At The Game Awards last year, actors Vin Diesel and Michelle Rodriguez giggled on stage as they fawned over their mutual love of gaming. It was a cute moment for the Fast and Furious series stars—it read as genuine, like they were just happy to be there. Such has always been the charm of the Fast and Furious series; a humble aura floats around its ever-likable cast. Diesel and Rodriguez were there to give the biggest award of the night—Game of the Year, of course—but also to reveal a new game starring, well, them. That game is Fast and Furious Crossroads, a game bridging the gap from The Fate of the Furious to F9.
Then the pandemic happened.
As COVID-19 has destroyed lives, the world is dealing with its impact on every facet of life. (Particularly the United States.). Entertainment in particular has been affected in a major way. Halo Infinite was delayed just last week, and blockbuster after blockbuster movie has seen a delay to next year or a pivot to streaming. One of those blockbusters was F9, the ninth Fast and Furious movie. It was delayed an entire year into 2021. Its game did not suffer a similar fate.
Alas, Fast and Furious Crossroads is out now following a short delay from its original May 2020 release. I wouldn't blame you if you didn't even know of its existence though. Following its big reveal at The Game Awards, we heard virtually nothing from the Bandai Namco published, Slightly Mad Studios-developed game. It was as if they were trying to bury the game before its release. The footage that did drip out was underwhelming. We at USgamer didn't even get a review code in the weeks following up to its release, and neither did anyone else. I got my code on the evening of Tuesday, Aug. 11, days after its launch on Aug. 8.
So how is it? It's not great, as other critics and fans have already surmised. Some have criticized its short length, but I haven't yet seen it through after a couple hours. I've instead found myself astoundingly bored while playing it.
It doesn't get everything wrong, though. Fast and Furious hasn't really been about cars and racing for a long time now. It's evolved into a high-velocity action series, and cars are merely the glue that binds it all together. You'll see tricked out cars—even zombie cars—but mostly, we're there for the family that is Vin Diesel, Sung Kang, Michelle Rodriguez, the late and great Paul Walker, The Rock, and many more. Where the Mission: Impossible series's charm is the escalation of Tom Cruise nearly killing himself by performing his own stunts, Fast and Furious's appeal is in its ensemble cast. (And those setpieces, of course.)
Fast and Furious Crossroads seems to understand this—so much so that it omits even a speedometer. When you rev the engine, you accelerate from 1 mile per hour seemingly to 100 mph. Igniting NOS takes you even faster. There's a lot of banter between characters, both new and old. The plot doesn't feel out of sorts with the lineage of the universe. Peter Stormare is the villain of the week, for some reason.
The problem is the gameplay doesn't feel great. The cars control too loosely for my liking, making drifts hard to hook, and driving generally annoying. It largely comes down to the knick knacks each driver comes equipped with. In the opening mission, Letty has a grappling hook, which she uses to yank things off cars with. Dom, meanwhile, gets outfitted with spikey things on the sides of his tires, which he can then slam into other vehicles to damage. New character Cam is able to hack cars to crash, and so on. The concepts are clever, as is the D-pad controlled switching from driver to driver in missions, but it's all somehow never fun to mess around with.
Fast and Furious Crossroads's missions are usually centered around some mechanical conceit, or are simply about driving from point A to point B. There's even a tedious tailing mission in its opening hours. The most frustrating thing about Crossroads is that these ideas aren't inherently bad—it's just the execution makes it incredibly dull to play. Cutscene transitions are always jarring. The character models are on par with Halo Infinite's now-infamous Grunt, which is surprising considering the A-list talent that's involved. The voice acting is a mixture of solid (it even features new characters, like one played by Asia Kate Dillon of John Wick 3 and Billions fame) and folks sounding like they recorded their lines first thing when they woke up for the day. What Crossroads is lacking most is polish; it feels like it really could have used that extra year in development like its film counterpart.
Playing Crossroads reminds me of when we were inundated with bad official licensed games. Nowadays, those sorts of games are relegated to slim mobile offerings, mostly of the free-to-play variety. There are a few memorable movie tie-in games from over the years. WayForward's The Mummy Demastered was better than it had any right to be; fans are still begging for the Scott Pilgrim game to make its return to storefronts, and the Chronicles of Riddick games on PC, Xbox, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360 (also starring Vin Diesel) are renowned for being far better than their film counterparts. Of course, the golden era of licensed games was the '90s, when the likes of The Lion King, Aladdin, and Toy Story graced the SNES.
Alas, Fast and Furious Crossroads does not find itself among that crowd. Instead, it's just forgettable—something that could really only be said about Fast 4 in the series. It's not offensively bad, nor is it good by any measure. It simply just is. I only kept playing it past its first hour because I couldn't figure out which K-Drama to start up next over the weekend.
If it controlled better, perhaps it would feel less like a disappointment. The ideas of how to make a vehicular action game are there, but it never reaches the high speeds of others in the slim genre. In trying to bridge the gap between action and racing, it ultimately falters, and lets down those giddy action stars that once fumbled through their lines on The Game Awards stage. For a staggering $60 asking price, I can't even see the most diehard Fast fans buying in.