Both fast AND furious
It gets to a point when you wonder whether film companies will ever stop releasing sequels to some franchises. Fast and Furious is now up to film number five (called Fast Five in the US and Fast and Furious 5 in the UK) and there seems to be no sign of stopping. Still, with good ratings and a return to form, the film seems to be doing well on its own merits.
Which brings us to the game of the movie. Gameloft have managed to grab the rights to the official game on iOS and the result is an interesting mix of styles, but is it good enough to gain the same success as the movie or does the licence mean more style than substance?
Fast Five The Game has a definite hint of Gameloft's own Asphalt series forming the chassis of the game, but the bodywork and other parts are inspired by ideas from a few other racing titles. While the graphical polish is on par, if not exceeding, Asphalt 6, the differences certainly make this game its own beast.
Firstly, there are the set pieces; destructible environments that will go off as soon as you hit an invisible marker. These come straight from Disney's Split/Second Velocity. We're not complaining, though, as Gameloft have managed to perfect the timing and the spectacle of the destruction and give you just enough warning to avoid it.
Next comes the drifting. While Asphalt has drifting and even gives you extra boost and points for sliding, drifting in Fast Five is much tricker and involves a lot more skill. It's nearer to Ridge Racer in the skill involved to get around a corner, while touching the sides will slow you down or send you in to a 360 turn and lose all those precious points you would have gained from a perfect slide.
Added to this is the ability to rewind time if something goes drastically wrong, a function that seems to be popular among driving games at the moment. It's certainly useful in drifting challenges but the fiddly little rewind button is easy to miss.
Finally the new Drag Race events add something brand new to the genre. Instead of speeding up or steering, these require you to change gear as fast as you can in a sort of quick-time style mini-game. It adds a change of pace to the game overall, but the jury is still out on how well these fit in with the other events.
The ten levels, each with their own track, are split in to race types; Drift, Elimination (basically Takedowns), Race, Time Trial and Drag. The styles split the action up well and being able to do these in any order provides a certain freedom, though unlocking each level still requires a certain number of points earned in each race. The tracks are worth mentioning too, nicely detailed with enough variation to make them feel different from the last. Open desert races feel like Need for Speed games, while street based tracks are far more traditional Asphalt style affairs.
As expected from a movie licence, Fast Five also has a storyline. It's somewhat disappointing to find that the game uses static scenes and snatches of speech, rather than whole video segments from the movie. As a licensed product it does feel like a bit of a missed opportunity and doesn't really add to the atmosphere as you see what looks like a cardboard cutout of each character reeling off a few short sound-bites.
Multiplayer uses the steadfast Gameloft Live service and while Asphalt had issues with fast and slow cars being put in to the same race, Fast Five at least has the option to limit classes, as well as a welcome set of different modes, including the drag race mode to play online or via local play. My experience with the online racing is that the games are smooth and even with six or seven cars on track, there isn't much in the way of slowdown.
It's the multiplayer that will keep you coming back though. Whie it's possible to replay through the game to gain full points in each race, I can't realistically see many people going back and finishing this. That said, with Game Center achivements to unlock, some players may find this enough enticement to play again.
On the iPad the action is suitably bigger, but the graphics don't suffer at all. It really does look the part and moves just as well as on the iPhone. The only issue I had with the iPad version was that the iPad itself isn't the easiest thing to keep tilting left and right as well as holding your hands in the right place for boost, rewind or drag controls. Whether the controls could be moved to make it any more comfortable, I'm not sure, but it still doesn't spoil the experience enough to warrant missing out if you want to experience the action on a bigger screen.
Far from being another throw-away licence, then, Fast Five takes the best bits of the movie and the best of other racing games and creates something unique and fun. Aside from a few presentation issues, this turns out to be Gameloft's best racer yet.
- Sound: 8
- Graphics: 9
- Gameplay: 9
- Longevity: 9
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