The full-on, high octane action of the Fast & Furious movie franchise gets interactive in August with the arrival of Fast & Furious Crossroads. We had a chat with Andy Tudor of racing game supremos Slightly Mad Studios to find out more.

Fast & Furious CrossroadsHow closely have you worked with Universal/the Fast & Furious people in developing Crossroads?
Very – they have been involved since day one. There has been an open line of communication, feedback and involvement since the beginning. We started by developing a concept document that factored in the introduction of a new crew, and leaned into the pillars of Fast & Furious which revolve around storytelling, family, spectacle and heart, and letting you play through sequences inspired by the movies – from street racing to saving the world. This game was built with the fans in mind.

Universal loved the concept and it took off from the start – to make this game as Fast & Furious as possible – with us working daily together ever since. It involved scouring over countless reference materials and assets, meeting Fast & Furious car coordinator, Dennis McCarthy, sharing ideas, visiting real-life locations, meeting the actors and getting Vin Diesel’s input, plus regular meetings with the theatrical and franchise teams to ensure the game is as authentic and awesome as possible. So, it’s been a close collaboration, working across the Atlantic between London and Los Angeles.

How much involvement was there from the stars of the movies?
We really wanted to ensure that the game is as authentic as possible for Fast & Furious fans, so it was great to have the characters in the game played by the actual actors from the films. Those who recorded VO were Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, and Tyrese Gibson from the movie crew, along with Sonequa Martin-Green, Asia Kate Dillon, and Peter Stormare for the new cast.

They were all absolute joys to work with – giving feedback on all aspects, from their lines, the story, their character likenesses and outfits. Throughout development, we have solicited feedback on the cinematics to ensure their visuals and performance are accurate. The team on the Universal side and Vin are the driving forces behind these films and you can see why they have been so successful, and it really pays off in the game.

“This game was built with the fans in mind.”

Will we be playing out any familiar scenes from the movies, or is this all-new action?
Fast & Furious Crossroads tells a brand-new original story, that’s set in the Fast & Furious universe. While all the action and locations are new, they draw inspiration from past scenarios in the films so that they feel familiar but with a twist. For example, we have a sequence that harkens back to Fast Five when Dom & Brian were trying to steal cars off a speeding train. In the game, however, you’re trying to arrest someone who’s on the train as it escapes through the Moroccan desert at night. There’s another sequence where you’re dragging an insanely huge object akin to the vault in Rio de Janeiro, but this time you’re causing chaos with it in the Port of New Orleans. So, the fans are going to have a blast with it!

Fast & Furious Crossroads

How about the vehicles, which classic machines from the movies will we get to play with?
There are certainly some iconic cars in the movies from Dom’s Charger to the Lykan Hypersport in Furious 7 to classic Acura NSX drift machines. One particular car that the fans are going to be doing a lot of speculation on how it has returned is the Chevrolet Yenko Camaro that we last saw Brian and Roman crashing into a yacht at the end of 2 Fast 2 Furious. You’ll have to play the game to find out how that car has been restored and who is driving it now though.

Then beyond the usual muscle, import and supercars, we’re bringing concept/electric/prototypes into the mix to suit new crew member Cam Stone who is very tech savvy and environmentally conscious. This brings familiar banter between the lead characters over whether ‘new’ or ‘classic’ is better – similar to Dom and Brian’s love for US muscle or imports.

From the trailer we got vibes of everything from Chase HQ to Split/Second. What would you say that the gameplay in Crossroads most compares to?
Taito’s Chase HQ and Bally Midway’s Spy Hunter were huge influences for us. They were the games I used to play in the arcades when I was a kid. So yes, there are definitely some missions where you’re racing to reach someone and then having to bash them off the road. More recent inspirations would be Burnout Takedown or Mad Max.

The game’s Story Mode is a linear, continually progressing narrative with varied gameplay within it that keeps things constantly interesting for the player. So, in that respect, you’re not going to be free-roaming and picking up side missions, or going to an overhead map and fast-travelling to the next event. Instead you’re going to be thrust into the lives of our new heroes – Vienna, Cam and Sebastian – and you’ll travel with them as they escape, pursue, visit, survey, street race, investigate, destroy, battle and perform heists on their quest for revenge and redemption.

