To put it bluntly, ValuSoft's Crisis Team: Ambulance Driver is the worst game so far this year, and it's one of the worst games we've seen in a long, long time. If you were checking this review just to find out whether you should buy this game, the answer is no. Move on to a better game. If you're actually wondering what makes it so terrible, read on.
Ambulance Driver is a budget-priced driving game that shamelessly steals its basic ideas from Sega's 1999 arcade game, Crazy Taxi, which was later ported to the Dreamcast in 2000. Crazy Taxi was a simple, fun racing game in which you played as a cab driver who drove through the streets of a large, colorful city, picked up passengers, and had to drive them to their destinations within a certain period of time. You could also earn bonus cash and points by delivering your passenger quickly or performing some crazy stunts, like narrowly scraping past oncoming cars. Ambulance Driver is an arcade-style driving game in which you drive an ambulance and have to pick up injured people on the street and then ferry them back to the hospital within a certain amount of time--or else they'll die. Ambulance Driver is a lot like Crazy Taxi but without the crazy, the taxi, the stunts, the speed, or any of the fun.
For starters, Ambulance Driver looks awful. Even though the game has three different city courses, they all look terrible. The game's buildings, walls, and other scenery have such ugly, low-quality textures that they look as though they were drawn freehand in a matter of minutes with the trial version of an outdated graphics program. Instead of driving through a large, colorful city as in Crazy Taxi, in Ambulance Driver, you'll sometimes feel like you're driving through a maze of crayon-marked cardboard walls. Ambulance Driver also has a ridiculous amount of graphical pop-up. That is, as you drive down the road, objects such as scenery, oncoming cars, and pedestrians all appear out of thin air, and they do it constantly. The game's pedestrians themselves look like crudely drawn, crudely animated, blocky stick figures that will try to dodge your ambulance if you get too close to them. What's worse, instead of dodging, they'll often "fall" out of the way--basically, rather than bending their knees, or actually running, they'll just lean forward stiffly and fly a few feet.
Ambulance Driver sounds terrible too. The game's soundtrack consists of upbeat but repetitive rock-and-roll music that isn't offensive, or wouldn't be, if it weren't being used in a blatant attempt to copy Crazy Taxi's similar, better soundtrack. The actual game's sound effects are generally lousy and often mistimed-- like when your ambulance crashes into a building or signpost and then makes a crashing noise a moment later. The game's voice work is also pretty bad. If you get too close to pedestrians, they'll berate you just before diving out of the way (just like in Crazy Taxi). Except that rather than use any kind of positional sound, the game makes all pedestrians sound like they're magically sitting next to you and talking into your ear, rather than making a superhuman leap five feet away from your ambulance. And instead of employing a decent voice actor as an announcer, as Crazy Taxi did with its Wolfman Jack sound-alike, Ambulance Driver has a nerdy Canadian guy who sounds like one of the programmers.
Even if you can ignore how Ambulance Driver looks and sounds, you won't be able to ignore how badly it plays. For starters, it's clear that the developers were trying to emulate Crazy Taxi's unrealistic arcade-style physics, but they went too far. The game has three different ambulances you can drive: one is fast, the other two are slow. Plus, each of Ambulance Driver's vehicles handles like an oversized inflatable raft in a swimming pool. If you run into a wall or other solid object, your lighter-than-air ambulance will often wobble madly long after you've gotten clear. Making sharp turns in the game will usually cause your ambulance to drift uncontrollably to the side, and even though the game has a manual handbrake to let you perform powerslides through turns, powersliding is unreliable at best. What's worse, each of the game's three courses consists mostly of sharp turns. Part of what made Crazy Taxi so fun was flying through downhill straightaways and finding shortcuts to plow through different areas. There are no shortcuts or straightaways in Ambulance Driver, just sharp turn after sharp turn, so trying to control your ambulance is usually a lost cause.
Another reason why Crazy Taxi was so fun was its speed--it was a graphically simple game to ensure its blazingly fast frame rate. And even though Ambulance Driver is also graphically simple, so much so that it looks much worse than Crazy Taxi, it's very slow, especially for an arcade-style racing game and especially if you choose to drive one of the game's slower ambulances. And as far as physics go, forget it. Crazy Taxi had some small amount of real-world physics: If you were driving really fast and you hit something, you'd get jolted off course or come to a quick halt. In Ambulance Driver, if you collide with a building or other vehicle, you'll slowly bounce off, and the cars that you collided with will also slowly bounce off--then, as an afterthought, they'll overturn for some reason. And if you collide with a pedestrian, you'll actually get points. That's right: If you hit pedestrians, they'll become regular patients that you can pick up and deliver to the hospital to gain points as normal. Though this feature was clearly intended to be a cynical joke, if you actually buy a copy of Ambulance Driver in hopes of vicariously living the noble life of a selfless paramedic, you'll probably be horrified.
Then again, if you play Ambulance Driver, it's basically a given that you'll be horrified either way. It's a blatant rip-off of Crazy Taxi, a game whose greatest claim to fame is that it was one of the few decent US launch games for Sega's Dreamcast. If Ambulance Driver had been released back in 1999, it would have seemed like a watered-down knock-off. The fact that it's out three years after Crazy Taxi--and that it's actually worse in every possible way--makes Ambulance Driver's release completely baffling. It really isn't clear what ValuSoft hoped to accomplish by releasing Ambulance Driver. All you need to know is that you should steer clear of it. Ambulance Driver is a horrible mistake of a game that should never have been made.