The German Crash Time series has always been a mysterious one. When Jim took a look at Crash Time II he found it to be rather dull. When I reviewed Crash Time III for PC Gamer, I was confused to find that the game was actively against the idea of crashing, and so very best of all, the two lead characters, Ben Jäger and Semir Gerkan, were both voiced by the same man, not even trying to differentiate between them. Conversations were amazing. Now there's a demo for Crash Time 4, and blimey, things have improved.
First be warned, this will install GFWL without asking for permission. That's fun. But past that this is a monolithic step forward for what was a painfully mediocre series. While it's still packed with the same embarrassingly corny voice acting and barely comprehensibly translated dialogue, the game itself has learned so many lessons. There's even two different actors playing the leads!
Set in Cologne, the city is absolutely gorgeous and meticulously detailed. Cars are fun to drive, on the extremely arcadey side of realism (where things should be, naturally), letting you travel at ridiculous paces. I'd like to see a bit more generosity with the handbrake - it's not exactly a game that encourages drift. But unlike the mystifying third game, here crashing is positively encouraged. There's only so much damage a car can take, but trifling details like a wheel falling off are automagically fixed to let you carry on enjoying yourself.
The demo contains a ton of stuff. I've been playing for ages now, and it's still going. The missions are more sensibly spread out across an open world, picked up on the fly, or by visiting locations. It seems the city has been overrun by a cartel of evil criminals from many nations across many aspects of hard crime! Ben and Semir are charged with TAKING THEM DOWN! This is performed by finding their hideouts, chasing their cars, and delivering hotdogs for the nice New York lady who mysteriously runs the hotdog stand in central Cologne. A hotdog stand you can then smash to smithereens without being penalised.
Car chases are a little confusing. Am I meant to be running them off the road, or following them home? Because when I smash them into walls, they don't seem to mind that I carry on following them after. And the gobbledook conversations from the characters seem to contradict each other. But perhaps all that will be much more clear in the full game.
From the look of this demo, this is likely to be a properly interesting GTA-alike, which is something we haven't seen for quite a while. Some of the architecture, such as an epic gothic cathedral, is breathtaking. And most importantly, crashing is lots of fun. Especially into trains. There's a ludicrous amount for free here. It's well worth checking out.