Need For Speed Rivals Review


Well, at long last the Need for Speed marathon is now over. Rivals was the last one I owned that I had not yet played so this was quite the milestone. It’s been a lot of fun racing around and Rivals definitely does feel like a lot of effort was put into it. The graphics are definitely top notch and there’s a whole lot to do here. You have fast travel here which is always a must for games where the hub world is so huge. The story may be a bit weak but you’re here for the gameplay and definitely will not be disappointed.

The game starts off by asking if you want to play as the rebels or the cops this time around. I went with rebels since I played as the cops last time. Please note that you can switch sides at any time. Ideally the game is hoping you’ll go ahead and complete both stories. As it is, each side is fairly long so the game did a good job of really making sure the purchase was worth the money. I don’t think it would be possible for you to beat this game in under 10 hours for example. On the Rebels side the plot is basically that the main guy is trying to prove that it’s best to live life on the edge getting your 15 minutes at a time as he breaks all of the rules. The cops begin getting more and more desperate to catch him. Then you have the cops who are doing everything they can to take this rebel down but it’s proving to be difficult. They’re also having to deal with a lot of copycat racers so all of those guys need to go down and fast.

The game has a lot of different ways to race. You’ve got the standard races, time trials, pursuit races which is a race while being chased by the cops, and Interceptor which is a 1 on 1 battle with you and a police car. Each chapter is divided into missions and each mission is divided into a few tasks. For example one mission might be to win 3 races, clear one time trial, and earn 100K. Once you do all of that then the mission is completed and you will move onto the next set. I like the clear plot progression here as well as the fact that none of them feel all too crazy to me. The tasks are all pretty achievable even if they may take some time. The toughest set always seemed to be the drifting ones so I didn’t even try those. Typically you’re given 3 options on which set of tasks you want to complete and I would go for the racing focused ones. They just seemed the most direct.

I’d say the game took around 12-15 hours but I suppose it’s hard to say exactly. The final race in particular was a really tough one that took me quite a few tries. You have to drive over 30 miles nonstop in order to reach the end and if you made a wrong call or had a bad bump then there’s a chance you would lose and have to start from scratch. Let me tell you, starting from scratch is never fun. Still, since it’s the final level I can give it a pass. None of the other levels are nearly so long and it does make sense that you would want the final level to be a challenge. This game actually had far better pacing than most other Need for Speed games with how the levels go so I have to give a lot of kudos there. I also liked the variety. This was just a really well balanced game.

Part of what makes it work is how interactive the hub world is. It just feels alive with cars moving around at all time and the cutting edge graphics. As I mentioned earlier the game looks amazing. Definitely what you would expect form a next gen title. The soundtrack was also not all that annoying this time around which is great. The franchise is not usually known for having a good amount of solid themes so it’s something that can always be a bit concerning. This way there wasn’t really anything to worry about. When you pack on the replay value then you’ve definitely got a bargain here.

At its core what makes Rivals so good is of course the gameplay. It’s all very smooth and you feel in control of the car. I like that you unlock cars which you can use and buy them with cash but there isn’t the crazy level of customization that other titles have. I don’t mind a little customization of course but after a point you want to be able to just jump into a car and start driving instead of always wondering how you can optimize it. This one leaves things reasonably automatic as well which I think is a great middle ground. The game also has a lot of items at the ready here as you can attack with mines and shockwaves as well as protect yourself with Jammers and stuff like that. Items can work quite well when used the right way. For racers I really don’t mind not having any gimmicks but I won’t complain about them either.

Overall, Need For Speed: Rivals is a great game. It really captures the essence of the series and executes on every angle quite brilliantly. There is no part of the game that I would shake my head at. Even the story which can be a bit overdramatic as you follow a lead who is so far from being a hero that you can’t root for him, is okay in the end. At least it doesn’t drag on which I appreciate. You don’t get to see a whole lot of cutscenes but at least each one has a direct purpose. If you’re looking for a good racing game to pick up then I would definitely recommend this one. You really can’t go wrong with Rivals.

Overall 8/10

Days of Thunder Review


Sport based films tend to be a lot of fun. Naturally I’d be most partial to a Football movie but you can also do quite a lot with Basketball and Tennis as they are high action sports. Then you’ve got car racing which is a sport but then you also see it used a lot more recreationally like in Need for Speed or Fast and the Furious. Well, this film is really about Sport car racing and it’s executed pretty well. I would definitely give this a thumbs up and would definitely recommend it. It’s got a quick pace, likable characters, and a good story to back it up. When you mix all of those elements in together then you’ve really got a recipe for success.

The movie starts with one team owner deciding he needs to start getting some wins again. He recruits his old pal Harry who used to be one of the best mechanics in the biz. He then recruits a racer known as Cole who has never really competed in this kind of circuit but is a whiz at cars. Cole proves himself rather well but has one weakness, he doesn’t understand the technical aspects of racing a car. He’s got the skill, he just never learned the terminology which puts him at odds with Harry quite often. Can the two of them reconcile their differences and get their car to win the big championships or at the end of the day are they doomed?

Of course there are other plots going on here as well. You’ve got Rowdy who used to be a huge rival with Cole to the point where his methods were rather underhanded and dangerous. When they have an accident Rowdy is confronted with the possibility that he may not be able to race again. He quickly becomes a fun character by the second part of his character arc. The scene of him and Cole racing around in their wheelchairs is definitely the best scene in the film if you ask me. The music was on point and it had a good amount of humor.

