Though all of the action in Fast & Furious Crossroads, the star-studded video game side story to the long-running film franchise, involves driving a car, there are no speedometers. The only speed is fast. Unless you’re tailing a van owned by the Barcelona mob. Then it’s slow, though probably also furious. Crossroads isn’t a great game, but it’s not without its garbage movie charm.
Fast & Furious Crossroads begins with husband and wife team Dom and Letty, voiced by Vin Diesel and Michelle Rodriguez, chasing down a guy in a flamethrower-equipped tank, because sometimes a tank just isn’t enough. Letty uses her car’s special ability to harpoon the three flamethrowers off the back of the tank. Then it’s Dom’s turn. Letty says she wishes she had guns. Dom growls, “I got something better.” We switch control to his car as blades pop out from the rims of his tires.
Better than guns. Dom uses the thick, metal spinny things to run the tank off the road. The driver is a member of the Tadakhul Syndicate, an ancient gang of nefarious highway-persons, who vows revenge.
Cut to Barcelona, where we meet the new crew. This is a Fast & Furious side story, so we get a new cast of characters. Vienna Cole and Cam Stone are best friends who fled from the racing nightlife of Miami for a quieter life in Spain. Unfortunately Vienna’s boyfriend, Sebastian Miro, owes the Tadakhul Syndicate a large sum of money, so the new crew either has to cough up the dough or take Tadakhul down, with a little help from some old Fast & Furious favourites. The trio figure they have an advantage because the ancient syndicate is used to defending itself against rival gangs and won’t see three amateurs coming. Really.
It’s certainly on-brand. The game feels like a Fast & Furious film. There are late-night street races. Large, unwieldy action pieces with ridiculous vehicles in ridiculous circumstances. The police only engage in pursuit when scripted to do so, otherwise driving down the road ignoring the action with the rest of traffic.
The game’s dialog is stupid, but the actors are pretty good. Vienna Cole is portrayed by Sonequa Martin-Green, who also plays Michael Burnham in Star Trek Discovery. She does an excellent job of playing the ex-racer who gets dragged back in for one last big score. I also really enjoy Vienna’s nonbinary best friend Cam, voiced by nonbinary actor Asia Kate Dillon. The pair make a compelling team. I wish they were in a better game.
But they are not in a better game. They are in Fast & Furious Crossroads, where the street markers are confusing, the sports cars handle like minivans, and many vehicles have special abilities like harpoon guns, whirling wheel blades, nitrous boosts, or hacking. That’s right, Cam Stone is a hardcore hacker who can disable police cars while driving down the highway at high speed.
They can also do it while parked, but that’s not as fun.
There’s a race early on that I kept restarting because there was no way I was going to win, only to eventually discover there was no way for me to win in the first place. Though my character speaks as if they are in the lead, they are actually in fourth place out of four for most of the circuit. Instead of reaching the finish line, a cutscene occurs, totalling my vehicle. Look, video game, you told me to win the race. That’s what I was trying to do.
The driving in Fast & Furious Crossroads isn’t the best. The highways of Barcelona, the game’s starting location, are littered with parked busses, construction projects, and floating yellow arrows meant to keep me on my path. Sometimes the player is given freedom to choose their own route to their destination. Other times they’re restricted to a set path. The PC version, which I played, doesn’t even allow keyboard and mouse control. It’s a very uneven experience.
And then there’s the lengths the game goes to get you behind the wheel. Since all the action is driving and the story unfolds through non-interactive cutscenes, Crossroads features a lot of unnecessary driving. Drive to the police impound. Now drive as your friend to the police impound. There’s a big race tonight; drive the racing fuel home quickly but also carefully, so it doesn’t explode. Tail that Tadakhul Syndicate van to its destination so you can get noticed by one of the game’s big bad guys.
I do enjoy the game’s more elaborate driving setpieces. When the player gets to switch between different vehicles and racers while, say, trying to take down the dirty cops pursuing you for stealing sports cars, that’s fun stuff. I enjoy shunting cars off the road, Burnout style. I wish it felt more like, well, Burnout, but developer Slightly Mad Studios has been known to pump out an entertaining racing game or two.
The most impressive thing about Fast & Furious Crossroads is the balls of Bandai Namco to release it as a full, $80 video game. This is budget fare at best. I would go as far as calling it the best of budget fare, but there’s not a whole lot of game here. Players who’ve completed the game are reporting five hours of playtime between driving and cutscenes. There’s also an online multiplayer mode with three teams of three players cast as heroes, villains, and cops, which sounds like it would be neat if people were playing it.
Fast & Furious Crossroads has great cars, great stars, a silly action movie story, and gameplay that could be a whole lot worse. It’s the video game equivalent of a direct-to-video sequel, only Bandai Namco’s decided to take their chances releasing it in theatres. It’s worth playing, but I’d wait until it’s much cheaper.
Fast & Furious Crossroads is now available for PC, PS4, and Xbox One.