Jan 05, 2024

“Fast & Furious” Arcade1Up Review

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Arcade1Up faithfully recreates the classic racing game while making this its first cab to support linked play.

Arcade1Up's new "The Fast and the Furious" racing video game pares down the popular 2000's arcade cabinet into a model that's both affordable and fits in your home. This three-quarter scale replica is faithful to the original version and retains identical gameplay, driving controls, and panel art (sans the iconic likenesses of series leads Vin Diesel and Paul Walker). All of this in a size capable of fitting in a space as small as a studio apartment. In anticipation of "Fast X" hitting movie theaters, I’ve spent over a dozen hours putting this machine through its paces—racing around the streets of some of the most famous cities in the United States and Japan.

This cabinet is part of the company's Deluxe lineup. It's equipped with high quality parts to bring it a cut above its previous releases—booming sound, impressive 3D graphics, and support to link multiple cabinets for simultaneous play (the first Arcade1Up cab to do so). This means you can pair up to four separate machines and race them head-to-head locally against your friends, just like the original arcade experience. Its addictively fun gameplay loop and variety of maps make it one of, if not the most, replayable game the company has released. However, as someone who has drained many quarters playing the original machine growing up, purists will bemoan the compact LCD screen and limited number of licensed cars compared to the true arcade version.

Arriving in a 60-pound box, the cabinet is just light enough for a single person to lift up a flight of stairs. No chance you could do that with the original machine, which weighed 675 pounds. Arcade1Up packages each component independently in protective wrap and spacers, so you won't find dings or chips in any part of your setup.

Each piece is clearly labeled and neatly organized. The only tool you need to build it is a screwdriver to secure bolts—wooden dowels help you outline and place the pieces. Setting up the electronic aspects is plug and play: simply attach the wheel, pedals, speakers, and screen to a single board behind the monitor.

I’ve purchased and built five Arcade1Up cabs over the past few years, and this one took the longest. From grooves requiring force to line up properly to accidentally snapping the joint holding the speakers and lit marquee together, it took about 1.5 hours to assemble. That's not to say the pieces aren't of high quality, but the included instructions could be better. For example, the manual doesn't warn you about how to properly run the marquee and speaker wiring behind a specific panel section at the top, or that you have to remove the screen protector film prior to assembly. I had to reopen the cab after finishing the installation to fish out these shorter power cables and unscrew around the monitor to cut off the remaining screen protector film.

Power through the build and you’ll be pleasantly rewarded. The cab's overall structure is impressively robust and the neon colors found on the side panel art are vibrant—it's one sexy looking unit overall. While the wheel feels a bit smaller than in the arcade, it's grippy and comes complete with vibrating feedback. Each side button provides a satisfying click when selecting car views or customizing your vehicles. Despite not being secured to the cabinet, the gas and brake pedals at the bottom stay securely in place on your floor. I experienced no sway on my loft's notoriously slippery carpet as I repeatedly smashed down the gas to kick off a drift or jump. Even when I aggressively pushed around the four-speed shifter there was no noticeable wobble, so you don't have to baby the cab for fear of it falling apart or toppling over. It simply feels good to use. As far as design goes I just have a single nitpick: I’d prefer a metal finish on the pedals, however the plastic has proven to be plenty durable so far.

As a whole the cabinet is of a much higher quality than the company's older generation "Golden Tee" and "Final Fight" machines I’ve purchased. While it's no OLED display, the F&F's 17-inch LCD screen is plenty colorful and immersive up close. Although the graphics look crisp on this smaller display, its surface is reflective. I placed these cabs in a bright room with lots of windows and could see reflections of objects like my computer monitor and lamp behind me while playing during the day. You’ll want to keep this in mind when finding a spot to place it.

As for audio, the speakers deliver a crisp exciting engine acceleration and pulsating soundtrack for an enveloping atmosphere that's free from distortion or crackle. Hell, at the lowest setting, these get quite loud. It doesn't have a headphone jack, like Arcade1Up's earlier cabinets, which I used for private listening. I’m a bit disappointed in this because it's tough trying to run the streets when you get yelled at from the next room for interrupting Zoom calls when my partner works from home.

The cabinets have a Wi-Fi antenna built into the back of the board to connect with the Arcade1Up app and view live multiplayer leaderboards. These accolades are appreciated, but I’d much prefer fully online lobby racing capabilities. However the Wi-Fi connectivity paves the way for the machine's biggest draw which is the ability to link up to four separate cabinets on the same network and race them together locally just like the classic arcade experience. Not only does this work nearly flawlessly, but between variety of maps and endless replayability, this is the most fun arcade cabinet I’ve owned yet.

