Activision lives their life a quarter mile at a time. Instead of consistently trying to wow us with impressive new IPs that will be around for the long haul, the majority of their slate are shovelware tie-ins that will be forgotten by the time the property hits Blu-ray. In the last year alone, the studio has treated us to such fine gems as The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct, 007 Legends and Family Guy: Back to the Multiverse. So when the video game rights to The Fast and the Furious franchise fell into their lap, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that we weren’t treated to a blockbuster action/racing title, but instead a piece of Vin Diesel-less crap from Firebrand Games, the company responsible for the Nintendo DS ports of Cars 2, Planet 51 and Hot Wheels Track Attack. Instead of handing off one of the most lucrative film franchises of all times to a somewhat competent developer, we have a game by a studio that does handheld ports of shovelware. This is a low point even for Paul Walker.
While most attempts at a Fast and Furious game have focused squarely on racing, Showdown features multiple types of levels, ranging from standard racing to tearing down radio towers. While aspiring for something more than simply slapping the F&F logo and Michelle Rodreguiez on a generic racing game is commendable, not fully realizing any of it makes the decision regrettable. The game is separated into ten parts each comprised of up to five events, almost all taking place in a different area. While that seems like a lot of levels at first glance, there’s only eight areas; eight horribly sparse areas. There’s Buenos Aires (generic urban environment), Mexico (a “throw everything sandy in” cross between Africa, Palm Springs and Arizona) Los Angeles (a dark interstate), Moscow (a slightly more depressed urban environment) and more. Each part generally starts with a race before four devastating similar events. The Mexico area, for instance, has five missions in a row where you simply shoot a chain gun or drive while friendly AI shoots a chain gun. This makes progression through the game incredibly tedious and makes you question why they didn’t mix up the different locations and levels to better hide the fact that the game is so sparse.
There’s all types of events, but none are executed well. Throughout your increasingly awful experience, expect to do film-inspired things like flip over multiple trucks with a dune buggy, drag a safe through city streets, evade the cops, park your car into a trailer and jump onto moving cars. Every event is poorly thought out and executed worse, with common flubs like a gigantic safe slingshotting like a ragdoll ahead of the cars pulling it and a just hi-jacked moving tanker truck suddenly having nitrous once you take command — things that are physically impossible, even by Fast and Furious standards. The pococurante game design would be flippant enough if not for the fact that cars control so horrendously. Yes, Showdown is a Fast and Furious game where even the driving isn’t fun. While things would have been at least somewhat enjoyable if this was a Burnout-style arcade affair, Firebrand decided to make it a racing simulator. Or at least an arcade racing game where cars control like potatoes rolling down a hill; it’s hard to tell when making tight turns is almost impossible without drastically slowing down or drifting more ineptly than Lil’ Bow Wow in Tokyo Drift.
Surprisingly enough, the majority of the cast from Fast and Furious 6 appear here, with the exception of Vin Diesel who had the good sense not sign away his likeness for thirty five dollars. And that man was in The Pacifier. Of course, the rest of the Paul Walker-lead crew is here in likeness only, with abhorrent voice actors filling in instead. Believe it or not, the soundtrack is comprised of actual hip hop and pop songs and not just generic guitar shredding or dubstep. I don’t say “licensed songs,” however, because Google and Shazam as I tried, I could not find any evidence of their existence. The very small handful of tracks sound predominately like Soulja Boy “Souljaboytellem.com” era stuff, with excruciating looped lyrics like “Let’s roll, let’s rock, drive slow, hit the block.”
Those with even a shred of self-respect should head to a seedy truck stop, bowling alley or other similar establishment and use the forty dollars this retails for to instead play the vastly superior The Fast and the Furious arcade game. And when most of the time playing a game is spent longing about an experience at a truck stop, something has gone horribly awry. Tie-ins are expected to be second rate, but at least give a halfhearted attempt at some braindead fun instead of picking quite possibly the most pathetic development résume to take advantage of an uninformed fanbase. We’re talking about a video game adaption of a film that has a car crash through the cockpit of a cargo plane; it’s offensive that this isn’t at least remotely fun to play.
Version Reviewed: Xbox 360