Fast & Furious has become quite the film franchise, starting off as a focus on street racing and small truck heists, to taking on drifting in Tokyo, to full-blown warzone material that would make Michael Bay a little jealous that he wasn’t behind it. Naturally, with a movie comes a movie tie-in game, and since Fast & Furious 6 came out the end of May, Activision and Firebrand Games have brought us Fast & Furious: Showdown for the PS3, Xbox 360, Wii U, 3DS and PC. However, is this a solid movie tie-in game that evades the curse of movie-based games, or does this ride crash-and-burn to pieces?
The game’s story opens up with Monica Fuentes (Eva Mendes’ character from “2 Fast 2 Furious”) entering her office and seeing Agent Riley (Gina Carano’s character from “Fast & Furious 6”) studying information based on the variety of chaotic scenes Shaw and his crew have caused worldwide. They’ll bring up events that occurred throughout the entire movie series’ saga, but as minimalistic as possible. This is about the extent of the story to be quite honest. At the beginning of each chapter, you’ll see a cutscene with these two characters talking, exchanging literally a sentence each, and then you’ll go into gameplay. The story is told as flashbacks of missions, and each mission has an opening showing the main characters chatting with each other. However, it’s unbelievably non-sensical and downright lame dialogue, that there’s absolutely zero motivation to play the game for the story. Not to mention, the game’s ending is just awful. It serves as a way to connect into the latest movie’s intro, but it’s done so in such an amateurish way.
Normally, I would think that Fast & Furious would be an awesome property to make a game out of. Intense street races, in-depth car customization, adrenaline-fueled action scenes where you’re jumping out of your car onto others, and flipping cars like in the newest movie all make the soundings of what could be this great game. Everything I just mentioned is actually found here…just replace “intense” with “boring”, “in-depth” with “basic”, “adrenaline-fueled” with “ultra lame”…well, you get the point. Fast & Furious: Showdown brings a good amount of variety and ideas to the table, but unfortunately, none of them work well. As stated, you’ll partake in races, shooting and car jumping throughout the game’s 30 stages that await in the campaign. You don’t have to tackle the campaign solo, and can bring a friend in to help your through the game. For the record, playing in co-op is the way to go if you plan on getting through the game…this way you can share the laughs with a friend.
Races are done in either a checkpoint fashion or through traditional laps around the course. Problem number one here is that the vehicle handling is very shoddy to say in the least. The main reason for this issue is due to the absolutely erratic physics. You may be turning fine one moment, and the next the car will completely loose control and slam into the wall/barrier. Also, the AI is absolutely ridiculous during some races, at times making you feel like ejecting the disc and flinging it out the window. Then there are times where the AI is so freakin’ dumb, that they’ll all just veer right into a wall at the very start of a race while you take the lead, then all of a sudden they’ll be right behind you. It’s not even like the game ramps up progressively in difficulty, it’s just scattered all over throughout the campaign. Luckily, if playing in co-op, as long as either player places first, that’s all that matters. On the flipside, should either one of you wreck your car entirely, then expect to restart the race. The other biggest problem is the FF points system. FF points are earned from drifting, drafting, driving recklessly, etc. These points are not only your XP, but will fill up your meter to use NOS. Well, good luck getting this meter filled up more than a few times during an event, if even once. You can do everything possible to earn FF points and that meter will barely even fill up, making it feel much more like a chore than a reward to earn.
Then we have missions where you’ll be riding shotgun, shooting at pretty much anything that has a health bar floating above their vehicle. You’ll use Uzis, EMP Pulse Rifles, Grenade Launchers, Turrets, Grappling Hooks, and Rocket Launchers…all with infinite ammo. You’ll look with the right analog stick, while holding down the aim button will slow down the action, giving you a chance to place your shots carefully and even try to pop their tires. Slow-mo aiming will deplete your FF meter, so knowing when to use it is key. Occasionally, you will have to get on top of your car and jump onto another vehicle. This basically turns into rapidly pressing a button to fill up your balance meter, quickly aim your jump and try jumping without falling to your death. If you don’t jump within a couple of seconds, you’ll have to rebalance again before jumping. Now imagine that you’re about to jump and your AI or co-op partner crashes into a wall or traffic. The targeted car is now way ahead and you’ll be stuck just constantly pressing the balance button to no end until you finally reach your target and jump. There’s no “cancel” button in case the situation arises and really is a frustration. Once you jump onto the target, you’ll…anyone? Anyone? Don’t be shy, that’s right. You’ll be rapidly pressing the balance button again. After balancing and balancing, you’ll have to shimmy your way to the driver or passenger seat, and hi-jack the vehicle. Or, at other times, you may have to arm or disarm a C4 charge from the vehicle. This is stuff that actually makes sense and has the makings of some intense moments in the game…but unfortunately just isn’t done right or engaging by any means.