Then you’ve got Dr. Claire who is trying her best to help Rowdy and Cole but the two of them are quite stubborn and don’t really listen to her advice the way they should. This certainly causes a lot of friction as well that is difficult for her to navigate. There is a bit of a romance set up between her and Cole but I would have to say that this is the weakest aspect of the film. The romance doesn’t really seem to have a purpose here other than ensuring that the movie has some romance in it. Once that plot’s over with it goes back to the main focus of being all about the races. Claire’s definitely a very reasonable character throughout and knows what she’s talking about. She does not like racing and it’s easy to see why. It’s a very dangerous sport. I like watching Football for example but I would definitely never play it. Just seems entirely too risky to me.

Towards the end of the film we also meet a guy named Russ who surprise surprise, is also a dirty racer. From the start you can tell that this guy is going to be an issue from how he addresses Cole. He sure has a lot of confidence considering that the guy was only just hired. He makes for a good endgame boss though. Then of course we’ve got Harry who really is a solid mechanic. I do think he needs to own up to a bit more of the responsibility whenever Cole’s car breaks down though. Whether he was gripping too tightly or not that sounds to me like the car could be built a little sturdier. If you’re trying to win and going at 100% then it just sounds to me like the car should be able to take that. Once he and Cole have a good dynamic going though they are definitely all set for the rest of the journey.

Finally there’s Cole and he’s a solid main character. He’s got a good amount of confidence himself and is serious about winning all of the races. He’s definitely not the kind of guy who is satisfied with second place. It’s the gold trophy or nothing for him. He also does have a sense of humor off the field. When he’s on it though the guy is pretty serious and will blame just about anyone if he doesn’t score first. The pressure does seem to get to him at times.

Part of what helps make Days of Thunder succeed here is that it’s just a very balanced movie. The writing is solid and the character cast is good. Mix that in with a good story even apart from the racing and you have a winning formula. The blend of humor and thriller aspects works out quite nicely. Then for the races themselves you can tell that a lot of good effort was put into them. It’s definitely very exciting to see the cars moving so fast and trying to get the inside corner. I admit that part of why watching it in real life isn’t so thrilling to me is because it does seem like nobody’s doing much of anything since you’re just driving in circles but of course it is an incredibly difficult task to pull off. By shifting camera angles all over the place the movie makes the races feel a lot busier which is good.

Overall, I would recommend checking out Days of Thunder. It’s really a solid movie that succeeds on all accounts. I don’t expect it’s a movie that would have you giving it a bunch of awards of anything after watching but it’s just fundamentally sound. There are no big issues with the film that would have me docking it any points. It’s just got really good fundamentals and that’s exactly what you want to see from a film like this. I’d definitely be on board with some more racing films. We don’t see a whole lot in the circuit and it’s a nice change of pace but what I think the best thing to do would be is to have a sequel take place in the city. Have the company rent out a bunch of blocks so you’re going at high speeds in that environment. That would work out quite well.

Overall 7/10

Midnight Club: Los Angeles Review


Midnight Club is a pretty big racing series in its own right. It has long been overshadowed by the Need For Speed games but it has still lasted a while. In effect it’s like a Grand Theft Auto mixed with Need for Speed game or at least that’s the kind of vibe you get from it. The open world may be even bigger than what NFS usually brings. It’s a pretty great game with a ton of content at your disposal so you really can’t go wrong here.

The basic story is that you’re a new racer who is trying to gain reputation and move up the ranks. You know that you’re the best racer on the block but in order to challenge the best racers you will have to go up the ranks slowly but surely. You make some friends along the way like Karl and Annie as well as some rivals and enemies like Hugo or the 4 Champions. You’ll have to defeat them all, friend or foe in order to claim the title.

One thing I always appreciate in a racing game is having an actual story. You can’t take these for granted because a lot of games in the genre don’t have one. It’s not like this story is particularly unique or ambitious but it’s a story nonetheless. There’s a lot of fun banter between the lead and everyone else which ends up being the best part to me. They never stop with the burns, especially the lead and Karl. There are a lot of great lines like “Face me if you want a real challenge” “I’d love a real challenge but I’ll settle for racing you Karl” and a lot of lines like that. The burns and insults just keep on coming.

I played in over 200 races during the course of the game and I would still have needed to play a bunch more in order to unlock the final events. You’d think that taking down the city champions was the final battle but after that there is a champion for each kind of vehicle which is the part I didn’t finish. To unlock them you would need to play a lot of races in each car type and that was definitely not going to be done
anytime soon. I put in over 20 hours on this game s you definitely don’t need to worry about content here. There’s enough to tide you over and then some. With replay value on the other races and getting more cars I’d estimate this title to be around 30 hours.

The gameplay here is pretty direct, you drive through the stages and try to reach the goal first. Simple as that, that’s what you need to do in order to score a win here. There are other racing types in the game as well like time trials and trying to ram people off the road. The delivery events were likely the trickiest if you ask me because usually you would at least need to know where one or two of the shortcuts were in order to progress further.

As for my car of choice, it wasn’t even a car. As soon as I had enough money to buy a motorcycle I grabbed one and never looked back. The stats are off the charts and the only drawback is that an enemy attack can instantly knock you off your bike and your durability is very low so there is a good chance that you will get “damaged out” during the race and lose by default. Essentially you’ve got ultimate speed at the cost of your defense and that’s a fine trade off for me. I figure durability won’t be a concern as long as I stay ahead of the other racers and that’s exactly how things played out. It was really hard to go back to a car after that for the events where one was mandatory.

