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A series of cars line up to race Image: Slightly Mad Studios/Bandai Namco Entertainment

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Fast & Furious Crossroads review: This isn’t how you treat family

A fun movie franchise gets a snore of a tie-in game

Did you know Fast & Furious Crossroads existed before last week, when the game was released on PlayStation 4, Windows PC, and Xbox One?

The game enjoyed almost zero buzz, aside from a trailer debut in 2019 at The Game Awards. No review copies were sent to press, and there didn’t seem to be any kind of marketing campaign for it — a bizarre situation for a licensed game that ties into one of the most successful movie franchises of all time. It features the likeness and voice acting talents of stars Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Sonequa Martin-Green, Peter Stormare, and Asia Kate Dillon, among others.

Despite Fast & Furious Crossroads’ impressive cast and the success of its source material — although its release feels a little more random, now that the latest Fast and Furious movie has been delayed for a year — it seems as if the game was sent out into the world to die a quick, hopefully silent death, never to be talked about again.

I understand that impulse, especially after playing the game itself. Fast & Furious Crossroads isn’t a total wreck, but its many basic problems destroy any chance it had at being enjoyable.

A criminal underground of highway thieves

Crossroads introduces a new crew of street racers and outlaws led by Vienna Cole (Martin-Green). They operate in the world of the Fast and Furious films, and when they find themselves in over their heads, they reach out to a contact who might be able to help: Letty (Rodriguez), who gets the rest of the “family” involved.

The story involves a secret, historic underground criminal organization of highway thieves that clashes with the game’s heroes, raising the stakes until cars are flying through the air, wrecking balls get involved, and vehicles get turned into mobile hacking platforms. It’s about what you’d expect from a Fast and Furious story: minimal logic, but lots of mayhem. The voice actors all sound like they’re actually trying, which is a positive sign in this kind of licensed game, but the rest of Crossroads can’t keep up with the cast’s efforts to make something out of this mess.

A black muscle car Image: Slightly Mad Studios/Bandai Namco Entertainment

You’ll control different characters in each mission, sometimes jumping between them multiple times in a single mission, although the game will tell you when to do so. All the big stars are there, but it’s the newer cast members who do most of the heavy lifting. I don’t want to even guess at whether any of this is considered canon, or what that would even mean for this particular franchise.

Crossroads is not a racing game, since so few of the missions involve racing. It’s not an open-world game, since there’s no open world, and almost no freedom in how you tackle each mission or even how you get to the next section. It plays out like this: You learn something about the story, drive to the next area, maybe fight some other cars on the way, maybe do some stunts, maybe racing, maybe just driving. And then there’s another cutscene, and afterward, you drive somewhere else.

There is no overworld map, and no way to explore these environments on your own. Instead, the campaign involves bits of driving separated by cutscenes of characters talking to each other, before you’re back on the road driving to your next destination. Sometimes that drive is a race; other times, you’ll need to battle rolling weapons platforms; and sometimes you’re just ... driving to get somewhere.

Which is a problem, because the driving is atrocious. Each journey from point A to point B keeps you boxed into a single path, and that path is poorly communicated. That led to multiple crashes where I thought I could go somewhere, only to slam into an invisible wall. The game includes takedown attacks that you can use to slam enemy cars into each other or the sides of the road, seemingly lifted straight from the Burnout series, but without any of that series’ attention to detail or sense of fun.

Cars race through a construction site
This mostly just makes me want a new Burnout game.
Image: Slightly Mad Studios/Bandai Namco Entertainment

There is a single camera angle, and it does a poor job of showing what’s going on. You can play with a keyboard on the PC, but the game won’t tell you which buttons do what, showing only prompts for controllers. When and if you manage to successfully guess which buttons do what, just be aware that you’re stuck with that configuration, since there’s no way to remap the keyboard controls at all.

Crossroads explains so little. Despite admiring the idea of a perilous drive in which I was carrying a volatile form of fuel that could blow up if I got into a crash, it was tedious to actually do it. I was able to crash into so many things before the game finally told me that enough is enough. What’s the difference between the first head-on collision and the third? I don’t know.

The game would never tell me when my cargo was close to blowing up until it did, and even then, I didn’t get a chance to see it. This is Fast and Furious — why introduce what amounts to a vehicular bomb only to have it blow up off-screen should you fail the challenge? Isn’t the whole series about cars doing silly jumps and drifting while things blow up right and left?

Set aside all those frustrations and linear play, and not even the basic driving controls hold up in Crossroads. It’s as if every aspect of driving, from acceleration to handling to the use of the handbrake and nitrous, was handled by a different team, each of which flipped a coin to see if they were going for something like realism or an arcade-style approach more suited to the feel of the series. The results make it next to impossible to figure out how my car will react to each situation until it happens.

Crossroads also has a multiplayer option, which at least sounds fun, but there aren’t enough people playing this game, so it’s not viable unless you were looking for a “waiting for a game” simulator.

All this, and publisher Bandai Namco is still asking $59.99 for the game at launch, while also offering a $29.99 season pass that gets you “three add-on packs loaded with new cars, customization items, and more!”

Mediocre games happen, often despite everyone’s best efforts, but it’s this seeming attempt to launch the game under the radar, offering big-name recognition but nothing else besides that, that moves Fast & Furious Crossroads from the “these things happen” pile to the “transparent cash-in” bucket. The good news is that, based on the 27 reviews on Steam so far (mostly negative) and the long wait to find anyone to play with online, almost no one was fooled.

Fast & Furious Crossroads is out now on PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. The game was reviewed on PC. You can find additional information about Polygon’s ethics policy here.