The Crash Time series of games has been quietly bubbling under the radar around the world for the last few years. Generally, if you’ve bought one of the games, you know not to buy another one, as without exception, they’ve all been pretty dire affairs. The series is based on the German cop show Alarm für Cobra 11, which has been much more successful than the games, and which is currently in its 33rd season on RTL. Known for its almost movie-quality crashes and stunts, the show features the Autobahnpolizei as they try to bust drug rings and solve crimes by going really fast.
Alarm für Cobra 11: Undercover was released in Germany back in October, and when we received a press release talking up the new features that appeared to be being introduced to the international release, we thought that things would be different this time around. No more poorly-translated voiceovers. No more floaty cars that felt like they were made out of foam. No more unpolished, throwaway gameplay that’s easily a generation behind almost every other driving game available to purchase right now.
But that isn’t the case. Despite all the talk, Crash Time 5: Undercover is nothing but a translated version of the German game. The game takes place in Germany, the police cars all have the original Autobahnpolizei markings, and the voiceovers are nothing short of abominable. The voiceover artists’ inability to understand what apostrophes mean just makes them seem terribly wooden. “I have to drive to you? What is that all about then?” is just one example of what appears to be dialogue lifted from a play being put on by sixth-graders.
Gameplay itself sees you driving as either Semir Gerkhan (or “Samir”, depending on which part of the game you’re playing, given that it never decides which is his actual name) or Ben Jäger. They’re cops tasked with going undercover to overturn criminal gangs. To do this, they need to take part in missions to convince their crooked bosses to let them work closer to the action, and win races that take place on fully decked out racetracks against others who are looking to move up the chain. In one mission you’ll be tearing along the autobahn, trying to reach checkpoints before the timer runs out, and in the next you’ll be blistering around the Nurburgring. It doesn’t make much sense, but there you go.
If the voice acting was the only problem, Crash Time 5: Undercover would be a passable game, but it isn’t. Turn your vehicle more than 15 degrees to the left or right, and the framerate goes through the floor. Crash a criminal’s car into a wall or a roadblock and you’ll damage him, but there’s a good chance that his vehicle will then disappear and reappear (going at full speed, of course) 300 yards down the road. Play a waypoint challenge and you’ll beat it by a full minute, only to play the next one and find that the slightest delay whilst travelling (and we’re talking about losing the backend for half a second) means that you’ve no chance of getting to your destination before you run out of time. The same goes for races. You'll win one by a mile, then lose the next - against the same opponents, with everyone using the same vehicles - by half a lap.
Even with all that in the negative column, some fun driving would still rescue the game somewhat. Guess what? Big shocker, we know, but the driving is awful. The cars all stop ludicrously quickly as if you were travelling at 10 mph even though you were doing 150, and they float, flip, spin, skid, and barrel along as if the developers have never actually seen how cars act in real life. A 100ft drop? Just drive down it, it’ll be fine. A minor bump in the road? Take-off time! Add that to the fact that in this “open world” (which looks relatively convincing at times), you can’t drive off-road for more than a second before the game assumes that you’ve botched it and need a reset, and you’ve got a title that has very, very few redeeming qualities.
When you’re winning a race by a lap and a half on the fourth lap and a ninja – and we’ve got no idea who he’s supposed to be in relation to the storyline - appears to tell you in a European-American accent that it’s "boring being in the lead for so long," you can't do anything but agree.
Crash Time 5: Undercover is a wretched game that should be overlooked by everyone. Cheaply made, but not particularly cheaply sold (it’ll currently cost you a somewhat insulting £25 in the UK), the game has next to nothing that can be used to recommend it to anyone other than the clinically insane. When you can buy Forza Horizon, Forza Motorsport 4, Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit, Need for Speed: Most Wanted, or any other driving game for less or very similar money, we don’t see how the publisher even imagined that this would be good enough to bring home the bacon. Avoid.