One issue I have with the game though is the fact that there is no fast travel. The main world is quite large so at times you would be driving for whole minutes to get to the next event. I’d much rather just be able to jump into the next event. I suppose the reason this game was designed that way was to prevent such things from happening. Admittedly if fast travel was an option I would have skipped most of the hub world experience and jumped straight into the duels.

The graphics here definitely look really good as expected. The game had aged quite well from the PS3. It’s naturally under some of the more high budget experiences like Need for Speed but I’d say it did good with what it had. The soundtrack is not very good though. I spent the majority of my play through constantly switching through songs to find the few gold ones. I would definitely have liked the ability to remove songs from the lineup so it would only cycle through a few that I would give a thumbs up.

Overall, Midnight Club is a great racing game. There is just so much to do here between all of the cars to collect and events to complete. 200 races is quite a lot so there’s no way to beat them all too quickly. In fact I even managed to make it to the maximum driver level which was a lot of fun. That’s not something that I can say happens every time. It was a pretty rare event and one I won’t soon forget. If you like racing games then I highly recommend this one. See how it stacks up for you compared to the famous Need for Speed franchise.

Overall 8/10

Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit Review


Need for Speed has had a ton of games over the years. It’s took a while but I’ve gotten to play just about all of them now. Hot Pursuit is one of the more recent ones and it’s a really solid installment. It takes the series back to its roots with a lot of solid races and the fact that you can now play on the police side as well. This makes for a pretty long campaign all things considered and there is still the free roam as well. Throw in the top notch graphics EA is known for and you’ve definitely got a winner here.

There is no story mode this time though so that’s something to consider here. You’ll instead just jump right into the races. There are around 60 races as a classic rebel who is going through illegal races and trying to be the #1 underground racer. Then you have the police side which has around 50 races as you take these guys to justice. I did all of the police levels and around 10-20 of the racer ones. There are definitely a lot of races to be had here so you really need to like the gameplay. Of course, why would you get a racing game if you don’t like the genre right?

The gameplay is a bit different between the two sides. On the rebel side it’s fairly standard as you try to outspeed the other racers to the goal. You also have time attack races where you just gotta go really fast. On the police side it’s about busting opposing cars. Take them out via ramming or with your 4 special abilities. You can fire EMP bombs at them, call in helicopters, use barricades, or even drop spikes. The rebels have these abilities as well so this is a bit of a departure from the more street level titles of the past. The abilities are pretty fun though and help make the game fresh. That’s why I played less of the rebel levels this time because I just liked the new approach here.

The gameplay is as smooth as it’s ever been. You really feel like you’re in control as the car zooms forward. Turns are seamless and everything feels right while you’re drifting. That’s good because some of the levels really call for a ton of precision so you need this level of control or you could find yourself in a lot of dangerous situations. Then you’ve got the graphics which are top notch as I mentioned. The game just looks really good. The cars are as realistic as they can be and that makes driving them even more fun. The rain is on point and the game looks PS4 level easy. It’s about as ahead of its time as you can get.

The soundtracks for this franchise can be very hit or miss but this one’s a hit without question. The main theme of the game is fantastic so whenever the game loads up you know you’re in for a treat. Not just any game can pull that off. It helps you tolerate the initial loading time a lot more than you would otherwise. The tunes in the actual game are a little less memorable but still work well enough. With a soundtrack of this size you’re not likely to enjoy them all but more work than the ones that do not.

With 100+ levels in here the game should last you around 12 hours if you want to complete them all but if you only aim to complete one side then around 6 hours will do. Of course that leaves a lot of replay value regardless. Earning the Distinction or Gold Medal on each level will be really difficult. You can also earn levels ups as you go through the game which unlocks more abilities and better cars. With these cars you can then go back to the older levels and it’ll be a little easier to complete them. So this game does reward your continued play. You can also go for trophies but with the online not around anymore hopefully there are no online ones or the Platinum trophy will be impossible to get anyway so I’m not sure if you would really bother with it.

One thing I would say that is in this game’s favor is the more Arcade like approach. I’m cool with the game just giving you the cars and you choose which one to grab. While I can see the appeal in customizing your own car and heading to the lot to buy new ones every few levels, I prefer to sometimes just get in and race. Give everyone the same cars and just let it come down to skill. If you ask me that’s for the best. It’s not like a game will lose points for not doing this of course, but I just really like it going this way.

Overall, Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit is really a great game. There’s just a whole lot for you to enjoy. It’s a complete racing game with top notch gameplay and graphics. It certainly makes a case for being the strongest Need for Speed title. Really the only thing stopping it is the fact that there is 0 story. Even if the gameplay may be the best, it’s hard for me to put it above one of the titles that actually has a strong story. If you’re just in it for the gameplay though then I’d say that you really can’t go wrong here. There’s something to be said for going back to the core basics which this game executed really well.

Overall 8/10

Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit Stats and Records

Stats time!

Play Time 5h 41m
Total Game Complete 30%
Distance Driven 527.4 Miles

Time Played As Cop 4h 19m
Cop Distinctions 23/48
Cop Cars Driven 18/49
Cop Milestones Complete 15/20

Time Played As Racer 1h 21m
Racer Golds 6/60
Racer Cars Driven 9/51
Racer Milestones Complete 3/20

Total Driving Milestones Complete 17/40
Distance Driven 2/4
Distance In Oncoming 1/4
Distance In Drift 1/4
Distance On Shortcuts 2/4
Time In Slipstream 1/4
Time At Top Speed 1/4
Time Using Nitrous 1/4
Nitrous Bars Filled 3/4
Near Misses 2/4
Total Crashes 3/4

Need For Speed: The Run Review


It’s time to look at the next Need for Speed game in the series. The Run definitely makes things pretty intense here with how high intensity the story is. Unfortunately the story is extremely short though. I was surprised when I initially found out just how short the title was. It just strikes me as odd that you wouldn’t have made the game a few hours longer at least. When you went to all the trouble of setting up the gameplay and locations it just makes sense to put more content in right? Ah well, I applaud the series for trying to do something different here. It may not have ended up being quite the biggest payoff but it was a worthy attempt.

