Review by Shadow Edge
"This would've been the best PC racing game if it hadn't been for the AI...."
Released in 2003, Need for Speed - Underground is a nice break from the all-too-familiar settings of circuit racing and "legal" races. NFSU's settings are the dark streets, which means this game is all about street racing.
Gameplay is damn good. If you're tired of the same Road/Rally Circuit races from other popular racing game titles, then this game is HIGHLY recommended for you. Aside from Circuit racing, where you go in circles on maps for several times, this game offers four more: Drift, Drag, Lap Knockout and Sprint races.
Drift racing, as stated in the game, is popular in Japan. For those of you who doesn't know, drift racing is about making your car slip and turn smoothly especially on corners and U-turns. More speed and angle means more score in drift. Chaining will also increase the score a lot. By achieving a certain score on a single drift, one can raise the score multiplier to a higher level (up to 5x). However, if you stop or bump into walls, the score multiplier will drop to zero and the drift you were doing will be considered invalid.
Ahh.... drag racing. The race of the fast and the furious. In drag racing, it is all about acceleration and max speed (cornering matters little). You and your enemies just run your cars in a straight line while avoiding obstacles, cars and trains. Right timing of gear shifting is VERY crucial, and spells out a great difference.
Lap Knockout is pretty similar to the typical Circuit racing. The only difference is that the last person to cross the finish line in a lap will be disqualified. So the best racer wins.
Sprint racing is just an ordinary race, quite similar to circuit. But the difference is that the courses are long, and once you reach the finish line it's all over. So there are no laps. In Underground mode, time limit might be added in some missions so Sprint racing becomes a Time Attack.
There are two ways to enjoy the game: Arcade Mode and Underground Mode. In arcade mode, you just race. At the start, arcade mode is very lame, because everything else that makes arcade mode fun requires playing Underground Mode. So it's recommended to play Underground Mode first.
In Underground Mode, you play as you who is a newbie to street racing. A woman named Samantha introduced you into this, and lets you borrow a car to prove that you're worthy. When you win that race, she'll give you $10,000 to buy a car. So after you buy a car, you will be given many missions, which some will give you rewards like more exterior design options (I'll get to that later), more cars, more money, more maps and more missions. You will also earn style point for doing extraordinary things on your races like hovering in midair, drafting, powerslides etc. And you also have a style-point multiplier, which rises as you use better-looking exterior parts. Your car will also get featured at magazines for certain achievements.
The best part about Underground Mode is customizing how your car looks. You can change everything. Performance parts and exterior looks. For performance, you can upgrade your engine, tune up your tires, turbo package or jot up a lot of performance with nitrous gas, and many more. For exterior looks, you can change your car hood, front and rear bumpers, side skirts, roof scoops, window tint, muffler, rims, etc. etc. You can also add vinyls (stickers), and change the paint of different parts of your car.
I gave graphics a full ten because this game, the environment and the cars are wonderfully detailed. The graphics engine is kinda like Max Payne, which has great graphics and doesn't hog up much of the system performance.
On maximum video settings, this game is brilliantly realistic. And much more enjoyable, especially because this game is more into car exterior customization.
The soundtrack is excellent. It'll really pump up adrenaline and make you feel more urge to play even more. It totally fits the game's atmosphere.
Standard controls for PC racing games. No excess and useless controls. And of course, the controls are changeable.
Story is pretty basic. You play as you, who beats other people for rewards and money.
I gave difficulty a 6 because the AI is VERY LAME, mainly because of that untoggable Catch-Up Mode EA put on this game. Catch-up mode lets you or your enemies go extremely fast and smart when either of you gains a very big lead. So you could be pissed off after racing for 8 laps then right before the finish line your opponent zooms after you.
The AI for the other NFS title, on the other hand, is merciless, yet beatable and not unfair.
-More new races
-Untoggable Catch-Up on Underground mode.
Rent or Buy?
Buy! You'll have weeks of fun because of exciting races! You'll be frustrated for weeks for that Catch-Up mode! :)
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 09/05/04
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