The latest video game tie-in, from the creators of Project Cars, is the worst thing to happen Fast & Furious since the death of Paul Walker.
The Fast and the Furious has been one of the biggest franchises in cinema for almost two decades and yet for all that time video games have almost completely failed to take advantage of the fact. That period has seen the gradual decline of the racing game genre, until only a handful of titles can now claim mainstream appeal, and the only official licences have been cheap cash-ins or DLC for other games. It would be nice to think that, now Marvel has belatedly got its video game business into gear, the same might be true of Fast & Furious, but this is yet another spectacular car crash.
The initial signs were good. Developer Slightly Mad Studios is well known for the Project CARS series and Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, and Tyrese Gibson are all lending their voices and (if you squint a bit) likeness to the game. The ingredients are all present but whether there are behind the scene excuses – a lack of time or budget perhaps – the fundamental problem is that this is a really bad video game.
Like any action movie, it’s the interaction between characters that is just as import to the films’ success as the outrageous car chases, but while the game tries to replicate that through cut scenes it’s not enough. But those sorts of conceptual problems pale in comparison to the fact that, bizarrely, the driving in Crossroads is awful.
Crossroads features a brand-new story, with the original intention for it to lead into the now delayed Fast & Furious 9. As you’d expect and demand, the plot doesn’t make a lick of sense, but Peter Stormare is amusingly over-the-top as the bad guy and, unusually for this sort of thing, all the film stars put in a good effort (Vin Diesel is a keen gamer and his own Tigon Studios are also involved). There’s also new characters played by Star Trek: Discovery’s Michael Burnham and Orange is the New Black’s Asia Kate Dillon, which suggests that most of the budget must’ve gone on the casting.
The most obvious problem, and this is the bit we really don’t understand given Slightly Mad’s pedigree, is that the car handling is terrible. No matter what you’re driving, every car seems desperate to go into a drift the second you even think about turning. And while everyone jokes about the movies’ contempt for the laws of physics the game takes this so seriously that all the cars bounce around like a bad Mario Kart clone.
In order to get any speed going you end up pinballing through most missions, barely in control, and often with no idea where you’re supposed to be going. Most missions have some level of non-linearity to them and although they’re nowhere close to being open world relatively few are just straight point to point races. Instead you’re usually chasing after someone, or trying to escape from them, and yet the game never makes it clear where your rivals are or what you’re supposed to do when you catch up with them.
Fast & Furious is a very different franchise now to when it began, a cross between a superhero movie and a James Bond film, so a lot of the time you’re not competing in street races but some kind of ludicrous action set piece with tanks and hovercrafts. That’s good, it’s one of the things that should set Fast & Furious aside form other racers, but the fact that the racing is so bad means that when you’re driving along an aircraft carrier deck with a giant ball and chain attached to your car, or chasing a crashed space rocket (this really happens), the whole experience becomes just farcical.
Even the camera is awful, with only one third person view that’s stuck far too close to the car and restricts your peripheral vision. It’s truly one of the worst camera systems we’ve seen in years, the automotive equivalent of a cramped third person shooter like The Order: 1889, and the fact that Slightly Mad neither noticed nor offered any kind of alternative is perhaps the most baffling part of the whole game.
It’s difficult to know whether the fact the story campaign only lasts around five hours is a disgrace or a mercy, but it means the only chance the game has of offering value for money is the online mode. This has the potential to be interesting, with 3v3 races and objective-based matches, but we’ve struggled to find anyone to play the game with since it launched, not just because the game seems to have slipped out without any fanfare but because the online is riven by frame rate problems and seems almost unplayable.
Fast & Furious Crossroads is an unwanted reminder of the bad old days of movie tie-ins, when cheaply made games would be thrown out as quickly as possible (or not in this case) in order to make money on name recognition, before word got around that the game was no good. It had seemed that such days were long behind us, but this is just as bad as all the other Fast & Furious games, if not worse given how it wastes the behind the scenes talent.
With the next movie delayed this was the perfect time to release a Fast & Furious game, but this doesn’t feel like it was rushed to meet a deadline it feels like it wasn’t even finished at the design stage, let alone final development. In the more ludicrous missions, when you’re switching between different characters to use their car’s unique abilities, there’s a hint of what a good Fast & Furious video game could be, but you’re better off just watching one of the movies again and imagining it via that, as it’d be considerably cheaper and vastly more entertaining.
Fast & Furious Crossroads review summary
In Short: Another deeply disappointing Fast & Furious game that’s all the more upsetting because of the obvious talent it wastes in terms of both developer and cast.
Pros: All the actors do their best and clearly have no idea that the game itself is terrible. The more over-the-top missions definitely have potential, if they’d have been in a better game.
Cons: Horrible vehicle handling and one of the worst cameras in a video game this generation. Extremely short (although that’s arguably a positive), with a half-broken, poorly populated multiplayer.
Formats: PlayStation 4 (reviewed), Xbox One, and PC
Publisher: Bandai Namco Entertainment
Developer: Slightly Mad Studios
Release Date: 7th August 2020
Age Rating: 16
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