-up telling you there's nothing going on in this area of the world.
This wouldn't be so bad if it didn't take an age to select another area, particularly given it can take a while to load things up. The patrol area can be changed via the pause menu, but confusion strikes when you get asked if you want to quit the game, rather than the patrol. Selecting yes doesn't throw you back to the title screen, but it is another example of the unfriendly interface the player is faced with.
Once enough hideouts are located, the game opens up a bit more and you can start entering missions in order to get the twelve informants on your side, catch the fifty active syndicate members, install the hundred and fifty odd surveillance cameras and uncover the rest of the hundred or so criminal locations – and as you uncover more areas the main game missions will pop-up for you to complete. At certain points in the game the main storyline will kick in, usually via a phone call, providing a mission that must be completed to move things on. It is possible to postpone these, but two minutes later the phone will ring again requesting your attention, and so it goes on. This wouldn’t be too bad except all cut-scenes can’t be skipped, even if they’ve been seen before.
Installing cameras at the various hotspots will provide further side missions as they capture speeding criminals on the CCTV, so there is certainly plenty to do within the title; it's just that so much of it is the same kind of thing over and over. Crash Time 4 does try to mix things up a little bit though, and scattered through the game are some on-track races and once within a speeding chase, things are certainly exciting and entertaining.
Setting up the CCTV cameras around the city and autobahn is an on-going process however – the more of these placed around the game world, the more enemy intel you'll receive, which makes catching the criminals an easier task. If the syndicate thinks you've got too many of them it'll start smashing them up, likewise when transporting prisoners you'll run the risk of the Syndicate trying to break them free.
The more tasks you complete, the more different vehicles are unlocked, ranging from the police cars, sports cars, race cars, off-roaders, transporters and even HGVs and fuel trucks. The driving is arcade rather than simulation, but each have their own top speed, acceleration, handling and overall ratings so you need to choose the right vehicle for the job. The police cars have the advantage of blues and twos, getting traffic to move out of the way – others maybe faster or take more damage, which is useful for smashing those criminals off the road.
If the single player side of the game gets a bit too much then there are some multiplayer options both locally split screen (which is always a nice to have) and across Xbox Live. Unfortunately the lobbies are barren, so despite having a few options to play with, there are very little games to join.
Ultimately Crash Time 4 becomes samey and repetitive, and you soon become bored driving around trying to find those spots to place the CCTV cameras in – adrenaline filled chases aside. When there are titles such as Need for Speed Hot Pursuit, it's a difficult title to recommend, especially when there's little more on offer here than the other Crash Time games have provided. With this being the 4th title in well under three years, you do start to wonder if this is a TV series tie-in too far – it’s one for a rental rather than a purchase.