So the main character is in some trouble with the law. A lady shows up and offers to clear his record if he enters an illegal cross country race on her behalf. He’ll earn lotsa of money so it’s a pretty solid deal. The lead agrees to do this and little does he know that this journey is about to get pretty interesting. It’s a long trip across the country all the way to New York after all and some people want to shoot him down. He’ll have to rely on his slick car skills to get through this one and it definitely won’t be a walk in the park.

This Need for Speed game has a lot less variety on the kinds of races you do. Gone are the drifting events and things of that nature. There are now only two real events, racing against people and checkpoints. You also have boss races but they play the game as the normal races. Just make sure you pass the opponent and stay ahead in order to win. Instead of laps the game goes by miles which makes sense since you’re effectively in a nonstop race which doesn’t end until you hit New York. It’s a pretty interesting concept and one I can get behind. The levels are also pretty short as a result so you should really be blasting through most of them with ease.

Honestly the game’s not very hard at all. I was having some pretty bad controller issues and I still beat most of the levels without a hitch. There are checkpoints in each of the levels and you have 6 lives that you can use to clear the game. With all of this at your disposal you can see why winning the races won’t be all that hard. Don’t get me wrong though, it’s no walk in the park. You still need to run a clean race and not bump into anything. The final boss in particular can be tricky as it’s a 10 mile race and you even have to dodge incoming trains at times. That was pretty cool, I definitely don’t think I’ve had to do that in any of the other games.

Then this one also throws in some quick time events as the character runs from the cops. It’s been a while since I played a proper quick time event match so that was pretty neat. It definitely adds to the theatrical feel of the story. When the main character starts jumping across buildings you may find that a bit suspect but it just goes to show how athletic he is. There are even some human fights here and there which was intense. The main character isn’t particularly heroic though so you may have a hard time rooting for him at all. That’s a pretty common theme for the Need for Speed games though.

As for the length, the game is only a little over 2 hours long. Even for games which are short this one really stands out. That’s just not a lot of time at all. Now, there is some bonus content here like challenge mode and replaying the story but that’s about it. I suppose there is going for the PS3 trophies but with the servers down that means a Platinum is completely out of reach if you are gunning for one of those. If that is the case then it lowers the replay value down even further. Make no mistake, this game is all about your initial playthrough and then I believe you’ll probably be putting it down. Still, the gameplay is really solid and at the end of the day that’s probably why you’re getting these games right? In that case you have nothing to fear. It’s just a very solid experience from start to finish.

The graphics are definitely top notch. EA always tends to go ham on the graphics which makes sense since their sport games tend to sell a lot and they reuse so many assets that the profit margins should be pretty crazy. It should come as no surprise that they’re able to execute at a high level. The stages also look really sharp along with the cars and effects. There’s definitely no issue here. Then you’ve got the soundtrack which has quite a lot of tunes in it from various singers. It is impressive how EA licenses so many songs for the games. The quality will vary quite a bit so hopefully you like the tunes. They are all pretty fast paced to match the game’s atmosphere.

Overall, The Run is certainly a Need for Speed title that makes pretty big changes compared to most of the usual titles. This one isn’t afraid to go for a rather different feel the whole time which I can appreciate. The quick time events are fun and the story is pretty solid. It’s definitely a serious story with a real plot. Some times the story can go a little while without much of a real cutscene though. I’d say something big would usually happen every 3 levels and with only 10 in the game that does mean there is a lot of dead time as well. If you can find this game for a good price then I recommend checking it out. It may be short but the game is still very high quality when it comes to things like gameplay and graphics which you definitely don’t want to overlook. I’m now one step closer to being caught up with the Need for Speed series.

Overall 7/10

Mega Man: Battle & Chase Review


It’s time to look at a quick Mega Man title from a while ago. The fact that Mega Man got a racing title was always pretty cool. Franchise racers like this always have a lot of potential because it’s just fun to throw the characters into a crazy situation like this. Of course, we will be looking at the manga adaption of the game so we’ll see just how well it fares. Personally I thought it was pretty solid. It’s not a series that you will remember long term but it’s a fun adventure through and through which is what counts. Mega Man does appear to be a little rude at times though.

The manga starts with a piece of the Sigma ore dropping onto the planet. A group decides they can quickly use this to host a Grand Prix since it’s so rare. Dr Light and Wily are both a little upset that a relic of such power is being used in this way but each one needs to get it before the other. Wily signs up all of his robot masters including the mighty Bass. Bass doesn’t care what kind of event is on, if he enters he plans to win. Meanwhile Dr Light reconfigured Rush into a car so Mega Man can enter. Roll wants to join as well but is given a harsh no from the heroes. She decides to enter in secret as the Masked Racer. Finally the mysterious Proto Man has entered as well, what are his true aims here?

