Review by JPR

"Highly Addictive, but Not Polished, Gets Better as you Play"

Need for Speed Underground is an elusive game. When I first started playing it, I must admit, I was disappointed. I've never owned a Need for Speed game, so maybe I didn't know what to expect.

I tried to play this game as true to what the creators wanted so I started off in Career Mode. The car I started with was stock and it drove slow and handled horribly. I didn't have much fun driving it, and I wasn't impressed by the courses. As I progressed after a few courses I was dissappointed by the paths of the races being over similar terrain. My rewards were boring vinyls and decals. The videos that progressed Career Mode were poor and didn't give me any sense of actually being a real street racer.

Fast forward to about half-way through Career Mode...
I am so addicted to this awesome game! The car I use in career mode is soo fast, and I love all the customizing I've done to it. The courses are awesome, and each is challenging in a different way. The game is so much more exciting when each turn takes surgeon like precision at high speeds. The competing racers' AI is interesting and pushes me to outrace them. I'm beginning to master drifting and I love how each car has different characteristics. I don't really care that intro scenarios before the competitions are pointless, all I want is to win the next race to build up my already awesome car!

So as you can tell, this game really does sneak up on you. There are numerous flaws, but you get sucked up in the great driving characteristics of the cars once they are souped up and you want to keep playing to make them even better. Some flaws include random rewards that you can't anticipate (some rewards, like brand name decals, are quite uneventful, and the you rarely know what you're racing to get). Some rewards are hard to find too once you get them. I still don't know where I can find the Mystikal, Petey Pablo, and Rob Zombie cars that I unlocked.

The training videos are not intuitive to find, and once you realize you have to exit Underground mode to find them, they help very little. The money rewards are insignificant, because you keep building more and more money, and really don't have a reason to spend it 'til you unlock another level of customization. This kinda makes hard mode on the races discouraging, because you'd rather just pick medium to get through faster.

When you're in customization mode it's nice that when you switch cars, your customizations become adapted to the next car (rather than having to redo all of them for another car). However, it's thoroughly annoying that instead of just seeing the car rotate, it zooms off before you get a chance to really admire it. When you select another car you have to wait for the loop that causes it to zoom off end so you can see the car.

The tracks all take place in a large city area. They have varied terrain and include some huge jumps, dirt rodes, sharp curves, walls to break thru, and other obstacles. At first the tracks aren't very fun, but later on they become ingenious. They seem so different, but take place over various paths of the same areas. It was hard for me to see where to go when I first played, but now, I'm making all the quick turns at 120mph+. The reflective ground, as if it just rained really annoyed me at first, but now at high speeds it doesn't bother me. I occasionally see glitches behind other racers, especially when there is dust and smoke. I'm still bothered by the smoke that comes up from skids left behind other racers that obscures my vision,but it just adds to the challenge.

The music is fairly entertaining, however some lyrics are just plain lame. I think they should have more instrumentals than vocals as soundtracks. After you get bored or sick of some songs it's great that you can disable them. Plus, you can make some the menu music play during gameplay to add some more longevity to the soundtrack. It'd be nice if they have music to unlock, because I'm in desperate hope of hearing some new music.
Too bad the main song Get Low, has been overplayed to the point of making me feel ill. The Nate Dogg exclusive song is an awesome surprise.

All in all, the gaming experience adds up to some intense fun, and the career mode keeps me coming back for more. Looking back, the fact that the cars sucked at the beginning of career mode, makes driving souped up versions that handled how I wished they would way more exciting. I'm half-way thru, and I can't imagine this game getting anything but better. The game does seem to lack some better integration, but the courses, the cars, and the gameplay is what really matters here, so they nailed that aspect exceptionally. If only they could have made everything in-between better this could have been a classic racing standard. It seems they probably had to rush this game out since the street racing hype 2 Fast 2 Furious built up is dying down. I'm hoping to see some surprises as I finish the career mode to keep my level of excitement up.

The graphics on this Gamecube version aren't as great as I'd hoped for, there a lot of pixlated elements, but once you're driving at 100mph+ it doesn't matter as much. I would reccommend the Xbox version or the PC version if you have a good analog controller. These two versions could also solve repetitive soundtrack syndrome.

''When you feel the need for speed, play NFSU.''

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 12/12/03

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