So yes, there are elements reminiscent of Split/Second in there in terms of the set pieces and spectacle, but we prefer to look at the films for inspiration. Outside of the action, there are also more reflective moments where the characters talk in the car about coming to terms with their crazy situation while exploring the game’s new locations. Without these emotional moments – as in the movies – the action can seem meaningless.

Fast & Furious Crossroads

How much has your previous specialty racer work on the likes of the Project CARS series influenced gameplay in Crossroads?
Within the first week of pre-production, we had a muscle car driving along a road with full physics/damage and the first increments of a more arcade-like handling system and chase camera. That gave us a solid foundation to build upon and allowed us to concentrate on the new gameplay items we’d be bringing to the game engine such as ballistics, gadgets with mini-game lock-ons, character-swapping mid-mission, enemy NPC vehicles that deploy countermeasures, a ‘quest’ system so that you could complete objectives during a mission, iconic set pieces, randomised traffic encounters, waypoint markers to guide you around the cities and much more.

There was a ton of work here that we’d never done before in our prior SHIFT or Project CARS titles, but the common language we all speak in the studio – plus hiring staff that had worked on games such as Mass Effect, Red Dead Redemption and Split/Second – allowed us to get team-based multiplayer working very early on, which proved the game was fun and gave the green light for the rest of the project.

While our previous ‘racing’ titles are completely different to this ‘vehicular combat’ game, that same expertise and experience of making car games for almost 20 years is all there under the hood.

Can you tell us more about the play options of heroes, villains and cops, and what each will offer players?
Our multiplayer experience is called ‘Online Ops’, where you play various game modes of APB, Rescue, and Seek & Destroy as three different factions.

Each faction will have a unique job to do depending on the game mode – protecting an object from being stolen, hacking a vehicle holding precious data, reaching a safe zone before the other team, attacking a VIP vehicle, and more. There’s nothing quite like it in this space right now though, so players may feel a little lost at first expecting just racing from our studio, but it quickly becomes quite natural and you start thinking tactically about how to best achieve your objective alongside your teammates.

Each faction then has different cars split into RPG-style archetypes. Ours are… Power, Terrain, Speed, Tech, and Lightweight, and they all have different stats such as top speed, health, in-air aftertouch, damage-dealing, drift ability, etc. Plus, the gadgets that are installed fall into categories of Crowd Control, Deniability, Deposits or Targeted Damage. MOBAs such as Arena of Valor and Overwatch were big influencers here, as we ensured that team compositions online are both fair and varied. There are still many times in our regular playtests where new strategies or combos are being employed in order to win the match for your team.

Once you factor in gadget upgrades you can earn, creating a crew with your friends and using voice comms to work more efficiently, and add-ons post-launch that will bring new car/gadget combos and maps. Online Ops is something we’re very proud of as bringing something fresh to the genre – and one that’s a natural fit for Fast & Furious.

Fast & Furious Crossroads

What else should we know about the multiplayer experience?
Fast & Furious Crossroads has XP-based matchmaking that ensures players of similar skill level get to play together. And, of course, XP means that you’ll be unlocking a host of stuff while you play – from cars to wraps, profile customisation, gadget upgrades, new paint types, exclusive license plates, emotive sprays and collectibles that take you behind the scenes on the making of the game.

It’s then powered by MOSAIC, which is an evolution of our Driver Network system from Project CARS that tracks your preferences, stats, achievements/trophies, match history and your friends. It’s a great way to find out where to improve, and to compare with other players, in case you wanted to recruit them to your own crew.

What do you personally think is the coolest thing about the game?
Playing as a crew. Either in Story Mode switching characters between Dom, Letty, Vienna or Cam to bring down a bad guy, or in Online Ops while you and your friends protect each other and coordinate to bring home the win. Family is a key theme in the films, so it was vital that the game embodied that while you perform epic stunts or engage in compelling action sequences. And, when you get that feeling that your crew has your back while in the middle of the action, it’s pretty cool.

Are there any special Easter eggs or other hidden goodies that players should keep an eye out for?
Absolutely – there are tons! There are many references to events and characters from the movies throughout, as well as more obscure references such as Roman muttering under his breath, ‘This is like Berlin all over again,’ paying homage to the situation he found himself in with the wrecking balls in The Fate of the Furious. We encourage fans to tweet us when they find one, or share a screenshot of it so we can officially confirm it!

Fast & Furious Crossroads releases on August 8 for PS4 and Xbox One. Pre-order now at JB Hi-Fi.