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Crash Time 4: The Syndicate Review

I’ve been saying it for years: what we really need is more police themed driving games based on German TV shows. Well, it seems that publisher RTL Playtainment was listening and has decided to bring Synetic‘s late 2010 title, Crash Time 4: The Syndicate, to the UK gaming market.

Crash Time 4 is based on German TV’s cop action-extravaganza, Alarm für Cobra 11 – Die Autobahnpolizei. The game follows the adventures of two highway cops and their struggle to break up a notorious group of international super-criminals known as the Syndicate.

Ben and Semir – otherwise known as the one who looks like Gomez Addams and the one who doesn’t (I have no idea which is which) – set about accomplishing this task by utilising high tech surveillance, a network of informants, and some ridiculously reckless high speed driving.

Crash Time 4

The first thing you are likely to notice on loading up Crash Time 4 is the frame rate. It’s fair to say that no matter how much action is going on at any one time, Crash Time 4 succeeds in maintaining a consistent frame rate. Unfortunately that frame rate is consistently low resulting in a rather stuttery experience and this is noticeable from the moment you pass that first loading screen.

Give your eyes time to adjust to the frame rate and the graphics themselves aren’t bad – they certainly aren’t great – but they manage to fall on the right side of average. The cars themselves aren’t officially licenced, but they are all well modelled so driving fans will be able to pick from their favourites once they are unlocked through completing missions.

The roads are nice and busy too and during a high speed chase you will have your work cut out for you as you weave through traffic in pursuit of your mark through the 100+ kilometres of road in the game’s two locations, Cologne and the Autobahn. Explosions are a little damp though and the car damage modelling is also weak – leaving little to get excited about during collisions and crashes.

Crash Time 4

A few odd issues raise their heads in the visuals. Look closely and you’ll notice that with the exception of your own car and those driven by Syndicate members, the vehicles around you lack drivers and seem to cruise through the streets and highways on autopilot. After you have pulled over a Syndicate member you will receive a message notifying you they have been arrested, but they will remain seated in their car at the side of the road as you drive away.

There are no pedestrians either. The game remarks on this, a little tongue in cheek, by saying they wouldn’t be safe with your driving but this still impacts on the believability of the game world making things seem a little empty in the city.

Another thing that strikes as odd is the lack of cutscenes and the fact that you are unable to leave your car. Clearly this is a limitation of the game engine, but leads to some strange moments such as slowly driving around a pedestrianised area searching for clues rather than getting out to walk. The fact that you never see either actor outside the vehicle and that all story is communicated via disembodied dialog is the main reason I still have no idea which one is Ben and which one is Semir.

Crash Time 4

The music does its job well enough; providing you with fast tempo beats that match the speed of the game well. However, the voice acting is truly terrible. Being a German game, obviously it was necessary for all voice acting to be dubbed for an English speaking audience, but clearly the budget did not stretch to professional quality voice actors.

The dialog itself tries hard to be clever and funny, with a lot of self-referencing humour in comments like “we should have our own TV show”. These statements are repeated regularly and given they weren’t that funny the first time you are unlikely to find much amusement in them the seventeenth time around. However, the main problem with the voice acting is not the script; it is the sheer lack of emotion and flatness of the actors. When a contact – and friend – of both protagonists is shot and killed while in the back of the car it seems like Gomez and the other one (sorry, I mean Ben and Semir) couldn’t care less. It’s hard to empathise with two such emotionless characters.

Thankfully the driving is quite enjoyable featuring tight controls, fast speeds and fun chases. In order to take down crooks you can either disable their vehicle completely or block them by getting your car in front of them and holding position – best exercised by using a P.I.T manoeuvre which works really well. Once the ability is unlocked you can shoot at enemy vehicles, which does very little visual damage but proves quite effective at disabling them. Unfortunately ‘backwards’ people like myself will be disappointed that while you can invert the Y axis for camera control you cannot do so for aiming, which can make things difficult.

Crash Time 4

Crash Time 4 features a fairly open world setup as opposed to following a linear storyline, although for some missions to unlock you must complete certain prerequisite missions. You visit locations to interrogate people about Syndicate members, set up surveillance cameras around the Cologne and the Autobahn to highlight Syndicate cars on your map, answer radio calls alerting you to criminal activities and more.

While this approach does offer a sense of freedom in a way it also has its weaknesses. At any one time you have so many locations to visit and are receiving so many radio calls (all of which sound urgent) that you are bombarded with choices. Many side missions seem pointless and far-fetched (I’ll let you off for those illegal modifications if I can enter your monster truck in a race?) and every time you get a chance to capture an actual Syndicate member it inevitably boils down to the whole chase, disable and arrest gameplay. Given the number of active Syndicate members in the game you will be doing this a lot.

Placing cameras is a major factor in the game as a surveillance network is needed to spot free-roaming Syndicate criminals on the map, but considering there are more than 100 places to place them and you can only carry 5 at a time before you have to drive back to HQ to stock up it quickly becomes a chore. Take into account that the Syndicate will destroy placed cameras occasionally and you can spend many hours on this activity alone.
Crash Time 4

Escort missions were a personal pet peeve. Every time you arrest a Syndicate member you must escort a prison truck to jail within a short time of picking them up or they will be released back onto the streets. The prison isn’t too far from the station, but the prison truck likes to take random, circuitous routes to reach it. During the journey there is a good chance you will be attacked by a Syndicate member or two who you will have to disable.

Here is the kicker – any Syndicate member that you disable during the prisoner escort mission is arrested. You then have to do another escort mission almost immediately to take them to jail too, where you may or may not be attacked again by more goons. If you are, you will have to arrest them to complete the mission – and we know what that means.

Crash Time 4 is the first in the series to include a multiplayer mode, which consists of 2-8 player races, deathmatches or free roaming over a variety of locations. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to find any online games at the time of writing, although I was able to have a go on split screen at home, which is limited to races only. There is a good choice of tracks and routes to choose from with adjustable traffic levels to change the experience. It’s all perfectly functional, but the truth is that there are so many other multiplayer racing games that do this better that it’s really not worth investing your time here.

Crash Time 4

Crash Time 4 can be enjoyable in small doses. The driving itself is fairly well handled and fun so you can find yourself having fun while tearing through the streets of Cologne or along the Autobahn. However, the action gets tired fast and there are just too many problems that are impossible to overlook. There is a decent game hidden in here somewhere, but it’s buried under a lot of questionable gameplay decisions and poor production values.

5.50/10 5½

Crash Time 4: The Syndicate (Reviewed on PlayStation 3)

The game is average, with an even mix of positives and negatives.

I’ve been saying it for years: what we really need is more police themed driving games based on German TV shows. Well, it seems that publisher RTL Playtainment was listening and has decided to bring Synetic‘s late 2010 title, Crash Time 4: The Syndicate, to the UK gaming market.

This game was supplied by the publisher or relevant PR company for the purposes of review
Ross D. Brown

Ross D. Brown


Ross has been with GameGrin since February 2012 and acted as Site Editor until late 2014. He is also a proud Northerner.

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Kaostic - 11:37pm, 3rd April 2015

If I wanted a car chasing game where I'm not allowed out of the car, I'd play Driver 2 on the PS2. When will people learn that you can't just have one mode of transport in open-world-type games these days?