There’s an undeniable feeling of dread when it comes to movie-to-game conversions (or, for that matter, any licensed tie in) thanks to years upon years of lacklustre ports.
But, as we discovered in our preview of the new Fast & Furious game, sometimes a bad movie can be just the right mixture of shallow, tough guy characters and superficial action to provide the right foundations for a very decent game.
A strong plot and well developed characters can add a lot to a game, but there are certain genres where such features only serve to slow a game’s momentum. In a racing game, we want to get behind the wheel and race, so it really isn’t important that the walnut gear stick knob has more charisma than the film’s entire cast.
There are enough plot elements sledgehammered into Fast & Furious to keep the film studio’s marketing types happy, but Firemint has successfully moulded the product placement into a very decent racing game.
Rather than simply running laps around a track, we have a high octane racing game requiring you to perform all kinds of motorised challenges, from running massive petrol-carrying road trains off the highway to racing for pink slips, outrunning the competition and scoring the longest, most reckless drifts around winding mountain tracks.
A lot of what we’re seeing in Fast & Furious is a compilation of all the best bits from the previous games - and this is a long running and prolific series, with some excellent action worn into the slick surface of its gaming tyres.
Although a lot of the sequences might be essentially recycled, the overall quality of production has undeniably increased. It’s great being able to cherrypick from the best elements of the Fast and the Furious franchise, and many of the older ones are brought back to life through the outstanding new 3D visuals.
The roads are a bit sparse when it comes to general traffic, which is a bit of a shame since winding through the city streets is always better when you hit commuter queues, but this is more than made up for in the rollercoaster rides of the urban race tracks.
Seeing as most levels aren’t the usual, circular laps, there’s practically no repetition in the racing environments, and they wind, undulate and turn on a hairpin in ways comparable to a console game.
Just as you get the hang of powersliding around a corner, you hit a tight bend with enough of a bump in the road to send your car well off the tarmac and into a breathtaking freefall.
The controls are forgiving enough that with a bit of practice and a lot of recklessness you can recover from these inadvertent stunts by shedding half your rubber on the road and using the opposition as a buffer between you and the wall.
The game does occasionally nod toward the film’s plot, but it manages to convey most of the non-interactive drama through some excellent cut-scenes, which are all presented using the game engine rather than through pre-rendered videos.
This speaks volumes about the slick and speedy code shoring up Fast & Furious’s 3D visuals, and manages to successfully cement the different sections of the game together without any unsightly seams.
In-game money is rarely much of an incentive to win a race, but Fast & Furious adopts the betting system seen in its iPhone bigger brother, Pink Slip. Losing a race means you lose one of your hard earned cars, and that’s some serious motivation that leads to dizzying highs and crushing lows as you steam past the finish line.
What’s rather disappointing, considering the wealth of effort that’s been put into the graphics and gameplay, is that Fast & Furious is practically a silent game. A moderately tuneless ditty repeats ad nauseum in the background, but no screaming engines or skidding rubber is used to help bring the cars to life.Fast & Furious is up against a lot of serious competition in the mobile racing circuit, but it gets enough of a nitro boost from the spectacular visuals and blinding speed to ensure it always stays a bumper’s width ahead of the pack. If racing games are your bag, Fast & Furious should be at the top of your list.