The series is very short and it’s all over in about a volume. There’s a lot of racing to be had within the chapters though as there are no real subplots. It’s just about the racers really doing their best to get to the finish line. There are several races within the race as this is a cross country type of experience. You take a break after hitting various checkpoints until you get all the way to the end. There really aren’t any rules in the race as well. Weapons and explosives are all okay here and due to Mega Man’s timid nature that puts him at a bit of a disadvantage. The robot masters are all too happy to use what they’ve got to take down the blue bomber but he is always very hesitant. Is it really okay to attack the others? These thoughts hold him back a lot. He gets saved by Roll, Bass, and Proto Man on different occasions. The guy wouldn’t have been anywhere close to winning without them.

Of course as I mentioned earlier this isn’t Mega Man’s nicest appearance. I don’t think the author really knew how to write the dynamic between him and Roll. The Mega Man I know doesn’t insult her in literally the first page of this adventure. It seemed like the group really didn’t believe in Roll at all to the point where they acted like she was just an issue holding them back. It got to the point where Bass had to actually show up and criticize Mega Man for being harsh on her. Proto Man was also more supportive. I don’t know what was up with Mega Man here but by the end of the adventure he has seemingly learned his lesson so that’s good.

Bass has a satisfying role here. He does get mind controlled at one point which is unfortunate but he’s portrayed as a very mature villain. He wants to beat Mega Man fair and square without any cheap gimmicks or things of that nature. All he really seeks right now is a fair fight where he can really go all out. He helps out Roll on one occasion since cheating was going on. Bass has a solid honor code and it’s why he’s a pretty great bot. Wily should have believed in him and maybe he would have been able to take Mega Man down in the end. Then you have Proto Man who looks pretty great here as well. The guy is as mysterious as always but does like to troll the heroes such as when he gave Mega Man a broken down car as thanks or his scene with Roll at the end. Proto Man’s always been a wild card that’s for sure.

A lot of other characters appears with smaller roles. It was nice to see all of the classic Mega Man foes. Pretty much everyone got involved in this race. Quick Man definitely looks the best from them all and that’s no surprise. When it comes to a race who is possibly going to try and stop him? The guy lives up to his name and I like his confidence. A minor villain from Mega Man X1 also shows up which was interesting. A fun little cameo for the fans I suppose. I’m definitely all for it and since the main object everyone is racing for is related to Sigma I suppose there was a connection here right from the jump.

The art is pretty solid. All of the characters look to be on point and the racing is very easy to follow. This is definitely a title that you’ll miss once it’s over. The Mega Man franchise is just a very interesting one and I’d love to see more adventures with the crew. I do have a few more Mega Man titles lined up to read soon though so there won’t be a shortage. We’ll see if Mega Man himself looks a little more in character though. From all of the characters he was the only one who sorta missed the mark here but at the end of the day he still helped out in stopping the villains.

Overall, Battle & Chase is a pretty obscure Mega Man game so it’s neat that it got a manga. The adaption seems pretty solid to me. You really get to focus on the race which is the important thing here. Fans who like to see Proto Man as a very serious character the whole time may be concerned that he is used for comedy at times but I like to think that this is Proto Man later in his career where he has mellowed out a bit. He may not call himself a hero quite yet but for all intents and purposes he is. The guy is now set on helping Mega Man behind the scenes even if he will never get recognition for it.

Overall 7/10

Transporter 3 Review


It’s time to look at the final film in the trilogy. The first two Transporter films were both pretty solid. I thought the second beat the first by a narrow margin. Unfortunately this one is quite a bit weaker than the first two. Essentially it’s going for similar themes and fights, but just ends up weaker in every area compared to the first two. While I wouldn’t say this is an inherently bad thing as losing to good films isn’t a problem, this film just isn’t that good. I’d say it does just enough to skate by on not being called a bad film but it’s a little too close to the line for comfort. It’s a shame because the film has quite a lot of potential with the premise alone.

So the film starts off with some scenes involving a giant boat trying to land but realizing that it can’t. The captain calls his Russian mafia friends and they confirm that they are close to finishing off the deal. They seem to have some kind of blackmail on the environmental minister. He’ll be signing their papers in a day so that they can offload all of their boats. The minister sends his men in to stop this but only a day is a pretty tough timeline. Meanwhile Frank is enjoying retirement. He turned down the latest assignment to transport and just relaxes with some fishing. Unfortunately his day is ruined when an old friend bursts through his window in a car along with a lady named Valentina. The guy dies since he goes too far from the car and then Frank gets mugged. He is forced by the villains to take the job of transporting a few packages along with Valentina to a far away destination. Now that Frank has the wrist device he also can’t go too far from the car or he will be blown up. The problem is that he and Valentina don’t get along at all. She’s quite antagonistic the whole time despite Frank’s best efforts. Looks like it’s up to him to get out of this situation.

I will say that the film’s beginning had a few warning bells. Nothing too serious to be honest so I don’t want to overstate it. The film’s problems would get worse as it went along. Still, the intro was rather dull. The scenes on the boat still feel pretty pointless to me. At the very least I don’t see why you would start with these scenes. Some guys break into the cargo area and die to the poison? I suppose this is to tip us off that the boat is related to criminal activity…but that was pretty obvious from the jump. The boat characters maybe appear for 2-3 minutes total for the rest of the film. We then cut away to fishing which also isn’t very exciting. The only good part here is the car chase while Frank narrates over it. It’s just a very slow beginning.

The other warning sign is that Frank doesn’t look very intelligent at all. He notices that his friend has a weird tech thing on his arm and the friend begs him not to let them take him to an ambulance. Frank ignores this and after they take him away finally realizes that it’s because the thing on his arm was a bomb. The friend dies of course. So….maybe we can cut Frank some slack because this might not be a common device. You see it all the time in movies but we could say it’s not normal. Still, you’d expect him to be a lot more on the ball with this. Getting knocked out shortly afterwards wasn’t a good look for him either although to be fair he gets quite a habit of getting beaten up when it’s a sneak attack.

