Fast & Furious Crossroads Second Look Slightly Mad Studios colossal mess but bad in a fun good way

Oh dear, Fast & Furious Crossroads, what am I gonna do with you? At times equally fascinating and infuriating, Slightly Mad Studios’ car-’em-up is not a racer but in fact a linear action game in the vein of Call of Duty. As if that weren’t enough, they somehow graft in a bunch of hero shooter mechanics like those found in Overwatch, including gimmick powers and swapping between multiple characters mid-mission. The game’s initial sales pitch was for an expansive, DLC-supported multiplayer with a strong story campaign crafted by the very people behind the Fast & Furious franchise. Given Vin Diesel’s affinity for the games industry and the franchise being pliable in the hands of the creators of Project Cars, there was genuine anticipation for Crossroads to be a potentially great license tie-in game.

But that isn’t what happened! Woo lad! Helllllll no. Fast & Furious Crossroads didn’t just skid to a halt at launch; it crashed and burned harder than Han in Tokyo Drift. Some would argue it was one of the worst, if not the reigning, sour note of gaming in 2020. We just crossed its one year anniversary, and there are still people aghast at the state of this game.

So, obviously, I had to pick it up when it finally went on sale to find out what the deal was. Was this going to be another Rambo situation where there was something salvageable or a game even worse than Too Human? Turns out the answer is inexplicably both.

Fast & Furious Crossroads may feature Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, and Tyrese Gibson, but the real stars are Sonequa Martin-Green’s Vienna and Asia Kate Dillon’s Cam. Vienna is an ex-criminal hiding in Barcelona just long enough to see her boyfriend die so she can thirst for vengeance. Cam is Vienna’s non-binary friend who is there to spout technobabble while wearing what I think the art team thought was non-binary pride clothes? So… one step forward, one step back.

Fast & Furious Crossroads Second Look Slightly Mad Studios colossal mess but bad in a fun good way

There’s also Vienna’s swiftly dead boyfriend Sebastian, but you’d be forgiven for forgetting him because only Vienna cares, which is emblematic of Crossroads’ narrative fumbles. It’s not that there isn’t potential for a fun Fast & Furious story buried here, but it’s bogged down by lack of focus and too much redundant exposition in lieu of actual character development. Not to mention an absurd amount of odd camera angles whenever you’re not behind the wheel of a car.

Vienna is much like Star Wars Battlefront II’s Iden Versio, in that despite being the lead protagonist, most of the game never focuses on her. And much like Iden’s companion Del, Cam arguably has the more important role in several missions, tossing a few snort-worthy quips while Vienna is simply abrasive and annoyed at everyone. Rodriguez’s Letty is also typically the voice of reason around Vienna, not as a mentor but simply as a sane person you can actually root for.

The fortunate upside to all this is you really don’t have to care. This is a game where you can ram into oncoming traffic and they’ll fly in the air like exploding matchbox cars. Boulders bounce from avalanches like they’re made of styrofoam. In a game entirely about driving fast and furious, you don’t even have a speedometer to gauge how fast you’re going during the handful of races. It’s actually easier to control with a keyboard one-handed. Fast & Furious Crossroads is such an unpredictable string of impossible circumstances. And I loved almost every second of it.

To be clear, that’s not praise — though there are a few missions where I can see the good game Fast & Furious Crossroads wishes it were. My appreciation for Crossroads is primarily for how astonishingly, jaw-droppingly dumb yet creative it is at every turn. Crossroads has you fighting a train with rocket launchers, the world’s fastest hovercraft being driven by motherfrigging Peter Stormare, and outrunning Indiana Jones-style death traps. One enemy I had to defeat was on the verge of death, so literally just riding behind him caused him to instantly explode. This is amazing, and it’s just a slice of everything I encountered in the four hours it took to complete Crossroads.

