Review by Solid Sonic
"A solid follow-up to the best street racing game ever..."
Best Features: Awesome depth for gearheads and a gentle learning curve for those not so knowledgeable about cars, great city design, strong car selection
Worst Features: Soundtrack not as strong as NFSU1, loading issues
Last year's hit racing game Need for Speed Underground unleashed everyone's inner desire to trick out a car and hit the streets as part of an outlaw street racing circuit. One year and many promises from EA later, we arrive at Need for Speed Underground 2. An obviously much deeper game from the start, the game only improves over time. A few hitches do slow down the fun but in the end, its a truly satisfying game.
Graphics: 8 (closer to 8.5 but I keep scores as whole numbers)
The lighting and speed effects lay over from NFSU1. New weather effects also play into the visual ambiance. The environments are well rendered and do show detail. The traffic cars that share the road with you are rather generic and bland but its okay since that's not what you'd be paying attention while racing anyway. Unlike the first game, the Career mode doesn't progress through cinematics. Rather, the story is told through rendered comic-book pages. The "pages" are sharp and still convey a hand-drawn style while retaining a 3D quality. There are a few graphical loading issues in the game (sometimes the game will be forced to load the rest of the track in the middle of a race) but the loading problem is not as big a problem as it has been made out to be.
The sound effects in this game are rich and vivid. From engines to scrapes, its clear and solid. This is because the game's sound has been mastered in THX to maximize its effect. The voice-overs are also well acted and don't sound like they were read off of a script. Sometimes the lines are a little stale but its street racing so some sequences are undoubtedly going to be stereotypes. The music, on the other hand, could use some work. While the soundtrack isn't terrible this time around, its not as good as its predecessor. The game's selection isn't as intense as NFSU1. Its harder to get you into the driving spirit with the type of tracks offered in this title. The playlist is still good by racing standards, just not as memorable as last year's model.
Control: 8 (again, closer to 8.5)
In a racing game, its all about control. The difference between winning and losing all comes down to how you handle the turns. Luckily NFSU2 doesn't fail in this department. Steering isn't as sharp as last year's edition but you'll still sink right into the game's handling system. A word of advice would be to turn on Stability Control. The control in this game is more slippery this time around so even those who liked playing NFSU1 without Stability Control may be a little flustered here. The control could be a little tighter at times since the game's Circuit and Sprint tracks involve 90 degree turns more frequently than its predecessor. However, avoiding traffic and basic turning tactics are easily accomplished.
This is where the game really starts to pick up. You start Career mode as a fallen legend. Immediately after arriving in Bayview (the city where the game takes place), you're dropped into a 350z and hit the streets. From this point, you can glance at how the game works. Career mode (unlike last time) takes place in an open, go-anywhere-whenever city. You navigate the city via a series of highways (that races can also take place over) as well as the copious surface streets. The innovative design of the city allows the game to mask potential race tracks until you hit the race. You wouldn't know the last 3 turns you made would become turns 4, 5, and 6 in the next race you enter. This leads to some great variety as you never know what the game will call the next track. You can enter a variety of events (Circuit, Drag, Drift, etc.) and the world map can show you exactly where these events are going down as well as the type of event featured (of course, sprinkled in the city are hidden events not mapped out so exploration will yield rewards as well). The game can even direct you (via a Crazy Taxi-style arrow) to any race event or car shop you want at your discretion. You upgrade your car at different shops found in Bayview. Discovering shops puts them on your map and allows you to return to them whenever you've got the cash to burn. The nitrous system has been overhauled and now is very much like Burnout (where you earn nitrous based on your actions during the race). The game also allows you to tweak your settings so you can have a maxed car and perfect how your car handles on a dyno track. Serious car fans can really get an edge here if they know what they're doing. This is optional and only designed to give virtual mechanics a chance to flex their stuff. I can't describe all the options a player has so playing the game will be the only way to really get the big picture.
Replay Value: 9 (closer to 9.5)
The city itself is a pretty strong reason to come back to the game. Just cruising around the city can be pretty fun in itself. However, if you're in the mood for a race, you can play Single race and any of the race types (except for Outrun challenges, but you can play these in the Free Run mode) offered in the Career Mode. Another replay incentive is the car customization options. The game has a strong roster of cars to drive (even some SUVs) and you can modify a buffet of options to really make it "your ride". The customization options put NFSU1's to shame. There are far more customizable parts and you have tons more styles to choose from. Plus, if you're willing to do some trial-and-error learning, the Dyno track can really push your car over the edge. Its all about options in this game and they're in no short supply.
In all, the game stands as the next major evolution in the street racing genre. A deep Career mode, fun and refreshing track designs, and customization options you could dream of are all here. There's plenty to do and tons to see. Even though the soundtrack lacks polish and there are some slight loading issues, it still feels like a worthy sequel to 2003's finest racing game. If you need some more racing action after burning out Burnout 3, head Underground.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 12/28/04, Updated 11/29/07
Game Release: Need for Speed Underground 2 (US, 11/15/04)
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