I don’t mind the idea of having to stay close to the car though. It’s a good way to build up tension. You may have a hard time believing how he catches up to the car at times but it’s a solid plot gimmick nonetheless. Additionally, I still do like the fights in Transporter 3 even though they are a noticeable downgrade from the first two films. Gone are the days when Frank would win his fights with advanced martial art techniques. One thing I really liked about the first film was that he was shown to be an expert fighter. He was using crazy hand to hand techniques you’d never seen. I’d actually say as a pure fighter he is even better than Jason Bourne, Ethan Hunt, Dwayne Johnson, and James Bond. This guy is just an excellent fighter without a doubt. In this film he uses more basic moves. He still beats everyone up and looks generally impressive but the choreography isn’t at the same level. There are a ton of jump cuts. For that reason, the opening fight in the flashback is easily my favorite fight scene in the film. I thought a lot more effort was put into this one than the others that would come later on.

Where the film goes wrong is really with the main heroine and the inevitable romance that follows. Valentina is one of those characters who gives Frank quite an attitude the whole time. Typically I’m okay with characters having some attitude. She has no reason to trust this guy and it’s a stressful situation right? Well, the problem is that this isn’t totally true. We learn later on some interesting twists about her character but they completely contradict her actions. The film would have been so much easier and quicker if she had been upfront with him. Her reason for staying quiet at the end of the film is comically bad. It’s just hard to understand what’s going through her head. Not only is she unhelpful but she actively puts them in danger like with the whole scene in the grocery store.

This long scene which involves her getting drunk and really just undermining her character makes her look really bad. I can’t cut her any slack for these actions “because she was drunk” because she knowingly chose to get drunk and high during a situation when they need to stay sharp and not die. She also forces a romance between her and Frank by blackmailing him with a bomb. Seriously? That’s got to be one of the worst romance starters I’ve seen in a long time. Literally if he says no he blows up and he can’t walk away either…or he will blow up. Not a whole lot of options to him and she has fun humiliating him for a while. Naturally he ends up enjoying the romance so it’s not a problem for him but this was a really, really bad scene. This plotline was bad from start to finish.

Valentina’s character never rises above this. She tries to be supportive later on but it’s too little too late. I’d also mention that she does a poor job of trying to get the villain driver to slow the car when Frank is behind them. All right, that’s enough on her character. Frank is a decent lead but he looks far worse than in the last two installments. Putting aside the romance and his getting mugged at the beginning of the film in addition to him not realizing about the friend, he even endangers his friend. It’s a comedy scene but he heads to a mechanic he knows and asks the guy to look over the car. We then get a big fight scene where the film resists the urge to use oil for a third time straight although you know it was close since they were fighting with cannisters. The friend asks if it’ll be okay since all of these big villains will wake up soon and Frank just says to go home. They all saw the guy’s face and presumably know his name. Frank just didn’t seem to care. We also just generally get less scenes of Frank humiliating everyone with how good he is in a fight. The guy is an old pro at how this works so showing more of that like in the first two films would be a good idea.

I’d also argue that the final scene of using the bomb with the main villain put Valentina in danger needlessly. As it is the explosion threw her under some rubble. She was okay but it could have very easily gone sideways and her death would have been really pointless there. Frank just can’t help but show off I suppose. The Inspector returns as a supporting character but his scenes feel a little pointless at this point. It’s the same ole jokes from the first two films and he’s always far too late to really do anything. He seems like a nice enough guy I suppose but you get the feeling that he was squeezed in.

Man, this is sounding like a negative review right? I’d say it’s just because the negatives of the film are so noticeable. The positives are still there but just not as strong as they could be. The soundtrack is pretty solid for the fights. I’d say that the lyrical songs we get are pretty weak though. The film succeeds as a thriller in the sense that we do have a lot of nonstop action and fights when the characters are on the road. I enjoyed the chase scene where you have the two black cars on the highway. The cars looking almost identical works pretty well for solid visuals while they’re bumping back and forth. There was some nice strategy used here as well. In general the film always delivers with the chases. There are less jump cuts than with the hand to hand fights as well which is good.

Overall, Transporter 3 is a downgrade from the first 2. The heroine is no good and her actions just don’t make sense especially once we get her flashbacks. It’s a shame because her character had potential as a tough female lead who could keep up with Frank. Her father is certainly presented as a tough figure at least. He actually talks back to villains and doesn’t just roll over with the blackmail. The guy’s got a ton of pull for an environmental leader. I didn’t realize they were quite so tough. At the same time, Russia always has a rep for being very tough so it was nice to see this guy keep that persona as opposed to losing it just because he was a good guy here. If you liked the first two films then you should still check this one out since it completes the saga. It’ll still deliver on the usual action and fight scenes that you would expect. The writing and everything else just experience a bit of a decline here so it’s easy to see why they didn’t go forward with another one in this saga. I think someday they should do a nostalgia fourth film though. The film just needs to focus more on the Transporter angle and give us some solid fight scenes.

Overall 5/10

The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift Review


It’s time to finally take a look at the third installment in the Fast and the Furious film. Unfortunately this one just isn’t very good. It has a lot of fanservice and the characters aren’t particularly likable. This makes for an experience that’s more of a miss than it ever should have been. That being said, it has its strengths. I enjoyed the visuals and the music this movie had to offer. At the end of the day those factors are never going to be enough to make you a very good film in general, but I suppose it’s a good start so we take those.