At times, you will have special missions that may pertain to a moment from one of the movies, such as the infamous bank vault scene from Fast Five, the flip car from Fast & Furious 6, or drifting down a mountain in…Hong Kong? Wasn’t the drifting scene in Tokyo? Moving on. The bank vault scene from Fast Five is the second mission in the game, and interesting enough, there are a couple of things wrong here. Number one: Vin Diesel is replaced by Ludicrous’s character, Tej. Come to think of it, Vin Diesel’s character, Dominic Toretto, doesn’t even make any appearance in the game. Guess Vin Diesel knew better than to allow his likeness in this game. Number two: the physics for the vault is like having a beach ball attached to string, making it incredibly floaty and weightless. Nothing adds to the immersion than a vault flinging in front of your car and you ramming it to only see it weightlessly roll off your car. The flip car scenes in the game…well, remember those weightless physics I just mentioned? Yeah, the cars you ram into just weightlessly move up along your car until you press the launch button, in which then you’ll fling the car up a ridiculous height. Then there’s the drifting scene, which would be awesome if the game’s drifting mechanics were actually somewhat decent. Naturally though, it’s far from decent and just downright unreliable. Any time you try to drift, you just never know how the physics are going to act up. There are even missions where you have to tail someone as close as possible, but somehow the person you’re tailing has a more hooked up ride than you, despite the fact that you’re driving a tuned up car and they’re driving a convoy truck.
Aside from the campaign, there’s a Challenge mode. This contains 21 additional challenges where you’ll have to try to cause the most mayhem, control a variety of vehicles (such as a wrecking ball truck), etc. These can also be played in co-op but interestingly, these missions showed a bit more creativity than the campaign’s. The problem? Do you remember the time in the movies where they drove a wrecking ball truck in circles to take out cop cars? It just doesn’t fit in this game. Nothing about these missions made me go, “yeah, this has a Fast & Furious feel to it”. There’s car customization and perks that you can utilize for both the campaign and challenge mode. Car customization is incredibly barebones, feeling like a poor man’s Need for Speed Underground (which by the way, had an insane amount of customization and that game came out about 8 years ago). You can equip mods (up to three at once) for your vehicle, such as increased speed, double health, speed boost while drifting, double damage with guns, etc. The problem with the game though is that none of it is actually “fun”. On top of that, there are a brevity of technical issues and the game actually locked up my system numerous times during my playthrough, which was quite frustrating when I’d complete a mission and then it’d freeze, to only replay the mission again. The overall gameplay contains variety within missions, but fundamentally, it’s an absolute buggy and boring mess.
Firebrand Games develops their own game engines in-house, which is something I very much admire. However, when the last game I played of theirs, Trackmania: Build to Race for the Wii, has a better visual design than this, there’s a big problem. Nothing in this game looks remotely attractive or even equates to the bare minimum of anything we’ve seen this current generation. Car models look passable, but have ultra basic detail to them. While there is damage modeling, ugliness rears its head more when you see the completely flat, single-texture design of a car’s engine. Character models look absolutely horrid and stiff to a whole new level. Characters drive like hunched over gorillas driving a car, and those that are riding shotgun while shooting are like stiff stick-figures where their legs are holding them in the window and they seem to be sitting in the air. Even when they reload guns, they all reload the same and doesn’t even look like they’re reloading properly at all. Fire effects are also some of the worst in a game to date, looking as dated as a PS1 game from 15 years ago. Environmental textures look bland and the draw distance isn’t exactly too great either, with mountains forming as you’re driving and power lines that form parallel to your car. The frame rate is also erratic, running from somewhat smooth to a pretty rigid…and the funniest part is, there’s nothing impressive that the game is showing off, so the frame rate should not be taking a hit at all.
A Fast & Furious game featuring characters from the movie should surely have their voice actors at the very least, right? WRONG! What we get are shoed-in actors that sound very slightly like them, but offer zero emotion or care into the roles. They sound as bored delivering lines as the players will feel playing the game. Sound effects are awfully generic with car engines sounding dull and unexciting. The soundtrack ranges from godawful rap music that I can’t imagine even the most devout rap enthusiast to enjoy, to somewhat catchier tunes that play in the second half of the game (which actually helped garner that extra point for this department). Oh, and the main menu music…well that just spells generic to the max.
Overall Score: 5/20 = 2.5 out of 10
When I heard Firebrand Games was behind this game, I was actually somewhat excited. I mean, Trackmania: Build to Race for the Wii and DS was a very under-appreciated game that introduced me to what the studio is capable of. Unfortunately, I was severely letdown with a game that had me shaking my head at how absurdly unpolished it was. Fast & Furious: Showdown is a horrid game that looks so outdated and is near unacceptable for games this far into the console generation. It reeks of low budget from the moment you’re introduced to the title screen and main menu, all the way through to the credits (if you even last that long with it). If you do plan on playing this, it’s to mainly see how to make the Fast & Furious franchise as dull as possible. Fast & Furious: Showdown? More like “Slow & Infuriating: Boretown”.
+ The box art is pretty cool
+ Co-op = Twice the laughs
– Graphics are more outdated than a launch PS2 game
– Gameplay is as unpolished as it gets
– AI is downright atrocious
– Voice acting and characters are a whole new level of “stiff”
– $40 price tag is as much of a laugh as the game
Copy rented by author for review purposes. Wii U version used for review.
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