Movie tie-ins have had a long and storied history when it comes to the video game world. A few are superb. More are half-decent. Most are average. But when it comes down to it, an awful lot of them are appallingly rushed titles that tick some of the fanservice boxes and then go easy on the gameplay.
Fast and Furious: Showdown is one of those games, although barring the fact it uses a logo that looks like the one on the film posters, it doesn’t do much for fans of the high-action movie franchise.
From the unfathomable storyline told via the medium of the tedious, overplayed cut-scene, to the laughable physics engine, there’s very little to like here. None of the actors from the movies have reprised their roles, meaning that sound-alikes have been used. Sound-alikes that appear to have never seen a movie, watched television, or done so much as a season of dinner theatre before in their lives. That, we could live with. After all, some games have diabolical voiceover work going on, and turn out to be quite playable.
Not so, here. Showdown sets you up to play through 10 chapters of the sort of highly-polished, eye-wateringly fast driving and shooting craziness that you’re aware of if you’ve ever so much as caught a glimpse of a trailer for one of the movies. After half an hour of play, you’ll have taken part in a race, hijacked a moving petrol tanker, taken part in a high-speed shootout, and avoided the police as you and your partner burn through a crowded city, dragging a safe that’s chained to the back of your car. The problem is that for all the excitement you’ll have gotten out of it, you may as well have stayed in bed.
Take that safe-dragging event as a starting point. On the surface, it’s an interesting – yet completely insane – idea for a level. You and your partner are both chained to the same safe, so you have to work together in order to steer around obstacles and outwit the police, all whilst keeping your foot flat to the boards so you can make a hasty getaway. Unfortunately, all you actually get is an experience where your car doesn’t turn quite a sharply as it should. Your partner can turn around and drive in the opposite direction through the terribly rendered streets whilst still being tied to you, and it doesn’t slow you down.
The problem with Fast and Furious: Showdown is not the execution of the odd level, though. It’s the execution of EVERY level. From the very first level, where you're flipping trucks and buses over as if they were made of air, to the final showdown, it's all bad. Opposition vehicles fly all over the show, but yours all handle as if they’re made out of 20-ton blocks, so races are all but impossible to drive clean. Not that it matters, given that the horrific rubber-band AI means that you can just trundle along at any old speed and then put your foot down on the final lap and win.
The whole game feels massively unfinished too, mainly due to the sheer number of illusion-shattering bugs that appear throughout. “You have 2 minutes to reach the truck and hijack it!” tasks one early level, right before you fail with 50 seconds to spare as even though you were right behind the truck, you were classed as being too far away. With 200 yards to go in a race, driving down the middle of an empty highway, it appears to be at the discretion of the game as to whether or not it randomly decides to tell you that you’ve wrecked your car and that you have to start again. In 2nd place on the final lap of a race? That’s tough, man. Not to worry, since there’s a good chance that you’ll cross the finish line on the third lap of three, only to find that the game hasn’t counted that lap and that you get another go-round in order to catch up. One of the worst is when you end up getting out of your car and jumping onto the roof of a truck at the EXACT POINT THAT THE GAME TELLS YOU TO, only to find that the screen goes black, and you’re then magically transported back in time by 30 seconds in order to try it again. No death animation. No failure message. Just…do it again.
We’d also like to ask the developer why they think that someone leaning out of a car window with a gun isn’t susceptible to the laws of physics, as your character has the perfect steady aim no matter if the car is going over a jump or drifting round a bend. While we’re talking of drifting, we may as well mention the fact that drifts are horrid, uncontrollable gambles, as are jumps and nitrous boosts. No matter how well you line up that jump, the car will pretty much always end up facing the wrong way. No matter how much space you have in front of you, that nitrous boost will end up smashing you into the back of one of those rubber-band AI opponents. No matter how used to drifting you get, you’ll find that the car will randomly, suddenly, and unexplainably either just stop dead mid-drift or the back end will fly out, equally as improbably.
But the biggest fly in the particularly fly-ridden ointment, is the game’s length. The single player/co-op mode can be completed in the time it takes to watch ONE of the movies that it’s based on (with the trailers, we grant you) and when you consider that Activision has the sheer brass neck to charge £30 for this, that’s just nothing like good enough. Sure, you can go back and try to complete some pathetic challenges, or try to unlock new items so that you can mod your car (not that the mods make any difference to gameplay whatsoever) but you just won’t want to. Saying that, maybe keeping the game short was a good idea. After all, if the single player mode had taken five or six hours to complete, there’s a good chance that everyone who played it would have actually gone insane before they’d completed the game.
Oh, and Vin Diesel is nowhere to be found. Presumably, he had the good sense to request to be left out.
In the cinemas, the Fast and Furious franchise continues to do brisk business regardless of the quality of each movie. We’re hoping that can’t be said of the game as quite frankly, we don’t think the publisher and developer should be able to take any sort of heart from this insulting mess that is – quite obviously – a title that was developed for iPad and iPhone and then rush-ported as soon as everyone suddenly got excited about the movie. Absolutely diabolical.