The movie begins with Sean getting goaded into yet another race. He simply couldn’t let the bully go after having a rock thrown through the window and decides to mix things up with him in this race. Unfortunately, while Sean won the race he was still picked up by the cops. The bullies get away of course but Sean’s been caught one too many times. His Mom arranges for him to be bailed out and sent to his father in Tokyo. His father only has 2 main rules, go straight home, and no underground racing. That’s not Sean’s style though so he gets his new friend that he’s known for 2 hours to take him to the local scene. Sean gets demolished in this race and since he broke the car he now has to work for Han until he pays it back. Sean wants to pay him back but he also wants Neela to be with him and to do that he needs to humiliate DK in a race. Can he really surpass the Drift King?

When the film started the first thing I could think of was that this film seemed like more of a Need for Speed adaption than the actual film. Sean references racing for Pink Slips which is all that you do in the big boss levels of those games. Then we’ve got the whole Drifting focus here which is huge in Need for Speed. So those were just pretty fun things to note. Then you have the cops nabbing him right away too which is what usually goes down there. So, the racing scenes here are quite solid. I definitely have no problems with them. I suppose Drifting may be a little less exciting to watch than a straight race, but we get plenty of those here too so no matter which style you like, there’s plenty of fun to be had here. If you don’t like driving at all….then I can’t help you here.

Meanwhile the visuals are also really nice. The nighttime races in particular look good and it meshes well with the Tokyo environment. Tokyo is sort of like New York in how it’s always open and active with things going on 24/7. The most intense race was probably the 4 way free for all with the heroes trying to escape and being pursued by DK. It was nice because they were all just racing through the streets. There was no map, you had to drive on instinct. The final race on the mountain is also pretty solid though. As I mentioned earlier, when it comes to action this film couldn’t be beat.

I also enjoyed the soundtrack quite a bit. It’s quite different from most soundtracks that I’ve heard. I can’t speak to the lyrics as you’re more focused on the beat. At the very least the main theme really gets you set for some hype races. It’s got a bit of an ominous feel to it where there’s danger all around. If this counts as rap, then it’s probably one of the few rap songs that I found to actually be rather good. It’s definitely not my genre in general but any genre can have a good tune if you try hard enough. This song just really set the stage every time it was played. So I think we’ve got most of the positives out of the way now. I’ll also say that I enjoyed the ending stinger. I imagine it’ll be pretty annoying for people who saw this day 1 wondering when this lead would show up again though. It does feel like this was just a little tribute for the fans but it was the perfect way to end things off.

All right, so here’s where the film falters. Lets get the obvious things out of the way. First is the obnoxious amount of fanservice here. The camera zooms in quite a bit, Sean goes to various clubs and Discos that are pretty edgy. All of his teammates seem morally dubious as well. Even Han who is the most charismatic member of the crew doesn’t actually seem like a good guy if you think about it. All of the heroes here live free and loose. By that I mean that I wouldn’t trust any of them in a serious relationship for a second much less to have your back in a fight. They would turn at the first sign of danger. The romance in the movie is also handled pretty poorly. It’s hard to see why Neela would fall for Sean after everything that goes on. I suppose getting rescued in a sense by the villain helps since people can mistake gratitude for love, but then you recall that Sean gets distracted by every girl he meets and you know this relationship can’t possibly end well.

As for Sean, he’s just not a good character. I tend to like the rebellious character type but this guy takes it way too far. You’ve always got to try and hit the right amount of edge for these characters since they should still feel like a good character in general who wants to do the right thing. You never get that feeling with Sean. As I mentioned, he ignores his father and immediately goes into underground racing. It’s not like he was pressured into it or someone was in trouble. He chose to get back into the game and didn’t care about the consequences. I already mentioned how he seems to be quite flighty and goes after girls. The guy also stood around as someone got bullied. I think the film was trying to say that he would have stepped in if the hazing was more intense. He put down the wrench once he saw they were “just” spray painting him. You could also interpret it as he saw the numbers and decided he couldn’t win.

I don’t think it matters much what reasoning you chose. It’s still horrible that he let the guy get bullied like that. Physical damage isn’t the only kind of bullying there is. Being held down and spray painted all over would be an incredibly traumatizing experience. From that point it would be extremely difficult for Sean to become a likable character and he didn’t even come close to pull it off. His best friend Twinkie is a lot better in that respect. I do think it was a bit much for him to get upset when Sean came to his rescue but otherwise he’s consistently helpful. He takes a lot of risks to help Sean as well so it’s not like he’s just giving moral support. Sean would have been in trouble without him.

DK made for an intimidating villain. The guy definitely didn’t mess around and wasn’t afraid to make the fight physical instead of waiting for the race to begin. He got some good shots on both Sean and Han prior to the races. His skills were also pretty good. He may not be a real mafia member but he had the act down. As for Neela, she was a solid heroine who definitely got herself wrapped up in the wrong crowd. I suppose she underestimated how possessive DK was based on how she was acting at the start. She can apparently drive pretty well but sadly we don’t get to see her race much at all. In general she isn’t given a ton to do here but I liked her character. She had a lot of depth going for her and by default destroys most of the cast in that respect. The film doesn’t go overboard in explaining her backstory either. You understand the crux of it with the context we get.

Then you have Han who really just wants to mess everyone up. He’s fairly laid back, always eating snacks and such. The guy doesn’t really fear anything and stays smug even when he is being beaten up. You have to respect that level of dedication. He was a highlight from the start just with how he would stand up to DK and got Sean into the race. He gives the film a sense of humor as well. Again, when you think about it he’s not a great guy or anything but since he’s on Sean’s side I suppose you see him in more of a positive light than you would for the others. He’s certainly not malicious the way someone like DK is. To Han this is all just a game.

