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It’s a fun little time waster, but is let down by some poor production choices.

Ah yes, the budget racer, with your rock guitar riffs, sub-par FMV and lack of licenses. What chance do you have against the big boys who are hosting races, coast to coast across America or across tracks from all over the world? Is Crash Time 4: The Syndicate, all fun fun fun on the autobahn or a smouldering heap on the hard shoulder?

Crash Time 4: The Syndicate puts you behind the wheel of a variety of vehicles with two of the best and brightest road cops, Semir and Ben. At the beginning, both cops find themselves getting caught up in a race against time to help an undercover agent try to take down The Syndicate, a huge city wide criminal organization that has been unchecked for far too long.

The city of Cologne is the main star of the show and it looks amazing.

I will be honest; I was not expecting anything decent here so it comes as something of a surprise that this game actually has quite a few redeeming qualities, especially in how good it looks. The city of Cologne is the main star of the show and it looks amazing, with a busy and random traffic system and vehicles moving as they would – slowly in busy streets, to the flat out on the autobahn. Familiar buildings dominate the background, with detail evident from any distance and all these touches really place you into this living city and even with a few moments involving pop up on some of the larger buildings it can at first this can be a bit jarring, but you tend not to notice after a while as it rarely detracts from the action on hand.

Once the first few training levels have been dealt with the game gets into a stable pace and opens up the missions that will lead to toppling the crime syndicate. You are pretty much free to drive around the two huge maps as you wish, deciding what you fancy taking on next, with an easy to follow map and checkpoint marker to get you through the twisting city streets. To find leads on the Syndicates dealings there are a few things you can do, with gathering information from informant’s being the most rewarding. These civilians will give you tips and descriptions of criminal workings, but at a cost. These favours usually end up involving a high speed pursuit with missions including collecting a heart from an air ambulance, chasing and arresting a perpetrator that has stolen the local carnivals daily takings or even taking part in a few street races.

Once you have the descriptions from the informants, Semir and Ben will start to notice suspicious cars as you drive aruond the city. You’ll listen as they chat away, deciding if it is a criminal’s car, before deciding to tail them at a safe distance. Spotting and tailing criminal cars is also boosted by fitting surveillance cameras all over the city, as when one goes by the CCTV will inform you, helping you tail them even more accurately by plotting their exact location on the map, allowing you to keep a safe distance and not rely on sight alone. Once the gloves are off it is a high speed pursuit through the city, dodging and weaving through the traffic whilst you try and shunt the criminals into a spin and then positioning yourself in front of them to cut off their escape; though this is easier said than done as you need to be precise in blocking them for five seconds; if you fail, they will get away, even if you ram them off the road.

Along with the main tailing and high speed pursuits you also are able to take on small jobs like locating hidden Syndicate drop off’s and also protecting a police van during prisoner transport; with the Syndicate being quite powerful, don’t expect an easy job here. It’s not all about the arrest as even on their downtime Semir and Ben are able to visit the local racetrack and try their luck in some professional races.

With plenty of races, hidden locations and stunt driving expected from you there is quite a large game here, along with a wealth of cars to try out. But for all its ideas, looks and sounds the game really trips up on a few key areas that spoil the overall gameplay. The worst culprit is the layout of the game world and how missions are selected. Split into two areas, the autobahn and the city, each host plenty of missions, but more often than not you will have a rather abrupt message advising there are no missions on this part of the map, requiring you instead  to negotiate the unclear menu system to quit the game and then load the other map. Another issue is that the game offers a large world but when it comes to missions, it does not specify enough what is required and with a very vague description you find yourself driving around aimlessly for quite awhile with some levels just asking to find proof of the Syndicate, but no real hint as to where to search in the two huge play areas; its only when the duo pipe up and start talking about a hunch they had earlier that it becomes a little clearer where to start looking.

It’s a fun little time waster, but is let down by some poor production choices.

The short-sightedness of the layout really takes the shine off Crash Time 4, as on the whole it’s quite enjoyable, even if  the controls are a real struggle at first due to you spinning out far too often. Thankfully, there is an arcade control mode which tightens the steering and allows for a more comfortable ride, also allowing you to pull off power slides around corners. Each car has its own feel to it, so with ambulances you just can’t hack around corners, since toppling over is a constant threat. Since there are no real licenses here for cars there are also plenty of lookalikes, with no denying that you are driving a BMW, even with its silly name and front badge.

Whilst Crash Time 4: The Syndicate does not have the big budget feel, there is an enjoyable police game here, with plenty of arrests, races and collecting to be carried out. It’s a fun little time waster, but is let down by some poor production choices.

Rating: AverageReview Policy(version tested: Xbox 360)

Edited On 16 Mar, 2012

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