There is an infamous scene in Fast & Furious 6 where the team of ex-street-racers-come-vigilantes try to prevent bad-guy ‘Shaw’ (Luke Evans) from taking off in a plane. They do this by driving cars alongside said plane for 13 minutes. This means the runway would have to be around 26 miles in length.
It makes no sense. The stunts defy both physics and logic. The dialogue is cliché after cliché. But, that’s kind of the point. No one watches a ‘The Fast Saga’ film expecting a deep period drama.
Fast & Furious Crossroads takes the essence of this scene and boils it down into a video game. Which sounds like exactly the sort of enjoyable romp you need after a hard day at work. Cars, action and more plotholes than a block of Emmental, it should be time to crack open the Doritos and Mountain Dew, sit back and relax. Except, Crossroads managed to take the best elements of the movies, makes them slightly worse and then garnish them in a sprinkle of unedifying failures.
The game tries to be a seamless cinematic experience. There are cut scenes that feature the voice talent and visual representation of Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez and Tyrese Gibson who star in the films, but the plot centres around a bunch of new-to-the-series misfits – whose character models are significantly worse than the Hollywood stars – getting caught up with the deadly Tadakhul gang. This then intertwines with the established stars.
The dialogue in Crossroads is no worse than that of a Fast & Furious film, with “Ooooh, shit!” being the most poignant thing spoken. Much like the films though, you don’t play Crossroads for a Christopher Nolan-style labyrinthine plot; you’ll want to play it for the explosions and set pieces.
This makes the decision to almost split the game into what feels like a 40:60 ratio between cut scenes and gameplay a rather strange one. The flow is interrupted most of the time by loading screens interjected between the two, which is more jarring than a headbutt from Jason Statham. Gameplay consists of simply fetch quests, two stealth-ish missions and lots of big set pieces like trying to stop a train with roof-mounted RPG or evading the police during a car chase.
Most levels are very short, and when they get longer in the game’s final throes, the elongation of gameplay looks desperate. There are visible elements of an underground tunnel, for example, which just seem to be copied and pasted to make it longer. Likewise, during the damp squib of a finale, the level is stretched out seemingly for the sake of it.
Initially, I assumed that the locations were open world – they certainly look that way at first glance – but in truth you are confined to set paths. One mission will have you driving into Barcelona’s city centre, the next will have you driving back out, along the same route in reverse. Then you’ll do this a further two or three times at night. At one point, a character mentions the familiarity of the route. If this was meant to be a clever quip, it falls flat on its face.
The biggest letdown is the way the cars drive. I was expecting something along the lines of Need for Speed or Burnout, where there’s a satisfaction in holding a lurid slide. Alas not. Drifting around the corner feels as if you are on ice, the net result that you will smash into a wall at almost every turn. Being smooth simply isn’t an option. At least there is a variety of cars, from an electric Jaguar I-PACE through to the latest Ford GT.
That’s a problem, because a lot of the time you are hurtling down a busy road filled with traffic. The imprecision of the controls means avoiding oncoming cars is mostly luck. If you do hit one though, they are lighter than a packet of Quavers, simply being smashed out of the way. Unless you hit a parked car, which is rock solid and will stop your vehicle. Nice consistency, there.
Away from the main campaign, there is also online multiplayer. This is entitled ‘Online Ops’ and involves three teams – Heroes, Villains and Cops – with three players on each team. You complete missions, such as trying to protect or attack a tank as it tries to reach a location. I found it very difficult to find enough players to get games going and when the requisite number arrived, it took over three and a half minutes for all the players to load into the level.
Here, weirdly, the levels are much more open compared with single-player. There were clearly plans for this to be a signature element, as you can earn XP to rise through levels, unlock new cars and even receive ‘drops’ with new machines. There’s even a season pass plus plenty of online-related trophies. The chances of it building a sustained online community are slim.
I actually believe that Fast & Furious lends itself very well to being a video game. I could see a story-driven single-player action title, a free-to-play multiplayer heist game or an open world Grand Theft Auto rival, but trying to crunch down all of those ideas into one game simply hasn’t worked. I don’t know of the challenges the development team faced when creating Crossroads, but if I were to guess, it would be scope creep, budget constraints and an ever-oppressive deadline to try and release alongside a now-delayed movie.