Every time a new instalment of the Fast and Furious movie franchise is released I often watch the film and think to myself; that would make for a great game. Car Racing and Action Adventure sequences fused together sounds like a perfect mix, right? I picture arcade racers such as Burnout, Split/Second or even Need for Speed and think that if you were to add some guns into the mix you could have a really enjoyable video game film tie-in with a truckload of potential.
It is a shame then that with the release of Fast & Furious: Showdown, this potential has not been delivered upon. Developed by Firebrand and published by Activison the game disappoints on nearly all levels and doesn’t do the film franchise any justice.
The game acts as a semi prequel to the sixth instalment of the film franchise while also recapping previous elements of the franchise to bring players up to speed with the mythology of the Fast & Furious world.
The campaign is broken into ten chapters and starts with a cutscene of new recruit Riley Hicks (who in the film franchise works alongside Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson’s character) learning about a new heist team lead by Owen Shaw. She is being brought up to speed by another agent and after an initial cutscene the gameplay moves to a flashback where the player takes charge of Owen Shaw in a scene reminiscent to the start of Fast & Furious 6.
As the campaign then progresses, Riley learns more about Shaw’s gang and the links they have to the Toretto crew (led by Vin Diesel’s character). As the story continues we flash back to different moments within the Fast & Furious franchise and players take the role of one of the crew members to relive important movie moments. It sounds perfect, but falls flat from the very start.
The handling of the cars are really clumsy. For a racing game this is a key component of gameplay and it is a shame that the game fails massively in getting the basics right. The cars are unresponsive and fall too heavy. Drifting is clumsy and the control of the cars is hard to execute to a good standard. There are also different vehicles throughout the game, but most feel similar in terms of control and speed.
There is no difficulty setting on the game either and it wasn’t until chapter six that I found the game becoming difficult. The aim of the mission was to win the race but because of the poor handling this was hard to achieve. After multiple attempts at the level however I changed to the other playable character for the mission and completed it with no difficulty at all, the only difference being the other playable character had a different car.
As we continue to talk about gameplay, it would be remiss to only focus around the driving as there is also the action / shooting scenes. The action missions see you shooting at rivals with a pistol, machine gun or EMP gun instead of sitting behind the driving wheel. These are enjoyable but the default auto aim system is actually really unhelpful in finding target. The aim system, achieved by pulling a trigger button, slows down time but it really makes it difficult to get a good aim on the enemies. It also feels a little slow when focusing on cars coming from behind. They don’t drive out of traffic, but instead appear from nowhere on the horizon and then start smashing into the side of you. It is very quickly that the novelty of playing as Paul Walker or Michelle Rodriguez, hanging out of a car shooting out tyres of enemy cars wears off pretty quickly.
As I would have expected from a Fast & Furious game, you can mod and customise cars. Mods are unlocked from completing certain missions and challenges, which can add to the gameplay. Sometimes it is worth revisiting the mod screen as you have weapon mods or car mods, so it depends what your mission objective is to what you will want to use. The best mods I found increased my top speed, increased the damage my car could take and also give me a small boost for when I successfully drifted around corners, however there are multiple options to tailor towards your game style.
Then we move onto vehicle customisation, which is another component of the game that falls short, as it is not as detailed as I wanted. Again, this works on an unlock system for paints and decals, similar to the mod system unlock, but is not nearly as customisable as other racing games that are currently on the market. Getting the customisation correct would have been an easy win for the game, but it just becomes another disappointing aspect of it.
As we mentioned earlier, you get to play as characters from the film franchise, so it is also worth noting the graphics and sound. The graphics of the game look really dated, especially the background scenery, but also with the cars and customisation I mentioned earlier. I would expect to be able to see and do so much more, but the game just doesn’t deliver.
The voice acing doesn’t impress either, with actors hired in to do their best impersonations of the movie stars. Again, it is a real shame, because if nothing else they could have tried to just use film dialogue from the six films out there to shape the story and improve the experience in making it feel more authentic to the film franchise.
Finally there are some game modes outside of the campaign. There is a challenge mode, which has seven different challenges, each containing three different levels and objectives and there is a multiplayer option including a co-operative mission. However by the time you have dipped your toes into any of these elements of the game you are ready to put the game down due mainly to the poor controls mentioned earlier.
It is a shame then that game fails to deliver. I do think however that the Fast & Furious films have got better and better since the fourth instalment, so maybe we just have to put up with a few more terrible Fast & Furious games before a half decent one comes along. Although I think that’s wishful thinking more than anything. I would recommend you save your money and buy the boxset or get yourself to the cinema, as the experience of watching the films will be a much more enjoyable one.