It's never a good sign when a publisher waits until release day to send out review copies of their game. This means they're buying time, hoping the game will at least get through its first weekend on sale before getting its face kicked off on the Internet.
But it's an even worse sign when the publisher doesn't send out review copies at all. Not even if you ask nicely. Seven times. This means they know the game isn't just bad, it's wretched. Perhaps it's unfinished, or unplayable, or has graphics that make the Coco Pops monkey look photo-real by comparison. Probably all three.
So what happens to these games? Where do all those promo copies go? Well, they get hustled away on a secret train overnight, like so much nuclear waste. The special secret train for games has a name, and its name is... The Shame Train
Join us now as we board the Shame Train and take a look at some of the games so bad their publishers wouldn't send us free copies. That's right, these games have been purchased with actual Eurogamer money. Money we'll never get back and could have spent on something much more worthwhile, like sombreros and cocaine. All aboard!
Crash Time (Xbox 360)
- Publisher: RTL Games
- Developer: Synetic
My first job in the games industry involved writing the words on the backs of the boxes. I liked it because it was fun and I got free games. I also hated it, because I got paid to lie. Often I was writing about games which weren't full of "non-stop adrenaline-fuelled action", and didn't feature a "deeply immersive storyline" of any sort, and whose "fun-packed mini-games" were packed with less fun than a shoelace. But I still wrote lies about them, because I was paid to.
So I have sympathy for the person who wrote the words on the back of the box of Crash Time. I know why they did it. And I think I know how. Here are some of the words they've used:
Here are some of the suggestions that come up if you feed those words through an antonym generator:
You can probably see where this is going. Crash Time is all of the above, and none of the things above the above.
As you've also probably guessed, it's a driving game. The story mode follows the adventures of two hard-driving highway cops. We appear to be in Germany, judging by the road signs and the number plates and the fact the police cars have POLIZEI written on them. However, the appalling voiceovers suggest everyone is either from Stoke, or from Stoke but pretending to be from Brooklyn. Or possibly Iran, it's hard to tell. They have conversations that go like this: "What was that?" "One of those jerks again." "You can say that again."
In fact, our extensive research on Wikipedia reveals Crash Time is a tie-in for popular German TV show Cobra 11, which sounds quite good. Crash Time is not good. The cars handle nicely enough, and the crash physics are acceptable. There's plenty of variation between missions, with high-speed pursuits, takedown assignments, checkpoint races, stunt courses and so on.
Unfortunately they're all boring. Everything on the road moves extremely slowly (apart from the missions where you're pursuing someone - you'll be amazed at just how nippy a Ford Transit can be when it's on the run in a rubbishy computer game). They're either stupidly easy or impossibly hard, and if it's the latter that's usually down to irritating gameplay design.
In the takedown missions, for example, one of the best ways to cause damage is to ram your opponent so they're trapped between you and other vehicles. However, they drive magic cars which are able to disappear and respawn behind you, while you are left to navigate your own way out of the mess. Similarly, if you find yourself trapped behind a barrier or turned upside down, tough - you won't be reset on the track, you'll have to start the whole mission again.
If you don't fancy doing the missions you could try out the offline-only race mode - except you have to complete story missions to unlock the tracks. This isn't worth the effort and they're so dull it's unlikely you'll be able to stay awake long enough anyway.
It doesn't help that the presentation is so poor. There are terrible pop-up issues, the buildings appear to have been constructed from a maximum of seven pixels each and the explosions are rubbish. Put it this way, when I first booted up the game a casual observer enquired incredulously, "Is this on Xbox 360?"
In short, Crash Time is mediocre, unimpressive and uninspired. The handling and physics are competent, but the missions are dull and the presentation is shoddy. The most fun to be had is in laughing at the voiceovers.
P.S. The "time" it took for Crash Time to "crash" after booting up was just over four minutes. Which brings us neatly to: