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Fast and Furious: Adrenaline - Xbox Windows Phone Review

With the recent theatrical release of Fast 5, we thought it would be a good time to look at Fast & Furious: Adrenaline from I-play. I’ve only seen the first Fast & Furious movie, but I gather the series revolve around street races, import and muscle cars, and incredibly wooden performances by Paul Walker. Everything that makes the films special is also in Adrenaline, with the exception of Walker’s acting (though he is sort of in the game).

Fast & Furious takes place within the same universe as the films. Dom (Vin “Iron Giant” Diesel’s character) has left Los Angeles, leaving a void of power in the illegal street racing world. It’s up to the player to join one of four rival racing crews and take over the city by racing, racing, and more racing. Yes, basically the same setup as Speed Racer, except there’s no monkey - unless you count Paul Walker!

Race past the break for our full of-actor-references review.

Speedy and angry

The story is delivered between races by Michelle “Died in the first Resident Evil movie” Rodriguez’s character, Letty. On-screen text accompanies her photograph, saying things like “Dom’s not here, so shave your head, and get out there and race, you wannabe.” At least, that’s how I remember it.

A color-coded map screen depicts which territories belong to which gangs. Races pop up in various spots as your crew challenges others or they challenge you. Win a race and that location becomes yours, though it means very little as you’ll often revisit the same spot in subsequent races.

A flurry of furious race types

As the game progresses, gamers will take part in several kinds of races. All races (except for Drag Races) consist of two laps – a good length for mobile gaming. Completed races can be revisited in Quick Play mode. These include:

  • Road Race: Take on 3 computer opponents as you see who can cross the finish line first. These start out easy but the AI becomes fairly aggressive towards the end.
  • Time Trial: It’s a battle against time! Reach the checkpoints before the timer runs out and you’ll earn more time. This is the only mode with bystander traffic. The game rewards you for nearly missing other cars in this mode – a fun idea. Time trials are the easiest overall race type as I never came close to failing one.
  • Drag Race: The most unusual race type – it’s you against 3 other cars on a straight line. Instead of steering, players manually shift gears and apply a burst of Nitro at the end. Try to tap the gear shift icon on the right side of the screen at the perfect time in order to maximize your speed. Drag races are so short, I always looked forward to them as a fast way to earn points.
  • Cop Chase: Make a couple of laps around the city with three cops chasing you. As they ram your car, a meter fills up; if it reaches the top, you lose. Cop chases aren’t as exciting as they could be due to the lack of challenge. My car’s health meter only got close to filling up whenever I hit a wall by mistake.
  • Boss Battle: Peppered throughout Story mode are four one-on-one boss races. Players get to race against Paul “Should be punished for starring in Joy Ride, which is a terrible, terrible film” Walker and even the original boss of LA, Dom. Diesel was presumably too busy not making a decent sequel to Pitch Black to lend his likeness to the game, though. Boss battles are pleasantly harder than normal races, but they could have used some special music to increase the tension.

So few tracks, so much time

Where will players run all those races? A glance at the Quick Race screen might lead one to believe that Adrenaline has a lot of different tracks, but that’s not really the case. There are only four distinct tracks. The standard racing game design techniques of changing the pathways on a track and racing backwards on the track are used to mix things up. That only keeps things fresh for so long. Story mode lasts about an hour longer than the small selection of tracks can really sustain.

Progression

Gamers earn points by completing races and doing certain things (speeding, jumping, drifting, and nearly-missing bystanders) during them. The game’s friends Leaderboard tracks your overall score but not individual track times – a missed opportunity.

Earn enough points and you level up, unlocking new cars. This would be a good system except for one thing: the new cars are usually worse than the old ones. Only three or four times throughout the game did I earn a new car with better stats than my existing rides. Whoever decided on the unlocking progression in Adrenaline needs to go back to game design school.

As for the cars, they aren’t licensed, but several are based on actual vehicles from the movies. Beating Dom unlocks the best car in the game: his 1970 Dodge Charger (here referred to as The Dominator).

Controls

Racing is one of the few genres in which tilt controls are actually a natural fit. Adrenaline controls great this way. Tilting steers left and right, touching the nitro icon grants a temporary speed boost, and tapping anywhere else on-screen brakes. You never really need to break though, thanks to the game’s arcade-like physics. Acceleration is automatic.

The developers definitely intended for players to drive with tilt controls, because the other two options: Wheel and Touch are just horrendous. Wheel sticks a steering wheel in the bottom corner of the screen. You’d think that swiping left or right on the wheel would turn the car, but you’d be mistaken. Only a yellow dot at the top of the wheel responds to touch. It’s a great way to run into walls but a terrible way to drive. Touch is a bit better in that you just press on the left or right side of the screen to turn. It’s still not responsive enough to work well though. In short: stick to Tilt.

Graphics and sound

Fast and Furious: Adrenaline won’t win any awards for shiny graphics, but they get the job done. The car models and courses are simplistic but acceptable by mobile standards. The games frame rate chugs more than it should though, and graphical effects like sparks look much worse than the iPhone version’s.

Adrenaline’s music (while generic) fits its underground street-racing atmosphere. I just wish there was more of it as the handful of tunes got old well before the end of the game.

Achievements

Fast and Furious: Adrenaline’s Achievements are one of its highlights. Most of them unlock automatically as players progress through the story. I enjoyed the few optional Achievements though: Cop Out for beating a cop race without using nitro, Gear Head for winning a drag race with all perfect shifts, and Clean Run for clearing a Time Trial without hitting other cars. More games should tie optional Achievements to fun objectives like this instead of turning them into chores.

Overall Impression

At launch, Fast and Furious: Adrenaline was overshadowed by the much-prettier Need for Speed Undercover. But Adrenaline is still worth a play through. It ties into the movie license well enough, has a decent story mode, and good tilt controls. More unique tracks and better Leaderboards would have given the game more replay value though. As it stands, Adrenaline is a good way to spend a few hours earning Achievements before moving on to other games.

Fast and Furious: Adrenaline costs $4.99 and there is a furiously free trial. Shift gears and head here on the Storee to get it.

Update: The game has been delisted and is no longer available.

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Fast and Furious: Adrenaline - Xbox Windows Phone Review

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