After a start that’s as slow as a protracted bowel movement, the pacing ratchets up so quickly it’s like you’re hitting the fast-forward button. The best missions by far are Roman’s. Not only does Gibson come across as the most natural mocap actor of the bunch, but his missions are the few where none of the typical glitches or odd design choices come up. For one, his Aston Martin handles beautifully, actually responding to your inputs with a sane balance rather than either barely responding or hurtling around like a bullet. It’s also one of the few player cars with good damage deformation.

His encounters are built around the game’s core strength — combat. Initially you’re harnessing the game’s inexplicable yet incredibly useful Shunt attack move that sends you magically sliding side to side. Then later you’re blasting enemies with oil slicks to not blow your cover while simultaneously ensuring minimal casualties. Next, you’re driving through a shipyard, scorching across an aircraft carrier as jet fighters launch in alarm and start blasting the shipyard to try and take you out while a giant computer sphere is tearing up the environment from behind you.

This is what a Fast & Furious game should feel like. The levels are organic, ebbing and flowing from wide to narrow, with much of the environment proving destructible. I have to wonder if these sections were part of a vertical slice demo, because they’re such a cut above the rest of the game. If the rest of Crossroads played like Roman’s chapter, it… well, it wouldn’t have made the game a hit, but the game wouldn’t have been trashed to pieces. It’s a shame, because when it’s working, Fast & Furious Crossroads shows real potential to be a cult classic.

Fast & Furious Crossroads Second Look Slightly Mad Studios colossal mess but bad in a fun good way

As it stands, Crossroads is brilliant riffing material. The Escapist Discord community joined me while playing, and everyone had a blast cracking jokes at every odd moment. Physics glitches that sent my cars spiraling out into an empty void, odd acting choices, a race where literally only the final lap checkpoint actually counts, two unarmed agents and Letty with a simple handgun inexplicably fighting and escaping a team of SMG-touting special agents, VIN DIESEL SURFS ON A MOTHERKRIFFING ROCKET! As the absurdities grew, so too did our laughter. You can get a ton of fun out of Fast & Furious Crossroads if you know that it’s Fast & Furious Crossroads. It’s so silly you really can’t help but laugh.

Except for the boss fight with Kai. That fight can burn in the pits of hell as such a tedious mess. It’s ironic as several set pieces — due to or maybe in spite of the maddening unpredictability of car handling and physics — led to some incredible down-to-the-wire moments. One high-speed race as Cam had me down to my very last shred of health, threading the needle to hit the finish line. Pounding away at bosses with Letty’s rocket launcher is oddly satisfying. The game feel in general is pretty solid, further demonstrating that Slightly Mad had some idea what it was aiming for.

Ultimately, is Fast & Furious Crossroads a bad game? Oh gosh yes. No question. Is it worth playing? If you want a lark, absolutely. Fast & Furious Crossroads isn’t high art; it’s absurdly loud nonsense that has to be seen to be believed. Not since Ride to Hell: Retribution has there been such an amazing mess of a game, and it’s so darn earnest you can’t help but appreciate every glimmer between. I really hope someday we’ll get a good Fast & Furious game. Until then, we’ll always have Fast & Furious Crossroads, because the only thing stronger than family — is Peter Stormare rubberbanding ahead in a giant hovercraft firing RPGs!

When I first did my write-up on The Bureau: XCOM Declassified back in 2019, it felt like a mini-miracle. I didn’t know it’d lead to a column spanning two years of the weirdest, wildest games on the market. I know it’s ruffled the feathers of subreddits and more than once made some readers question my sanity. However, it’s all been worth it. I’ve had developers reach out to thank me for highlighting work they’d thought the world had forgotten. It opened the door to learning fantastic, once untold stories — not to mention, I’ve had the pleasure of sharing my journeys through The Escapist’s Discord.

I’m a lucky man to have made it this far — I hope you’ll stick around for what comes next. And always remember — there’s more to gaming than the biggest, shiniest successes. Some of the best experiences out there are just waiting for you to give them a Second Look.

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