IGN Review of Crash Time: Autobahn Pursuit
Racing games are supposed to be exhilarating and exotic experiences that test our nerves and fulfill our fantasies of speed, power and mastery over machines. Crash Time: Autobahn Pursuit falls so far short of that goal as to be something entirely other than fun, which is a space no videogame should ever inhabit.
Apparently there is a segment of the population that dreams of being a patrol officer on the Autobahn. German developer Synetic (which calls itself "The Funfactory") and publisher Crave Entertainment have stepped up to the challenge of fulfilling that wish with Crash Time, which is related to a German television series called Alarm for Cobra 11. As such, the subject matter, characters and situations will be totally unfamiliar to non-German gamers.
The game follows the thoroughly non-fascinating lives of Chris and Semir, Autobahn Patrol officers whose days are filled with endless driving on the U.S. equivalent of the Interstate system. Picture how much fun it is to get on and off the Interstate in real life, and you'll come close to understanding the excitement level in Crash Time: Autobahn Pursuit.
As our tale begins, our heroes are dispatched to the Autobahn 4, an east-west stretch of freeway that bisects the country. There's been an accident, and a manufacturer's faulty parts are thought to be responsible. That means driving to the factory, which is exactly as much fun as it sounds. Once I arrive on the scene, the camera cuts to exterior shot of the factory while hilarious European voice actors muddle through the script, and then its time for a thrilling drive to the testing facility.
This is an exciting development because it is somewhere other than a factory, which is a very boring place to drive to. Once at the testing facility, I'm surprised to learn that it is time to jump ramps in a knockoff Jeep. Then my fake off-road vehicle sinks into a texture and I wade around for a bit before failing to solve the "Case" due to the awfulness of the game.
The first and largest problem with Crash Time: Autobahn Pursuit is that it takes its subject matter -- cops and robbers let loose on the world's fastest stretches of open highways -- and reduces it to the horribly mundane. The missions are dull and repetitive, most of the cars are boring and everything is rendered in a characterless veneer.
It's a shame, because the actual driving in Crash Time isn't half bad. The cars handle well enough, despite their generic appearances and limited views (there's no cockpit cam, for example). The game also looks halfway decent, and the roads, villages and, yes, factories, of the German hinterland generally hold up well from a distance. However, even the pure driving is hampered by ludicrous physics that can send your cruiser cartwheeling from Bonn to Berlin if you happen to hit a jump wrong. And up close, the textures are often terrible.
Crash Time is also woefully inconsistent from mission to mission, with cakewalk levels being followed immediately by nearly impossible ones that had me threatening to dump my bottle of Warsteiner on the disk and smash it in twain. Even that wouldn't be so bad if not for the horrendous save system in Crash Time. The story mode is split up into Cases, which are then broken up into Missions. There can be as many as five Missions within each Case, but you can't save your progress permanently until you finish every Mission in the Case. Although the game won't start you over if you fail the fifth mission during your play session, you won't be able to start from there if you turn the game off and back on again.
And while you're in a Case, you have no idea how many Missions are left, making it impossible to plan your play session. But what the hell, you might as well make a day of it anyway, right? With such cases to solve as "Murder at KM 109" and "A Series of Accidents," how can you resist? And if you get tired of driving on boring roads following boring stories with boring actors delivering boring lines, just switch to the Single Race mode, where you can try out all the vehicles you've unlocked by solving boring crimes.
After all, the only thing more exciting than pulling over erratic drivers in a shapeless fake German sedan is racing around the hinterland in a charter bus. If you want to hook up with three enemies and try out some split-screen Autobahn action, you can do that too. But don't let the "Live" logo on the front of the box fool you, there are no online multiplayer options in Crash Time: Autobahn Pursuit.
True to its name, the crashes in Crash Time are actually fairly good. T-bone a tanker truck at 80 mph and the results are a satisfying shower of debris, flame and noise. Damage also shows up procedurally on your vehicle, and it performs well. But the OK driving and good enough damage aren't enough to save Crash Time from its many flaws. In addition to the larger issues mentioned so far, Crash Time also suffers from awful race navigation (the directional arrows and GPS system are inconsistent and difficult to read); oddly restrictive mission parameters (you can only damage your police car up to 30 percent on the way to the office to pick up some files); and frustrating mission designs.
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