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Saturday, June 17, 2006

The Fast And The Furious: Tokyo Drift

Starring: Bow Wow, Brian Tee, Lucas Black, Nathalie Kelley, Sung Kang

Synopsis: From the producer of the worldwide blockbuster hits The Fast and the Furious and its sequel, 2 Fast 2 Furious, comes the latest installment of the adrenaline-inducing series built on speed-The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift. Set in the sexy and colorful underground world of Japanese drift racing, the newest and fastest customized rides go head-to-head on some of the most perilous courses in the world.

The Fast And The Furious: Tokyo Drift
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Sean Boswell (Lucas Black) is an outsider who attempts to define himself as a hot-headed, underdog street racer. Although racing provides a temporary escape from an unhappy home and the superficial world around him, it has also made Sean unpopular with the local authorities. To avoid jail time, Sean is sent to live with his gruff, estrange father, a career military-man stationed in Tokyo.

Review: I-play has enjoyed great success with their Fast and Furious racing games, based on the popcorn flicks of the same name. The mobile maker has sold more than four million Fast and Furious downloads, making it one of the industry's biggest franchises -- and with the third game in the series, Tokyo Drift, I-play needn't worry about a reversal of fortune. It's a breezy racer with solid racing mechanics, imbued with a learning curve that will suit casual gamers -- even though it's likely only the hardcore have the thumbs to finish the final few laps.

The "drift" in Tokyo Drift comes from the powerslide mechanic that has been in numerous arcade racers for years now, including Daytona USA and Ridge Racer. To drift, you have to temporarily "lose control" of your car as you go into a corner so you can gas it and steer out of it without losing too much speed. Mobile controls being more limited than, say, a Dual Shock, could have posed a real problem, but I-play has simplified the mechanics without sacrificing the technique's effectiveness. Indeed, as you approach a corner, you start the turn to give up control, then gas it and steer out of it to attain the powerslide.

It works -- and, honestly, it works better than I really did expect it to. The game gives you a pretty easy track at the get-go to familiarize yourself with the controls, but by the time you reach the later levels, such as Dragon Mountain, which is all crazy curves, you really have to have the motions down -- and have a properly souped-up ride. As you complete races, you earn cash, which can be spent in a garage to upgrade both car performance and appearance. These changes -- in each category -- are immediate and noticeable.

The Fast And The Furious: Tokyo Drift
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Tokyo Drift has several tracks, each complete with three events. The first event is a basic race against rival drivers. Next, you have to race for respect, by filling up an admiration meter by sliding around corners and not running into the walls. The final race is against an area boss. Once that challenge is successfully completed, you open up the next track. The progression of events is smart. The first race gives you a familiarity with the course, the respect race makes sure you understand all the drift turns, and you put it all together for the tough boss race.

The game ramps up its difficulty in what i think is a pretty reasonable manner, but I can definitely see some players not finishing Tokyo Drift. The last tracks are hard. In fact, the final track is a major pain -- even if you are pretty good at drifting by this point. You need to replay earlier races to earn up enough cash to really upgrade the ride to stand a decent chance at the last course. If you are the kind of player that doesn't like to backtrack, you may quit playing right about here. I certainly started getting a little frustrated.

Tokyo Drift is an attractive game. I really love the use of color in the courses -- especially the downtown and fishmarket tracks. I think the cars -- although small, have a nice amount of detail, and the game moves along at a solid clip. I've played Tokyo Drift on a couple handsets, including a Sony Ericsson 710, and the framerate was never an issue.

Closing Comments...
Tokyo Drift is definitely a solid racer -- and I really appreciate it bringing something new to the limited category of mobile driving games. The drift mechanics work exceptionally well, and the tracks are designed just right to give players ample opportunities to really throw their car around. The game is over fairly quickly, however, and I'm not sure how many players will want to whip through the tracks again just to earn more cash and keep upgrading their wheels. But the ride is good fun while it lasts, and judging from the ridiculous film trailer, stands a good chance of being more fun than actually watching the movie.

*Review by Levi Buchanan, IGN

**Official Site


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