Reviewed: January 2, 2009
Released: December 8, 2008
App Store Price: $5.99
Fast and the Furious: Pink Slip 3D is the latest of several racing games currently available for the iPhone and iPod Touch that feature some surprisingly good graphics and some incredibly smooth analog steering thanks to the built-in motion sensor. Thankfully, the quality of this new racing game doesn’t reflect the decreasing quality of the film series from which it is named after.
As the name implies, Pink Slip has you racing for the titles of 32 exotic sports cars in a variety of challenges ranging from traditional Street Racing and Drag Racing, to Cop Chase and Canyon Drift. You start off with the lowly TiXS, a car so lame that even if you lose the winning racer (or the cops) won’t take it. This is your safety net that allows you to keep on playing, even if you lose every other car in your garage. For a car you can't lose I was surprised at just how good the TiXS was, and if there was ever any doubt about winning my next race I would always use this car first just to test the track and the competition. Often, I would win.
From the main menu you can do a Quick Race or head for the Arcade mode which is a series of races divided into skilled tiers with one type of race event in each tier and with multiple pink slips to be earned in each events. The exception is the Cop Chase where you are racing for best completion time rather than pink slips.
As you win pinks and complete races you will unlock new tiers and new race events. The standard racing is pretty straightforward both in concept and controls. All you have to do is keep the car on the road and it will continually accelerate to max speed. You steer by tilting the iPhone much like a steering wheel and there is a nitrous boost tank symbol you can tap for a burst of speed. This tank will slowly refill over time so you can use it several times per race. You can also tap the camera icon to drive from inside or behind your chosen car.
Canyon Drift takes the race into the mountains where you must manage a loose backend as you powerslide (drift) around sharp turns and switchbacks. Not only must you win the race you will be responsible for drifting a certain amount feet before you cross the finish line. Drag Racing is great fun and puts a spin on the gameplay. Here, you must watch the tachometer and just at the right moment tap it to shift gears. Perfect timing of shifting and nitrous use is required to win these sprint events.
And finally we come to the Cop Chase, the game mode that nearly caused me to throw my precious iPhone across the room. In this mode you must drive to the finish line while a cop car tries to ram your car out of commission. It only takes 8-10 solid hits to do this. At Rookie level evading the cops is no big deal – the track is pretty short, but when you get to Sidekick difficulty (2nd tier) this mode becomes downright impossible because the pursuit lasts for nearly four minutes. It doesn’t matter what car you have or how well you drive – you will lose this mode. I lost my entire garage (9 cars at the time) and finally ended up beating this broken game mode by glitching the system.
By “glitching” I mean I ended up having to drive into a wall (the only way to brake) and come to a stop. The cop would then fly by me then have to turn around. While he was coming back I would turbo boost past him and head for the finish line. When I heard his sirens or engine behind me I would pull over and repeat. Believe me – if I wasn’t reviewing this game I wouldn’t have tried half as hard as I did to get past this broken event. I was hoping the recent update patch might have fixed this but you will still have to cheat on every Cop Chase after the first.
Graphically, Fast and the Furious looks a lot like a PS2 game. The car models are excellent and the city backgrounds and streets look great. The cluster of fans at the start and finish lines are typical sprite cutouts, but the game really shines where it counts and that is the racing. There are some occasionally hiccups in the framerate and if you smack a wall it might go transparent for a second, but overall, Pink Slip looks really good.
Along with some excellent engine noise (that doesn’t really change amongst the cars) you get plenty of squealing tires and clanking metal when you hit the wall or another car. There is also a modest selection of techno-style race music for the menus and setup screens.
With 32 races to finish and 32 pink slips to win there is plenty of gameplay in Fast and the Furious, even if it does start to get somewhat repetitive about halfway through. And once you learn that you can simply exit the game and not lose your pink slip, there is relatively no fear of loss or having to re-win a car. Pink Slip also supports wireless multiplayer, which is pretty awesome since you can actually race another real person who has a copy of the game and win their car right off their phone.
There are a lot of racing games out there for the iPhone and iPod Touch right now ranging from cartoon-style arcade games to more serious simulations like this. Fast and the Furious: Pink Slip 3D gets a lot of things right such as content, controls, graphics, and sound, but the totally broken Cop Chase mode still haunts me and keeps me from giving this game as high a score as I was prepared to give it before I had 9 cars “stolen” from my garage by poor game design. It’s nothing a patch can’t fix down the road, but for now, I can only give Pink Slip a cautionary recommendation.