That’s it. I’m putting my foot down. After Iron Man 3, a game that annoyed me so badly with its wallet-grabbing tactics I thought for sure I’d end up the victim of some sort of rage-stroke by the end of my review session, I swore to myself I’d bring the hammer down on the next game that dared to pull the same sketchy tactics. It only took a little over a month to happen… and unsurprisingly, it was another licensed title from a big-name summer movie. Not that I’m comparing the venerable Iron Man franchise to the Fast and Furious series of films, mind you. Whatever you think of my opinions on games I hope we can all agree I’m not quite that dense.
A Skidding Crash
Peak oil is not a problem in video games. In other words, you can fill up a car that doesn’t actually exist literally billions of times and, outside of the extra stress caused by your phone battery charging, you wouldn’t cause a spot of damage to the environment. I bring this up because of Fast & Furious 6‘s astoundingly terrible fuel system, a cooldown mechanic designed to get you to blow the game’s secondary currency or, if you’re out of it, make you buy more with your real-life dough. As you might have guessed, I didn’t spend a dime on it.
Why is it so bad? Let me count the ways. Each race you run burns a square of fuel. These squares, as stated above, cost you time, in-game currency, or real life money to fill. It’s your choice as to which you spend — but with a six or seven minute cooldown, doing multiple runs or even restarting a frustrating race a couple of times can mean a fairly long wait if you decide to go the time route. Being able to buy extra fuel slots with the same currency you use to buy the gas does little to alleviate the problem. It’s still an artificial, forced mechanic with literally no gameplay value — in other words, it only exists to make you wait or annoy you into playing. To quote my favorite Beatles song, homie don’t play that.
The Rest of the Gameplay
The game you get between ridiculous cooldowns is unique, and not in a good way. The game rests somewhere between racing and FMV and compulsion loop: a bizarre, story-driven, upgrade-focused hodgepodge of gaming conventions that at times approached fun but never really succeeded in engaging me.If you’ve ever wanted to play a racing game where you only control the steering, gas, and when (Not how, or in what direction) your car turns, you might get a kick out of this one. Then again, if you’ve looked for that specific set of features in a game, you very clearly know what you want already. If that’s the case I guess I’d advise you check it out. That’s about the only situation I’d ever say that about this title.
In the interest of fairness I should note that Fast and Furious’s competitions, which center around street events like drag racing and drifting, don’t exactly require a steering wheel peripheral to translate to a video game. In a race designed to make two people go in a straight line as fast as they can, controls are bound to be pretty simple. At some point, pressing buttons in time with on-screen prompt stops being fun. If you remember Dragon’s Lair or any of the other full motion video button-tappers so popular in the arcade industry years ago you may have an easier time seeing my point. Do quick button-pressing sequences have their place in gaming? Sure. I’d say anyone who’s played the new Tomb Raider game would tell you that. They just don’t do well as the game’s entire basis… and that’s all we have here.
Upgrades, As Always
It should come as no surprise that a game featuring tons of real-life cars is all about tweaking the rides. Buffing the stats behind your two main abilities, turning and straight-line acceleration, is key if you want to advance. If you don’t, just keep failing and restarting. The game will be happy to make you wait or pony up instead. Assuming that doesn’t sound like fun to you, make sure to put some money in your tires and engine. Seriously. It’s just about the only way you can expect to get anywhere, in my experience.
Holding things together is a story that, if my IMDB research is correct, features characters and plot points from the eponymous movie. You start the game as a no-name scrub and move your way up the ranks by winning races and collecting gear, all while 2D renderings of your supporting cast spit out dialogue between matches, gaining access to bigger and better events as you move along. There’s nothing mind-blowing here, but I’d be remiss to say anything was really bad, either. It’s a loose story based on a movie I’m sure wasn’t plot-driven to begin with. Like the rest of the game outside the fuel system, whatever impression it left me with is remarkably meh.
I want to make clear, as always, that I understand the necessity of microctransactions in a market full of free-to-play games. I’ve had to shift my expectations of what games are to put up with some of the shadier practices I’ve seen — yes, I am that big of a dork — and I do my best not to complain about stuff unless it seems truly greedy or sketchy. Fast and Furious 6 is both of those in spades. I can’t stress to you how irritating the fuel system is. It’s almost so bad I’d suggest downloading the game to see exactly what I mean. Not that I’d actively prevent you from doing that anyway, obviously… I’m just floored by how poorly executed it is, especially for a title ostensibly designed to promote the movie while it’s in theaters. Like the headlines say, skip this one. There are far better racing games to be had with far less irritating monetization structures. If you do want to get it, fine by me. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.