Fast & Furious Crossroads review - a car crash
First off, cards on the table. I'm firmly, enthusiastically and, as friends who have suffered through my various rants will tell you, vocally of the opinion that the Fast & Furious series is the best thing to come out of modern-day Hollywood. It's inventive, inclusive, hilariously over-the-top with the warmest of hearts - and when Paul Walker scrambles along the top of a bus teetering over a cliff-edge I put it up there with anything by Kubrick when it comes to cinema as a spectacle (also at the end of Fast & Furious 7 I was one of around half-a-dozen people who sulked off to the toilet for a quiet cry, because of course one of cinema's most emotional moments stars a Supra Mk4).
So yeah, I'm a Fast & Furious fan, and with the release of F9 now postponed until next year the prospect of getting an injection of nitrous, adrenaline and out-and-out entertainment the series provides was more than welcome. And Fast & Furious Crossroads is by some margin the most promising crossover yet - its development has been an open secret for years, with automotive experts Slightly Mad Studios teaming up with Vin Diesel's own Tigon Studios, and with Diesel himself onboard as Dominic Toretto, bringing Michelle Rodriguez and Tyrese Gibson along for the ride as they reprise their roles in support of a new cast of characters. It should be brilliant.
But something here has gone horribly, horribly wrong.
First, though, it's worth taking stock of what works - and there is a fair amount. Fast & Furious Crossroads' story is incoherent, full of wild leaps of logic and completely, utterly mad - which is precisely as it should be. The two new leads are simply fantastic, Sonequa Martin-Green - Star Trek: Discovery's Michael Burnham - fizzing nicely along with Billions' Asia Kate-Dillon, the presence of a non-binary lead in keeping with Fast & Furious' gently progressive ways. Peter Stormare does his Peter Stormare thing as the boss of the comically sinister criminal organisation you uncover and unravel, and Tyrese Gibson is as up for it as he ever is as Roman Pearce. Even Michelle Rodriguez and Vin Diesel seem game.
The cars are fantastic, as you'd hope, littered with the great and the good of Fast & Furious' past - indeed, Crossroads is as big a fan of the series as anyone. You can even sense that in the nuts and bolts of Crossroads' crunchy, combat heavy action - when it's firing on all cylinders, it's about getting a team of over-powered automotive superheroes to work together with their unique abilities to perform impossible tasks. Take down a tank! Jump on to a speeding train! Drag a wrecking ball across the deck of a well-stocked air carrier, leaving a trail of sparks and fury in your wake!
There are the bare bones of a fantastic Fast & Furious game in Crossroads, essentially - yet somehow it ends up only a mite better than 2013's risible Showdown. The execution here is simply atrocious - the camera pounces around wildly and beyond your control, the one angle you're afforded bizarrely unable to even adequately frame the car you're driving. The cars themselves bound around as if they're not quite sure what kind of game they're supposed to be in - you can activate easy drifts and sharp e-brake turns, but most of the time you'll be bouncing between scenery and absent-minded AI traffic.
It's such a confused thing. Crossroads offers up impressive takes on cities like Barcelona and New Orleans then does little beyond making you drive from point to point with absolutely no option to deviate from the critical path. Move away from driving point to point and it's even more confused. There's one mission that asks you to destroy a van by ramming into it, while also making sure not to rouse their suspicion. Most of the time, though, you'll simply be fighting the camera or replaying missions after failing to meet one of their poorly communicated objectives (one small mercy is a checkpoint system that's generous). It's all so basic, so lacking polish and so packed full of fundamental oversights and errors you've got to wonder what calamity befell its development - it feels as if someone had a decent idea for a Fast & Furious game, got a couple of weeks into development then realised it wouldn't work with the tools at hand and abandoned it. And then put it in a box and asked fifty quid for it four years later.
Even at a fiver it'd be hard to overlook Fast & Furious Crossroads' faults, so fragile is its action. The campaign can be clocked in around five hours, though you certainly wouldn't want any more of it. If you did crave some more wayward, unreadable and unpolished car combat the multiplayer won't offer much respite. Again there's a kernel of a great idea - three teams of three face off against each other in objective-based operations, with heroes and villains working to protect a vehicle plucked from one of Crossroads' set-pieces - but in practice cars rubber band wildly in a clumsy chaos. At least that's what happened the one time I got a match - the rest of the weekend was sent sitting in lobbies waiting for other players to arrive without any joy.
Don't rush out to get that season pass, basically, and I wouldn't be reaching into my pocket to hand over any amount of money for the rest of it any time soon either. Perhaps the biggest frustration, coming to Crossroads as a Fast & Furious fan, is those glimpses of what could have been, and seeing an enjoyable enough slice of series lore being under-served so severely by the game behind it. In a saner, less cruel world Crossroads might have been put to rest when it became clear it just wasn't going to work - as it is, it's just been left to limp out in this sorry, sorry state. What a disappointment.