Game: Forza Horizon 2
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Release Date: 30/09/2014
Capitalising on the gargantuan success of the multi-million Fast and Furious franchise, Forza Horizon 2 recently had its own Fast and Furious spin-off in the form of the awkwardly titled Forza Horizon 2 Presents: Fast & Furious, a standalone expansion coinciding with the theatrical release of Fast and Furious 7 which went on to miraculously smash Box Office records, becoming the fastest film to gross $1 billion worldwide.
Sadly, the untimely death of Paul Walker likely played a big part in its success, but at least he had a sensitive send-off in the film which was fitting and tear-jerking. Even my girlfriend, who is by no means a Fast and Furious fanatic, I should add, couldn’t hold back by the tears by the time the credits rolled.
Initially, the expansion was released as a free download for a limited time, in what was admittedly an ingenious marketing move to promote both franchises. Now, though, you have to cough up £6.99, which is a far less enticing proposition. Can Forza Horizon 2 Presents Fast & Furious justify its price of admission?
Fast and Furious has come a long way since its humble street racing roots. Now with an oversized ensemble cast of action heroes that rivals The Expendables (a group that Diesel’s character Dom lovingly refers to as his ‘family’), noone would have thought it would reach film number seven – and with an eight instalment already in the pipeline for release in 2017, it’s on course to overtake Police Academy in its obscene number of sequels.
And yet unlike Police Academy, audiences are showing no signs of fatigue, as the seemingly unstoppable franchise has turned into a lucrative cash cow: audiences apparently can’t get enough of its high-octane car stunts, testosterone-filled fist fights and objectifying shots of scantily clad women. Yes, the one-liners are consistently cringe-worthy, the story is an inconvieniant device to get to the next action scene and the stunts have become self-awaringly-ludicrous, but leave your brain in the back seat and you’d be hard-pressed not to have a good time watching a Fast and Furious film if you consider yourself a petrolhead.
Likewise, the Forza franchise has become a staple in car culture-embracing entertainment, so merging the two franchises seemed like a fitting collaboration.
However, as we know, film game tie-ins are traditionally terrible, and Fast and Furious is no exception – we still haven’t forgotten the farce that was Fast and Furious Showdown. There have also been a few free Fast and Furious mobile spin-offs, but nothing has exactly been memorable. Fortunately, this expansion has the benefit of being powered by Forza Horizon 2’s exquisite engine.
Indeed, for anyone who has yet to experience Forza Horizon 2’s majesty, the expansion is a suitable showcase of what you’ve been missing: you’re getting the same glorious graphics, the same sublime car handling and the same picture perfect roads that look like something out of a Top Gear road trip. But therein lies the problem: in essence, what you’re getting is a glorified demo of Forza Horizon 2.
Set in a cut-down version of Forza Horizon 2’s map set in a peculiarly pedestrian-less Southern France (roughly only a third of the original map is accessible spanning Nice and Saint Martin), ten cars lifted from Fast and Furious 7 are up for grabs. Unlike in Forza Horizon 2, you don’t even need to buy them – to unlock them, you simply complete a series of tiered events dotted around the map that vary from circuit and point-to-point races, to special Showcase events that pit you against another form of vehicle: in this case a helicopter and cargo plane.
Voice actor Ludacris, who plays hacker Tej in the films, provides some inane one-liners in an attempt to contextualise the racing and immerse you into the Fast and Furious universe, but in reality there’s still little connection to the film franchise: these are the same standard events you can play in the main game completely devoid of the OTT action found in the films. One highlight cross-country Showcase event has you racing against an attack helicopter, but it hardly compares to the spectacular stuntwork seen in the films. You won’t be jumping over collapsing buildings, bringing cargo planes down with harpoons or towing bank safes through streets.
Fortunately, the cars are the real star attractions. A few cars have been lifted from Horizon 2 such as the Lamborghini Huracán and McLaren P1 cover car stars, but the real highlights are of course the Fast and Furious 7 cars, which have been recreated in Forza with ample accuracy.
Dom’s iconic black 1970 Dodge Charger R/T comes complete with its distinctive front-mounted supercharger (you can see the visible butterfly valve mechanics working). Push it hard, and its grunts like Vin Diesel’s gravelly voice. Swivel the camera round to the front, and the whine of the supercharger is audible, reaffirming that Forza still has some of the best engine sounds in console racing games.
Letty’s modified Dodge Challenger used in the intense mountain chase can also be acquired and comes equipped with bull bars, as can Tej’s armoured Jeep Wrangler – it’s just a shame their modifications are never utilised.
