The Fast and the Furious Updated Hands-On

We check out an updated build of this quick and angry racing game for the PS2.

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If you missed The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift in the theater, you missed the best version of the film. While no one is going to be passing out gold statuettes for the film's acting or its script, the big-screen format was the perfect place to marvel at the movie's amazing driving stunts and gorgeous neon Tokyo cityscapes. With the upcoming release of The Fast and the Furious for the PlayStation 2--a game that relates to the third F&F movie mostly for its Tokyo locale--you'll attempt some of those slick car maneuvers yourself. Recently, we sat down with an updated build of the game ahead of its late September release.

The first Fast and the Furious game takes place in the setting of the third F&F movie: Tokyo.
The first Fast and the Furious game takes place in the setting of the third F&F movie: Tokyo.

The game has come a long way since our last look back in June, and it's looking a lot more complete and polished. For one, some of the different challenge types featured in the game that were broken last time around are fully functional now. That includes your standard drift and grip battles, which make up the core of the mountain races in the game, as well as some new challenge types that we haven't had a chance to play until now, including destination battles, which are point-to-point races against set opponents.

We're also happy to report that the random highway encounters are much more prevalent in this build than last time; as you whip around the major arteries of Tokyo, you'll occasionally run into fellow street racers who are noted by the large green triangles above their cars. Flash your lights at them a few times and you can challenge them to an impromptu dash down whatever section of road you happen to be on. The rules are simple: The first car to get 200 meters ahead of the other is the winner, with cash money as the prize.

Different challenges in F&F require different types of cars, as well as different kinds of setups for each car. This is one of the areas where the game really seems to excel--the sheer amount of items available for your ride is impressive. There are two types of upgrades you can buy for your car--performance upgrades, which affect the acceleration, handling, and top speed of your car, and visual upgrades such as rims, new paint jobs, vinyls, and underbelly neons. To get your car in competitive shape, you'll want to spend the majority of your early game cash on performance tweaks such as new brakes; weight reductions;, and, depending on whether your car is built for grip or drift races, new tires, among many other upgrades. Each performance-upgrade category has four levels of parts available right away; a fifth level of upgrades can be unlocked by winning races.

What makes F&F interesting, at least from a setup point of view, is that the most expensive part doesn't always mean the most appropriate part for your car's needs. It all depends on what you're trying to accomplish. If you want to build a grip car, you'll want a front-wheel or all-wheel drive car with as much down force as possible, stiff suspension, grippy tires for sticking to the asphalt, and a lot of straight-line speed. A drift car, on the other hand, will need to be rear-wheel drive, with a proper limited slip differential, slick tires, and as much weight removed as possible. Too much power on a drift car, however, and you'll be spinning out in tight corners every time you punch the gas. One of the keys in F&F, then, is to build the right car for the events you wish to enter.

The spin meter at the bottom of the screen will let you know when you're in danger of losing the drift.
The spin meter at the bottom of the screen will let you know when you're in danger of losing the drift.

Luckily, the game has no shortage of licensed vehicles for you to choose from. As the setting is Tokyo, there are a ton of makes and models from different Japanese manufacturers such as Mazda, Subaru, Mitsubishi, and Toyota, including models that are only sold in Japan. Head over to the US dealership, however, and you'll find American makes such as Ford, Dodge, and Chevy, as well as Japanese makes that are sold in America, such as Acura and Lexus. In all, you've got a lot of options in F&F, so choose wisely.

Once you've got your car selected, it's time to take it up on one of the five mountains featured in the game. Each mountain has two sets of crews you can challenge in various drift and grip battles. After defeating the peons of each crew in the various battles, you'll face a boss battle that will really test your skills. Once you've taken the boss down, you'll be able to borrow his car for future challenges, as well as earn a bunch of unlockables and discounts on parts at the many local shops around the city.

The two types of mountain events are grip and drift battles. Grip battles are straight battles to the finish along the twisting mountain paths. All that matters is who crosses the finish line first. And while grip races have their charms, especially for fans of more traditional racing games, it's the drift battles that really set F&F apart. Here, you aren't necessarily trying to cross the finish line first (although that helps); instead, you're trying to pull off as many drift maneuvers as you possibly can as you rocket up or down the mountain. The various twisty sections of each course will help you out tremendously here, as will the game's generous physics, which seems to want your tires to smoke around every corner you encounter. The more moves you pull off, the more points you rack up. The racer with the most drift points at the end of his run is the winner.

One other aspect we liked about the drift mode in F&F is that points aren't taken away from you if you screw up. If you get a drift going, no matter how small, you'll earn points for it, even if you smash into a wall on the other side of the turn. Whereas other drift games seem intent on punishing you, F&F takes the opposite approach, rewarding you for good drifts and, in turn, compelling you to work on your technique to improve. On the other hand, the loading times in between challenges and when warping from one destination to the next (as opposed to driving there yourself) can be a pain.

Though F&F features an open world, you can warp to any point of interest on the map.
Though F&F features an open world, you can warp to any point of interest on the map.

The graphics in F&F are decent, especially the open-ended highway system of Tokyo itself, which features a nice variety to the colorful cityscape, all of which you can drive through to your hearts content without encountering any load times. Still, the PS2 has likely peaked in terms of its graphical performance, and the relatively grainy textures of the cars and environments certainly are serviceable, if not especially noteworthy. That said, the sense of speed seems dead on--when driving at top speed, the screen shakes violently to give you a feeling of being on the edge in your car.

With a cool soundtrack that's part hip-hop and part J-pop, a huge open-ended environment to roam in, and a variety of different driving challenges in which to test your skills, The Fast and the Furious has certainly kept our interest for the past few days. The game is currently due for release at the end of September, and you can expect to see our full review once the game hits stores.

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