The Fast and the Furious

We go hands-on and report back with quite possibly the biggest preview on the web.
Author: Sam Bishop
Published: September 7, 2006
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The irony isn't lost on us; a movie that personified everything that was Hollywood about taking something and boiling it down into the most bare, marketable, vapid parts of a culture -- in this case the street racing scene -- gets a game based on this property, and turns it into one of the most hardcore, loving, passionate approaches to the same scene we've ever seen. The Fast and the Furious might share a name with the Universal property, but as a licensed game, it's about as far from the source material's shallow interpretation of the inspiration as a game can get. It's the anti-licensed game.

And yet, for all the steps the game takes to move away from being as trite as the movies have been, the core of the experience, the idea of taking an off-the-lot car and making it a beat machine, this hasn't been diluted in the least. Quite the opposite, in fact; Fast/Furious lovingly embraces the idea that the original film sought to convey: American muscle vs. Japanese style -- and all carried out on the battlefield that is the highways of Tokyo.

Now granted, this is the setting for the third (and arguably best) of the Furious films, but it also makes the most sense for a game. You can happily mix flat out highway battles with the more nuanced (and, the producers would argue, under-utilized/executed) dance of drift racing -- if you will, the touge ballet. As we've discovered in our extensive hands-on time with a fairly complete build of the game, this is a dichotomy that is perfectly suited for a game. It's the yin/yang mash-up of speed vs. finesse, which is about as perfect a breakdown as you could get in a comparisons of the racing scenes born from Detroit and Tokyo.

Like all good racers, you're teased right from the start with a suped-up machine. Given the reins of a four wheeled beast, you're guided to a flat-out stretch of freeway to spank some chump who is apparently all talk. This is done easily enough, thanks to copious nitrous reserves, and of course it gives you the perfect glimpse of the kind of speed you'll get with the latter parts of the game. Of course, once the race is over and the winnings pocketed, you're off to buy your own -- significantly less powerful -- ride from Toyota ('86 Levin GT-Apex, '86 Sprinter Trueno, '99 MR-S S-Edition, '02 MR-S V-Edition, '00 MR-S VM180 TRD), Nissan ('89 Silvia S13 K's, '96 180SX Type X, '93 Silvia S14 K's Aero, '93 Silvia S14 Q's Aero), Ford (SVT Focus), Honda ('06 Civic EX 1.8 VTEC,), Acura ('97 Integra Type-R, '98 Integra Type-R), Mitsubishi ('99 Eclipse GSX, ), Mazda ('90 RX-7 Infini IV) and Scion ('05 tC).

Properly hooked by the intro to the game, we took our time goofing around with the highway battles. After years of carefully memorizing the intricately modeled curves of Tokyo Xtreme Racer, we wanted to see how it would feel to zip around something that felt familiar, but was a little different. And it was different; aside from the bridges, the two games don't really share anything in common (if we've got our geography right, and it's likely we don't, the wangan where F/F takes place is on the other side of the bridges near the mountains, whereas TXR stays in the city). This works out beautifully, as the lengthy stretches of highway are impromptu drag races where pure horsepower wins out -- though proper shifting doesn't hurt either.

To get the full experience, we killed the assists and switched to manual shifts, using L2 and R2 to upshift and downshift. Namco and developer Eutechnyx (who worked on Street Racing Syndicate and Big Mutha Truckers, though we won't hold that against them) had full access to Universal's sound libraries from the movies, and it shows. The thick clunk of shifting gears, the whine and hiss of nitrous being released and the sweet, sweet moan of throaty engines roaring down the rain-slicked Tokyo byways are all wonderfully utilized. We even tried double-clutching for kicks and found that a) we suck at it, and b) the game isn't especially well suited to it -- at least not in our low-end cars.

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