A few cars also make their debut in Forza Horizon 2, such as the Jason Statham’s character’s menacing Maserati Ghibli. Completing the line-up is Letty’s Plymouth Cuda, Dom’s Plymouth Road Runner and Brian O’Conner’s Nissan Skyline GTR and Toyota Supra – the latter was Paul Walker’s privately owned Supra used in the film’s final tribute scene.
Forza Horizon 2’s wonderfully responsive handling heightens the enjoyment. Since most of the cars are rear wheel drive, jamming the throttle results in a satisfying tyre-shredding burnout, the potent power coaxing the car into a satisfying slide which feels intuitive thanks to the Xbox One controller’s vibrating impulse triggers simulating your level of traction. As with the main game, it’s beautifully balanced, replicating the car’s weight and handling characteristics without sacrificing the fun factor.
Being a car film buff, driving the cars seen in the film is undeniably appealing. I can’t help but feel, though, that this was a missed opportunity to include some iconic cars from past Fast and Furious films. From Paul Walker’s garish green Mitsubishi Eclipse and orange Supra from the first film and the Camaro used to crash land onto drug lord Carter’s yacht from 2Fast 2Furious, to the RX-7 from Tokyo Drift that claimed Hans’s life, there’s certainly plenty of source material.
Ironically for a game that’s promoting the film, some key cars from Fast and Furious 7 also fail to make an appearance. Chief omission is the prestigious Lykan Hypersport, the Middle East’s inaugural supercar that stars in one of Fast and Furious 7’s most memorable, if unashamedly silly, stunts. Considering it’s one of the most expensive cars in the world (optional extras include fitted diamonds), it wasn’t exactly treated with respect, smashing through not one but two skyscrapers before plummeting to its demise – hardly a way to treat one of the most expensive and rarest cars in the world, is it?
Licensing issues may have been a factor here, but the Hypersport has been available for free in DriveClub for a good while now – not to mention Project CARS. It’s probably no coincidence that Slightly Mad Studios smugly announced its inclusion in their game hot on the release of Fast and Furious 7.
Initially, being a standalone expansion meant you couldn’t use any of the Fast and Furious 7 cars in the main game, which was a major flaw. It still stands, but now you can purchase the Furious 7 Car Pack separately for use in the main game containing all the cars included in the expansion – with the exception of the Nissan Skyline GTR, oddly.
In keeping with the films, nitrous (remember those gratuitous CGI shots showing the nitrous being activated in the early films?), is one genuinely new feature to Forza introduced in the expansion. Its execution, however, leaves a lot to be desired – activating nitrous will cause the screen to blur and shudder to create the illusion of speed, but it has no noticeable effect on your acceleration. It’s completely superficial.
There are still barn finds, bucket challenges and speed zones to keep you busy and encourage you to explore the miniscule map, but Forza veterans will blitz through every event with ease. The entire expansion can be completed in a couple of hours, so you can quite feasibly finish it in one sitting. You can certainly finish it faster than Fast and Furious 7’s bloated runtime.
It culminates in a frantic race-against-the-clock race as you try to reach the airport before the cargo plane transporting all your collected car leaves. For me though, the highlight was seeing “How long is this runway?” flag up as an achievement; an amusing nod to the never-ending runway in the sixth film’s final action scene which raised a chuckle. And then it ruined the moment by having the audacity to prompt you into buying the overpriced digital edition of the full game.
This speaks volumes about its intentions – this is not an expansion, rather a glorified demo designed to lure players into purchasing Forza Horizon 2 rather than enriching the main game for existing players. This was acceptable when it was free, effectively enticing newcomers whilst generating publicity for Fast and Furious 7, but it comes off as a cynical ploy now that you have to pay for it. Put simply, there isn’t enough content to justify its price tag for Forza virgins, while offering nothing new for Forza veterans other than nitrous.
Overall, Forza Horizon 2 Presents Fast & Furious is a disjointed experience – welding Fast and Furious with Forza should work in theory, but they feel very disconnected. In reality, the only things both franchises have in common here is the runtime and price of admission – in all honesty, you’re better off spending the money on a cinema ticket to watch the film. But its biggest crime of all is that, aside from the authentic cars, no effort has been made to utilise the film license and encapsulate the essence of Fast and Furious.
It all makes the expansion rather redundant. If you’re interested in the Fast and Furious car content, you’re better off getting the cheaper Fast and Furious car pack DLC to use in the main game. And if you’re on the fence about buying Forza Horizon 2…well, just download the free demo.
Still, it’s a great way to rack up some easy achievement points: I’ll happily snap up 1000G for a couple of hours of gameplay thank you very much.
If you’re interested in the Fast and Furious car content, you’re better off getting the cheaper Fast and Furious car pack DLC to use in the main game. And if you’re on the fence about buying Forza Horizon 2…well, just download the free demo.