Overall, Tokyo Drift definitely takes the series in a different direction. It’s not even a bad one to be honest, the execution just wasn’t on point. I liked Tokyo as a backdrop, it’s always pretty interesting to see a different locale like that. It must be incredibly hard to transfer to a high school there when you don’t know any Japanese. That’s one area where I can understand why Sean was having such a tough time even though he didn’t exactly try very hard anyway. There are other interesting background elements as well like Sean’s father who seems like he may have had a racing background. He doesn’t get a lot of development here but has one pivotal moment with a gun that I thought was executed really well. I also like the idea of focusing the film around Drifting since it’s something unique. So many good ideas and opportunities but the film just kept on taking the worst choices and limiting its potential. I’d like to see these characters come back some day though and give this another shot. If you really love racing films then it may be worth checking out but otherwise there are certainly better ones out there.

Overall 4/10

Need For Speed Undercover Review


Looks like the Need for Speed marathon is finally at an end. I’ll play through the next one at some point but at least for right now this will be it. Undercover is definitely a very solid installment in the series though. Not only does it have a lot of content to go through but it also takes us back to the more plot driven direction of the earlier games. It could stand to have more of a focused story but even just having boss battles is a big improvement over the last few. It’s just hard to top that and I wonder what they’ll do for an encore.

The game starts with the main character being tasked with the assignment of going undercover in order to take down a bunch of renegade racers. Gangs are popping up everywhere and you have to stay undercover until you find the big boss. The tricky thing is that you start to sympathize with some of these racers who are just trying their best to live and survive in what is considered a pretty frightening world. Is there any way that the hero can let them off easy? He’ll have to also avoid attracting too much attention since some characters already think that he’s probably compromised. It sure is difficult to keep getting these guys arrested while the lead is somehow safe.

I feel like the villains should have known something was up the instant we busted an entire gang, leaving the main character as the only guy left. At this point we joined another gang and did the same thing but really? That’s super suspicious. The main character doesn’t get to appear all that much and even gets censored during the quick cutscenes with the cops so we don’t see him all that clearly. I suppose he seems like a nice enough guy but also a very gullible one who is easy to manipulate. His driving skills are second to none though and the villains learn that the hard way. The ending has a lot of things happening so you’ll need to pay attention to that.

Unfortunately the sound mixing wasn’t very good. The gameplay and music while in the race are much louder than the actual cutscenes. What this means is that you’ll be playing normally when suddenly a cutscene occurs and you need to raise the volume. If you don’t then what ends up happening is you won’t be able to hear what’s going on quite as well. I don’t really get how something like this would make it past the play testing since it seems like a quick fix. Beyond that, it has the usual EA soundtrack. There are a lot of songs here and they’re all pretty fast paced so I’d say that you’re bound to find at least a few that you’ll like. I’d be surprised if you didn’t. The ending song is definitely a pretty intense one and ends as if this was a theatrical movie. Pretty epic if you ask me.

Then you’ve got the graphics which are solid as always. EA has never disappointed in this area and I wouldn’t expect them to start now. The cars look excellent and so driving through the city is a lot of fun. It’s all or mostly all in the daytime though so surprisingly we’re still not getting a lot of night levels. I know those can be risky since it can be hard to get the night look while not getting too dark but I think they can pull it off. Regardless, the hub world is quite huge and the fact that you can drive around the whole thing and pick up missions is a blast if you ask me. The cutscenes also look really good like the big boss battle at the end where the car jumps off the road. It helps really get you into the swing of things.

The gameplay is easy enough to describe. It’s the same 3D racing that you’re used to and is as fun as always. Using your nitro to get away is nice or quickly spinning a 180 and zooming away as the other racers get confused is just as satisfying. You really can’t go wrong with the gameplay here. There are no bonus competitions like drifting or any of that this time. It’s all about racing and I wouldn’t have it any other way. This makes the most sense in context after all. You will get new cars as you go through the game and can upgrade them but the process has been very simplified compared to how it was in other titles. I think this game has pretty much nailed down the formula so they should really stick to this going forward. You still need to take a look at your car every now and again but not constantly. Aside from free roam you can also use the GPS to jump straight into a race. You can tell which events are story ones because the icon will be wrapped in a circle which looks very fancy.

If you complete a level very quickly you will have “dominated” it which allows you to permanently increase a stat. You don’t get to choose which one but they certainly add up. I recommend going for the dominate as much as possible because the stats and discounts add up very quickly. Without them I imagine that this would be considerably more difficult. The main game’s campaign took me a little over 10 hours so when you add up all the extra events that should probably take you to around 14-15 hours. Pretty good deal for the game if you ask me. You certainly won’t be wanting for content by the time you’re done with all of this. Undercover is really the complete package for a Need for Speed title.

Overall, I’ll definitely miss Undercover. It’s definitely the most complete game in the series I’ve played since Underground. If you like racing around the city and enjoy Free Roam then this is definitely the game for you. It’ll remind you of Driver with the added danger of having to run from the cops. The cop chases here can definitely be very intense. There’s not a whole lot you can do about the hellicopters and their vans really smash your car out of the way. The game runs well and the graphics are sharp. I only encountered one glitch where I seemingly won a level too quickly which was odd so it didn’t count. It seems like that’s not something you would typically need to worry about though so I wouldn’t sweat it. Could be a while, but we’ll see where the series goes from here.

Overall 7/10