Review by Dog of War
"Lucky enough to win the lottery twice a month? Then this is for you!"
I got NFS:U for Christmas in 2003. I booted it up, played it, and had a great time with it. But I soon learned that I was only having fun because I was on the early races and I seemed to be doing well. Now I realize that this game, besides the Drift and Drag races, is completely based on luck.
As the story goes, you're a street racer trying to become a better street racer. Woo. Other than that, the story's not really there...but who needs story in a racer, right? Burnout 2 is great, but it doesn't have any story.
You can tell a TON of detail went into the streets and the racers' cars, and that is what gets this section an average score. But when you look at all the polygonal people at the beginning and end of every race, your eyes will burn. All 20 or so of the people surrounding the cars have muddy textures and less polygons than an early PSone title. The same goes with any car on the street that isn't one of the racers.
The default control scheme, which uses the R button for the throttle, may make your finger hurt from holding it down too long, but the scheme can be changed to a more basic racing scheme. Unfortunately, though, you can't create your own control scheme.
This is where NFS:U really fails. The only really good part about the gameplay is the one concept off which the game thrives: customization. There are literally millions of different ways to make your car look different, from body kits to spoilers to rims to muffler tips, right down to choosing your engine accent. Unfortunately, the racing is not nearly as fun. There are no cops to try and stop you, the tracks all look more or less the same, and there is no free-roaming city, just a linear path with a couple little shortcuts along the way.
Not only that, but thanks to the wonderful (sarcasm) catch-up system, your opponent can easily catch up to your fully-upgraded Nissan Skyline in his Honda S2000, even if you have a 1/8-mile lead. While this doesn't seem to happen in drag racing, it does happen in circuit, sprint, and knockout racing.
Now, to the luck aspect of racing. Thanks to the catch-up system, your opponent may or may not catch up to you with 20 meters to go on the final lap of a grueling 7 lap race. This happened to me once. 10 more minutes of racing wasted when he got ahead of me and I lost. It is completely based on luck whether or not your opponent will do this. And knockout racing is where the luck aspect really comes into play. In this type of race, the person in 4th place at the end of each lap is out of the race. Now, sometimes your toughest opponent will crash and get knocked out of the race, leaving the less aggressive opponents left, and it will be much easier to win. But sometimes, you're left with the hardest opponent on the final lap, and it ends up being impossible to beat him.
While the game definitely showed promise, it failed completely in my eyes. The unpolished, no-skill racing drove this title into the ground. I know one thing: next time, I'll find out if that dreaded catch-up (*shudder*) system is in a racing game before I buy it.
P.S. Did I mention that the computer opponents can take 90-degree turns at full speed?
Reviewer's Rating: 2.5 - Playable
Originally Posted: 08/28/04
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