I have a confession to make: I love the Fast & Furious movies. Despite the fact that they have got sillier and sillier as time has gone by, quickly moving away from what the first film was, I still have a soft spot for them. So, anyway, what this preamble is leading up to is this: there’s a new F&F game from Slightly Mad Studios, they of Project Cars fame, and I’ve strapped myself into the driving seat to take it for a spin. But is Fast & Furious Crossroads, 2 Fast 2 Furious, or more of a Chitty Chitty Bang Bang?
First off, it’s not a Fast & Furious game without Vin Diesel or Michelle Rodriguez, so seeing them not only in the game, but credited with appearing and providing the voices is a big plus for me. With other familiar faces popping up, like Roman, it really does feel like “The Family” are all back together. The storyline is written very well as well, really feeling it is part of Fast canon, with the obligatory set pieces of ridiculous car-based action all present and correct. They even take the mickey out of themselves a little, as is typified by Vienna mentioning in one mission “I don’t have infinite gears, you know!”, as the racing scenes do seem to have a very large amount of gears for the protagonists to use; that and infinite nitrous oxide. So, with the story taken care of to the usual high standard (read into that what you will), we need to look at the actual game now.
Playing Fast & Furious Crossroads is divided into two halves: online or story mode. Story mode is pretty good, with a strong narrative and some ridiculous set pieces to take part in. Whether it’s taking out an armoured tank on the roads, through to stopping a bus or a train, it is never short of action. Being able to change characters on the fly is a nice touch too; using Dom’s ability to slow down a car transporter, then switching to Letty as she attempts to burst its tyres, is very well done. However, online is a bit of a mess, despite some nice ideas. It’s basically a 3v3v3 affair, with three teams each pursuing their own motive. You can either be a hero, a villain or a cop, and each online game has an objective for each team. As an example, one mission type features the tank from the story mode: the heroes have to stop it, the villains have to help it escape, and the cops have to bust everyone else. What this translates into is a massive ruck in the middle of the map while everyone ignores the actual objective. However, it all falls down to similar control issues that plague both the online and the single player campaign. More on these foibles later!
So, graphically Crossroads is pretty okay. The main characters look like they should, even if someone seems to have inflated Dom’s shirt with helium, and Letty seems to have had a horrible skiing accident, as she has the least convincing walk I’ve ever seen in a video game. The voice acting is pretty good as well, Dom snarls, Letty’s a badass and so on. Even Roman is here with his comedy monologues. The cars look nice as well, in the cutscenes and even in-game, as it appears that everyone in the entire world only wants to play this game in the “behind-the-car, most unrealistic view ever” camera position. At least, I hope everyone in the world wants to play in that view, because it cannot be changed. And what makes it even worse is that the cars, in some missions, have weapons mounted to the roof. Now, normally that wouldn’t be an issue, but in a behind-the-car view, the camera gets close to the rear of the car, and the roof-mounted offensive weaponry blocks your view of the road ahead; just enough for you to crash into something at every single corner. Every. Single. Corner. It’s worse at night, where your only chance of seeing a car in the way is via a weedy set of lights – trying to find your way to where you are meant to be going in the dark is nigh on impossible.
Still, you can overlook a stupid camera system if the game is fun to play, right? Well, I assume that that would be the case, but I can’t be sure as Fast & Furious Crossroads actually isn’t very good to play. The controls are dreadful, and I mean so bad that half the time you hit the E-brake to get round a corner and the car pivots 90 degrees on the spot and crashes into a wall, and the rest of the time you think “I’d best just slow down a tad” and hit the brakes to find the car stopping on a sixpence. Without a word of a lie, I tried to brake in one of the later missions playing as Cam, and the car actually did an endo, the rear wheels coming completely off the floor. Those brakes are a little too sharp.
The cars sail through the air at the slightest provocation like they are full of helium too, the tyres seem to have about the same coefficient of grip as butter, and the way the tracks and directions you are supposed to follow are laid out don’t make any sense. You see a marker in the distance, and thinking that this game will be like Forza Horizon 4, you set off across country to get to it. But that is where you fall into the trap. Quite often you can get close, and then there will be a wall blocking you, or a ridge that looks like all the others you’ve driven over, but the car won’t make it up this one.
A huge part of this game, both online and in the story, revolves around vehicular combat, using a variety of weapons. These include harpoons that can attach to parts of an enemy vehicle and pull them off, through spikes on the wheels like a Roman chariot, right up to hacking enemy vehicles on the fly. This is easier said than done, as hacking requires you to target the enemy vehicle, then partake in a ‘line up the circles’ mini-game, while terrorising through the streets. Add to this nitrous that doesn’t seem to do much except make the screen go blurry so it’s even harder to see where you are driving, and you can see the cars are fully tooled up. All cars have the ability to launch themselves sideways as well, in either direction with a quick jab of either the LB or RB buttons, and smashing enemy cars off bridges and into oncoming traffic is good fun, feeling a lot like Burnout. Seeing “Takedown!” emblazoned across the screen also made me think of Burnout, although this game can’t hold a candle to the daddy of arcade racers.
Now the worst part of things, and it’s kinda a big deal. If I may tootle my trumpet for a moment, I’m pretty good at driving games, and have been playing them for a long time. So please believe me, it’s not sour grapes when I say this: the controls in Fast & Furious Crossroads are dreadful, with as much feel as a dead trout and as much effect on the way your race goes as rubbing your lucky rabbit’s foot. One mission sees Cam trying to win a race on a narrow course in Rio, and without a word of a lie it took me about 15 attempts to get around the course without crashing on every corner. Handbrake turns don’t work, slowing down doesn’t work – you may as well close your eyes and mutter a little prayer every time you come up to a corner, and I feel like you wouldn’t do any worse than if you tried to race properly. The secret to beating this level? Wall grinding – just letting the track take you where you need to go. Although the barriers do seem to be weirdly magnetic, as once you hit them it is hard to drive off them…
In conclusion, I have to use the worst word I know when in the context of reviews: disappointed. I’m disappointed that the source material has been bastardised for this limp excuse for a racing game, and I’m disappointed that the resulting game is such a mess. With dreadful controls, no map of where to go (seriously, this one change alone would make the game so much better), nor any in-game speedo to see how fast you are going, Fast & Furious Crossroads on Xbox One is a massive let down. Online is messy at best, and while the storyline is a corker, the way that every mission seems to play out the same, just in a different place, makes me sad.