Review by Oggy00

"A solid first step in an unknown direction..."

The NFS series of racing games has always been known for going fast in European Exotics and American Muscle cars. The games have always been centered around racing fast while smashing other cars and avoiding cops. In late 2003, EA Games took a step in an unknown direction, travelling into the world of street racing. With movies like "The Fast and the Furious" coming out in the same time frame as this game, it was easy to get into the mood of this racing genre. Need For Speed: Underground is a solid first step in an unknown direction, and while the game has a few flaws, it still remains a satisfying experience for anyone who lays their hands on this game...

Gameplay: 8/10 - NFSU is a strong game to play. The cars handle fine, and the option to turn stability control on or off helps the game a lot. The cars are a bit loose when they don't have any upgrades, but as you put more parts on, the cars respond better and better. The game is simple in NFSU, and it includes a variety of events. These events include Circuit, Drag, Sprint, Drift, Lap Knockout, and a Free Run mode. Circuit is a simple lap race, Drag is a straight race where shifting is key, Sprint is a race from point A to point B, drift lets you slide your car around specially designed courses for points, Lap Knockout eliminates the last person in every lap, and Free Run mode lets you simply drive any track without opponents. Each race is unique, and each track has its quirks, but for the most part, there is a lot of variety in the course selection. You can also unlock reverse layouts of each course, but this really kills the variety, since each track isn't really designed to be ran backwards. Along with the basic driving, there are a handful of traffic cars on each course, but they're pretty easy to avoid, and aren't really much of a hazard once you get the hang of the racing itself. To round out the basic racing, you can purchase nitrous upgrades for your car, and these let you go super fast! However, you can't replenish your nitrous throughout the race. This isn't really a bad thing, but the racing feels a tad slower because of it. Also, each race you earn skill points for doing things such as avoiding traffic or getting air. After each race, your skill points are added up, and every few thousand skill points nets you a reward such as a bonus car of upgrade. Overall, the racing in NFSU is a fun ride, but the AI dies out quickly, and there's really not that many courses to choose from...

The main mode of NFSU is "Go Underground". Go Underground is a collection of 112 events that you need to complete in order to beat the game (duh!). You earn money based on your performance in the events, and these are used to buy upgrades and parts. Each event has 3 difficulties, and each one has a different money total. This gives some good variety and decisions in wether to go for the money, or to simply pass the event. Go Underground also includes a few cut-scenes, but these are very poorly thrown together, and they seemed forced, which makes the game loose a lot of flavor. As you earn money, you can buy upgrades and parts for your car. This is where the import scene comes in. Upgrades such as better exhaust packages, a better engine, and a nitrous system can be bought with your money. It doesn't stop there though. Body kits, paint jobs, vinyls, neons, lights, everything can be bought for your car. You have a great choice for everything here, and you can personalize your car very well. There are 20 cars to choose from, which makes the game gain a lot of replay value. You'll start the career mode with lousy Ford Focuses and Dodge Neons, but you'll eventually gain access to faster cars such as the Nissan 350Z, and the Subaru Impreza. The car selection has a lot of variety, and there's something for everyone in career. You'll also find the racers you go against in career to gain better cars as you go along. In all, the Go Underground mode is a hit or miss mode. Some people like it for its very rewarding factor, and others grow tired of it because it's too repetitive.

The final mode in NFSU is the quick race mode. Of course, up to 2 players can race in this mode. Everything you unlocked from "Go Underground" is available here, and this is where the replay value lies. You have a lot of choices for racing, and you can customize any car in the game to your liking. You'll also receive a few bonus cars based on music groups featured in the game, and you'll even get some cars that the boss racers raced. However, these cars are poor and most of them have no performance upgrades. The 2-player also looses some points because the 2nd player never has control of his car color. His car is always white, so you never really get to race your own cars. This was a poor choice by EA, because it really takes the personality of the game away. In all though, NFSU is a fun game to play, even if it is a bit cheap.

Graphics: 9/10 - NFSU is a pretty game. The heavy motion blur is very pretty, but it's very hard to see oncoming cars. This happens anytime you hit the nitrous button. There's really nothing much else to say about the graphics, other than this is one of the best looking games on the 'Cube right now. Reflections are nice, and the only flaw is that some of your car parts may become transparent for a few seconds. Also, the road always has a wet look to it, and it's weird because the cars never handle like the road is wet. Anyways, the graphics are great.

Sound: 8/10 - The sound in NFSU is pretty good. The EA TRAX box is still there, yet most of the music is pretty catchy. The cars sound good, and the whoosh of the nitrous kicking is is right on target. Even though the sound is great, there's just something missing that I can't put my finger on...

Value: 8/10 - This game took me exactly 1 DAY to complete. The Go Underground mode is very easy, and the only challenge is to get all the magazine covers that you unlock in Go Underground for various tasks. The car customization is where the replay value lies, because you'll constantly have car contests to see who has the best car out of your friends. The fact that it's also $20.00 now is a real bargain. It's a long-lasting game, but it's surprising how much the car customization holds the game up...

Final Word: 8.2/10.0 - NFSU is a great first step into the unknown. Other than a few flaws that hold up the game, it will satisfy anyone looking for a great racer. NFSU is one of the most creative games ever made, and it will be one of the best starting blocks for a new sub-genre...

Rent Or Buy - Go rent this game and see for yourself. If the game still begs you to play long after you've beaten the game, go pick it up. It's only $20.00, so you wont be wasting any money...


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 10/26/09

Game Release: Need for Speed Underground (US, 11/17/03)


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