As someone who has logged dozens of hours playing F&F and its Drift expansion growing up, I have to say this cabinet recreates the thrills of the original experience. Stepping away from my personal sense of nostalgia, anyone can appreciate the small design touches like the coin door and light up marquee at the top. Slide the cabinet's power button to the on position and pumping speakers fill your room as the system loads you into the home screen. From here you can access either The original "Fast & Furious" or "Fast & Furious: Drift."

If you’ve never played either of these video games, they’re arcade racer staples and are made by Raw Thrills, the same team behind "Cruis’n Blast" which is one of the more popular racing games. In "Fast & Furious" you control real-world vehicles like a Ford Mustang GT, Pontiac Fierro, and Nissan 350Z as you race across cityscapes overtaking competitors and drifting around streets in the USA and Japan. While the computers put up enough of a challenge to enjoy pick up and play races by yourself, these machines were often found in arcades and movie theaters in groups of two or four to be linked up for simultaneous racing with friends.

The original F&F game has 12 maps which vary from New York's Time Square to California's Mulholland Drive. Each map includes a variety of alternate routes and trick jumps so you can spin your car in the air or do flips. Aracde1Up's computers hold their own while emulating the power of the older system but there is some building pop in from distant structures and you can see an incredibly minor slowdown for heavier effects like when crashing through the glass of a building. However there are no noticeable frame drops—this is nearly a 1:1 parity of the whole F&F gameplay experience. Its nighttime maps steal the show with neon pop and city skylines as you race along highways in the dark. Daytime maps don't fare as well so many years later—they’re pixelated. The Sado map in Drift is a great example of this as the bland neutral colors and blurry shapes are confusing on your first lap.

The second included game, "Drift," adds seven additional maps that range from Shibuya Highway to Kyoto's mountainside. These maps leave plenty of space for drifting around corners. Arcade1Up should’ve just combined both games under the Drift expansion, which is essentially the definitive version of the game with all of the maps, cars, and gameplay mechanics in one title. By splitting the games in two, you have to jump out between maps to experience the US maps, then hop out if you prefer the curvier Japanese roads for building up drifts. And not for nothing, "The Fast and the Furious: Drift" had the cooler cabinet art, too.

Even 20 years later, the drift and trick mechanics are an absolute blast. Lightly tap the gas pedal and you can lean into corners and edge out the competition. Double stomp it and you can give your vehicle a boost over jumps and use the wheel to flip and spin your car, which not only looks cool but helps you gain speed to shave time on laps. As you win more races and earn cash, you can purchase body and performance upgrades including the series signature nitrous. Its casual fun reminds me a bit of the "Mario Kart" gameplay loop with small simulation touches like the 4-speed manual shifting (you have a choice between automatic or manual when picking a car). Anyone can pick it up and play instantly with straightforward controls. Heck, it even retains a pin pad save system for storing progress so you can bank money earned from each race to work towards unlocking cars.

While my fondest memories come from racing a Toyota Supra, Dodge Challenger, and the Mitsubishi Eclipse prominently featured in the cab's panel art, none of these cars made the game. Just 8 of the 23 vehicles in the arcade version can be used. To its credit, the 8 selected are some of the best cars—the iconic Nissan Skyline and Ford Mustang GT made the cut. Luckily the customization really lets you modify the car with body kit flair and performance upgrades. But if the extensive roster of Japanese cars and Dodge vehicles were your jam back in the day, this licensing issue can be an annoyance for arcade diehards who will feel the gaps in the vehicle select screen.

Despite the more limited car selection, this is easily Arcade1Up's best cabinet in terms of customizability and replayability. You can extensively adjust the computer difficulty so each race feels different, and each modification provides a noticeable performance boost. Running just one cab and comparing scores locally with friends still recreates the competitive spirit. But the link play between two cabinets is a game changer that hopefully opens the door for immersive recreations of cooperative games like "Daytona USA" and "Time Crisis." At $599, "The Fast & Furious" isn't cheap but, for those into this niche, the the machine will meet your expectations. It looks great, has enough casual appeal for kids and adults alike, while being easy enough to play and enjoy for anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours.

Hunter Fenollol, our resident expert of all things consumer tech, from smart home to VR gaming headsets, has years of knowledge creating product explainers, in-depth reviews, and buying guides to help you get the most from the latest electronics. Throughout college, he covered and reviewed the latest gadget releases for sites like Tom's Guide, Laptop Magazine, and CNN Underscored. If he's not elbow-deep in the latest hardware, you can find Hunter at one of Long Island's many beaches, in Manhattan, or gambling away his paycheck.

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