Review by EpsilonGSG
As always, it is hard for the sequel of any great game to live up to its predecessor. Need For Speed Underground 2 tries hard to do so, but comes up just a little bit short.
Underground 2 makes a huge departure from the completely linear career mode. It instead has a free-roaming career mode where you drive around an expansive city searching for races, bonuses, and shops to improve your ride.
GAMEPLAY - 8/10
The concept of the free-roaming career is great on paper, yet it is not perfectly executed. Driving from race to race or from location to location becomes more of a tedious task than a fun one. In addition to that, the rubberband A.I. (where if the computer falls far enough behind, they will get a temporary speed burst to help them catch up easily) makes a return, much to my dismay. I know it is almost an arcade-style game, but the rubberband A.I. is highly unrealistic, not to mention annoying.
On the plus side, the race modes from the first Underground are back and improved. None of the greatness of Circuit, Sprint, Drag, and Drift racing was lost in the transfer to the sequel. The new race modes also impress. Street X, a race around a small track with sharp and numerous turns, is a great "fight to the finish" race style. Downhill Drift, which is basically normal drift racing done on a slippery hill with traffic, is tough to master but incredibly rewarding once you get it. Outrun racing, which happens when you challenge a random street racer to a race while in free-roam, is great fun as you try to get 1000 feet ahead of your opponent(s) before they get 1000 feet ahead of you.
Other new modes include such things as showcasing your car for the cover of DVDs or magazines. You can control your car to get it in your desired position and then you can take a picture from one of a number of angles. It could have used some improvement, but I can't find any major complaints.
The new Nitrous system, widely criticized before Underground 2's release, proves to be more of a benefit than a hinderance. Basically, whenever you gain style points for doing some impressive driving (drafting, a near-miss, etc.), some extra Nitrous is added to your gauge. If you lose style points however, an equivalent amount of Nitrous is deducted.
Overall, the gameplay is better than that of the first. If it weren't for the tediousness of driving from place to place, this would have gotten a full point higher.
STORY - 6/10
I almost wish they would have just left out the story completely. I don't care what Brooke Burke has to say. Leave me alone and let me play the game! You will spend most of the game completely lost as to what is going on with the story. It has no significance... Maybe they need new storywriters, as the story for Underground 1 sucked as well.
Basically, without spoiling too much, this is the start of the story is Underground 2:
You leave the city of the first Underground and have to start completely over in Bayview, leaving all your accomplishments from before behind.
Need I say more?
GRAPHICS - 9/10
Definitely the strongest point of Need For Speed Underground 2, the graphics are absolutely spectacular. The cars all look great and the lights reflect perfectly off of the paint jobs. The roads still have that glossy, just rained look, but this time it actually does occasionally rain, which looks great.
Every part of the city looks unique compared to the other parts, and due to the high amount of detail, you can tell what real-life city influenced each part. The designers paid careful attention to making everything visually appealing so that we didn't have to deal with typically "we've seen this before" type buildings.
Although graphics are always important, they are especially important during the racing itself, and that is where the graphics truly shine. The motion blur effect is perfectly done to match accordingly with whatever speed you are going. There is very little choppiness when it comes to having so many cars on screen travelling at extremely high speeds. Flawless. The nitrous effect is a bit... 2 Fast 2 Furious-esque, but hey.
My only complaint is that half the time, smaller curbs are almost invisible unless you are paying especially close attention. I have crashed many times due to that.
SOUND - 9/10
The playlist of songs sucks. There are a few good ones, but I was disappointed with such artists such as Snoop Dogg being present. It just doesn't fit... This is Need for Speed Underground 2, not some MTV show where rich you-know-whats show off their excessively customized rides.
Aside from the playlist, the sound is perfect. The car sounds are as good as it gets, well-modeled after the real-life counterparts of each car. If you tune your car in such a manner that it should sound different (new muffler, etc.), it WILL sound different. The effects of crashing into other cars, scraping on walls, screeching tires, using a burst of nitrous, and pretty much everything else you can think of is perfect.
It's too bad that the songs suck... The sound would get a perfect 10 otherwise.
REPLAY VALUE - 7/10
With me at least, I have to be in the racing mood to pick up this game. Games that are destined to be classics make you want to play them everytime you see them. That isn't the case here. You have to really feel like playing a racing game to want to pop this in.
Don't get me wrong, if you do feel like racing, this game will jump out at you, as it perfectly fits the bill. With the first Underground, I played continuously until I beat it, stopping rarely for things I couldn't avoid. I have no such problem putting this game down. It's fun, but it doesn't hold you as long as it should.
Replay Value: 7/10
FINAL SCORE: 8/10
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 02/25/05
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