By ferrarimanf355 4 Comments
In 2000, shortly after the release of Cruis'n Exotica, Midway made the fateful (and some would say stupid) decision to close their arcade division. Shortly thereafter, Eugene Jarvis and many of the people he worked with left Midway and formed Raw Thrills, a devhouse dedicated to arcade games. Raw Thrills was incorporated in 2001, and they began work on a few side projects for Jarvis' old buddy, Larry DeMar (who worked with Jarvis on classics like Defender, Stargate and Robotron 2084), before starting work on their first game, Target: Terror, the light gun shooter best known for old-school FMV graphics.
Also in 2001, a film called The Fast and the Furious was released. It came out of nowhere and became a suprise box-office hit, raking in over $150 million in the box office and producing two sequels (with a third out this summer). A video game or two was almost bound to happen, and Raw Thrills was there to get the license and make a game out of it.
After Target: Terror was released in the summer of 2004, their Fast and the Furious game was released into arcades later that year and became a hit, like the film it was inspired by. And since it was made by many of the people who made Cruis'n Exotica, it shouldn't be too suprising to learn that the game mostly plays like a Cruis'n game in everything but name. Wheelies are still done by pumping the gas, propping up the car on its side is still doable, but it involves pumping the gas twice while turning instead of doing it once. Doing it once while driving causes the car to drift, a new wrinkle that makes the game more involved and whatnot to play. Pulling stunts off of ramps still knocks some seconds off of your final time, but so can smashing into stuff, too. The keypad from Exotica returned, but it did more, too- it can save car upgrades that include decals, neon, wheels, and nitrous, among other things, as well as car unlocks and records. It's more involved. There are twelve tracks, some in Los Angeles (LA Ghetto, Malibu, Muholland Drive, Hollywood), some in San Francisco (SF Tour, Golden Gate, Chinatown, Chinatown X), some in New York (Central Park, Times Square), and one level in New England and a desert track called "Race Wars". Here's some (fuzzy) gameplay footage.
The success of the game demanded a sequel, and there have been two so far. The first one, released in 2006, was Fast and the Furious: Super Bikes. The gameplay, upgrades and graphics are about on par with the original, but as the name implies, the racing is on motorcycles, with a cabinet to match, as seen on the image to the left. The tracks are all unique to this game, and are international, too, with locales in Baja, Hawaii, Chicago, Florida, Switzerland, Shanghai, Monaco, Sturgis, and one other place whose name escapes me right now. I'll probably think of it.
Anyways, the low price and familiar gameplay in Super Bikes made it a hit on par with the original, and thus another sequel was made: Fast and the Furious Drift. Released in 2007, Drift expands on the original game, with refinements to the graphics, time bonuses for drifting as opposed to smashing into stuff, six new tracks inspired by the third film in the series, Tokyo Drift, alongside the twelve tracks from the original, a new car lineup (including the '67 Mustang fastback "hero car" from Tokyo Drift), and the ability to buy additional upgrades with extra quarters, as opposed to the one-at-a-time approach of the previous games. Here's the trailer, and some (fuzzy) gameplay footage of Drift.
Also in 2007, the original game was ported to the Wii, and in a serious case of I Can't Make This Up, it wore the Cruis'n brand and was published by Midway. Why Midway didn't have the Fast and the Furious license is currently unkown- the popular theory was that they actually had the license, but couldn't keep up with the payments to Universal Studios to keep it. Anyways, the game was very clearly the Fast and the Furious game, but it felt rushed. The controls were twitchy, the graphics were muddied and there is this tire screetching sound that comes on in random places and drones on for ten seconds at a time. Maybe Midway wanted a piece of the Wii shovelware pie, and took a look at the arcade game and decided to port it for quick cash, but maybe if they cared about the port, it would have been awesome. As-is, I hope that if there's a port of Super Bikes or Drift in the pipeline- and I fully expect a port of Drift to coincide with the new Fast and the Furious movie- that there's some TLC and the license is properly attatched, too.
Here's some footage. The tire screeching happens a couple of times so you know where I'm going with that one.
As an aside, a few months after Cruis'n Wii showed up, the N64 port of Cruis'n USA showed up on the Virtual Console. As I mentioned in part 2, Cruis'n World was better, and I'm still waiting on word over that one. I'd also accept a Wii compilation with arcade-perfect ports of USA, World and Exotica. Midway, Nintendo, are you listening?
... and with that, the series comes to a close. Cruis'n may be long gone, but Raw Thrills ensures that it isn't forgotten. So, if you see a Cruis'n or Fast and the Furious game in your local arcade/fun center/ family resturant/ movie theater, go play it. Remember the days when Midway had an arcade division and were cranking out fun games like this on a regular basis. The spirit lives on!