Because I've definitely got better things to be doing, I thought I'd take a look at a copy of Crash Time II, a German driving game set in an open-world city. It's apparently based on some kind of TV series, and features the adventures of two BMW-driving cops as they deal with outlandish auto-crime on the streets of Northern Europe. Some thoughts follow.
High on the feature list for this game is the damage model for its vehicles, but that's also the thing that lets it down the most. Instead of being spectacular Burnout Paradise style chassis-shattering, you're more likely to lose a wheel, then careen awkwardly into a small, low concrete wall. The game's objective will soon time out, or you'll be forced to restart. It's a ignominious end. Crashes, which are followed by a quick replay, are often little more than a thud into a wall, followed by reversing. You've bent the fender, but that's about it. Maybe there were some sparks.
This lack of spectacle seems pervasive. The game is ultra-functional, and seems to have been detuned to avoid being too much fun. Smashing enemies off the road - which needs to be done fairly regularly - requires you to inflict a massive amount of damage on your target. Unfortunately, most of the time you end up nudging and shunting them unto their doom, rather than facing the kind of fetishized hyper-crash kinetics that this kind of game generally delivers. When vehicles do occasionally burst into flame, it feels out of place and uncharacteristic.
The city is detailed and well-furnished with physics objects, but there are occasional moments of incongruity: a giant chain-link fence, for example, which is impenetrable, and causes a trick of perspective to make your shiny BMW look like a toy. Worse, perhaps, the city is without the kind of imagination that would have allowed it to be genuinely interesting for automotive action. It's been said before that open world racers tend not to be imaginative enough, but in this case Paradise City looks like a dream of user-facilitation. While there are ramps here and there throughout Crash Time II's world, they lack proper integration into the routes you take across the city, meaning that general moment-to-moment driving is lacking fluidity. In other games, such as GTA or Burnout, you can expect these to simply fall in front of you as you race across the city, having been subtly placed to allow for hectic travel. Not so here.
That said, I have enjoyed some of the challenges that Crash Time II drops in front of you. Racing alongside vehicles on a busy freeway, or chasing cars across a busy city, they do work, and the driving model - although dull - never really lets you down. The cars handle predictably, if not excitingly. In fact, there's a kind of care detail level that seems rather over the top, given what the game is trying to achieve. What I like best about Crash Time II is that there are keys assigned for individual indicator lights, so you can navigate safely around the city in accordance with European safety regulations. Not enough games do that, eh?
In conclusion: What a shame. I can't really recommend it, even at this low price point - and even in spite of the giant American-style articulated lorries that you almost never see in Europe, but turn up here on a regular basis - but perhaps the zanily affluent might be tempted in a slow month.
Oh well. Perhaps Crash Time III will be better. It's certainly prettier:
"Alarm Fur Cobra 11" seems like a much better name than "Crash Time". UK/US marketeers got it wrong, I sense.