Review by RandomUser2

"Under ground is exactly where this game belongs"

Since the release of the movie "The Fast and the Furious", street racing and tuner culture has grown immensely in popularity. Of course, quite a few companies decided to cash in on the craze by releasing street racing games. In 2003, EA did the same with the release of Need for Speed Underground (NFSU). Although the game received mixed reviews from fans of the series, NFSU was a huge success. So what do you do when you make a very successful game? You create a sequel! But the question is, "Does Need for Speed Underground 2 (NFSU2) live up to the first game?"

Story - 5/10
Yeah, yeah. I know what you're thinking. "What the hell? A racing game with an actual plot?" But not surprisingly, the plot is passable; it's pretty bad but gets the job done. It basically has the same cheesy storyline, kind of like the one in "The Fast and the Furious". You play as the main character from NFSU. You've become the top racer in the city and proceed to pwn anyone who challenges you. But one night, you get a call from a mysterious dude named Caleb, who lures you into a trap. You run into his big-ass SUV and total your ride, thus ending your racing career in the city. Fortunately, all is not loss. Samantha calls up her friend Rachel (played by Brooke Burke) in Bayview and makes some connections. So you end up travelling to Bayview, where you'll basically start your life as a street racer all over again. The entire story is told through comic book-like panels. It sounds like a unique concept, but it just turns out to be pretty lame. The "scenes" are completely static save although there are some frame-by-frame animations, which just end up looking stupid IMO.

Graphics - 7/10
The graphics are probably the best thing about NFSU2. It's evident that EA must've spent quite a bit of time on the cars, because the car models all look great. However, the same cannot be said for the rest of the game. The city itself looks merely O.K., and the civillian cars are generic and bland. And the biggest gripe that pretty much everyone has is that there is absolutely no car damage at all.

Sound - 6/10
Personally, I think the sound effects were done very well. Each car's engine sounds distinct and alsmot like its real-life counterpart. You've also got the almost ear-piercing squeal of tires when you perform a burnout. And despite the fact that crashes don't look painful because of the lack of damage, they definitely sound painful. The voice acting in the game is pretty good, too. However, good voice actors need good lines to truly shine. Instead, the voice actors for NFSU2 are required to say lame and stereotypical "street racer lingo". Finally, the music in the game isn't so hot. Yet again, EA brings us more crappy EA Trax. Who did the music selection for the SSX Tricky and SSX 3? Because those people seem to know what they're doing, and should be in charge of selecting EA Trax for all EA games.

Gameplay - 6/10
Being a street racing game, vehicle customization is just as important as the racing IMO. And NFSU2 doesn't disappoint in this area. Practically every part of a vehicle can be customized - Front Bumpers, Rear Bumpers, Side Skirts, Spoilers, Hoods, Roof Scoops, Wide Body Kits, and Neon just to name a few. There are at least 10 different styles to choose from in each of these categories. You can also apply Vinyls, Decals, and several different types of Paint on your vehicle. You can also upgrade your vehicle with several performance packages for your Engine, Suspension, Turbo, Tires, ECU, Transmission, etc., but it's not as robust as the the visual customization. You can also tune your car's settings to set it up for a specific type of race. However, it's not as in-depth as in a racing sim like Gran Turismo or Forza Motorsport. But to be quite honest, you can get through the game just fine with your car's default settings. However, the customization does have one flaw - almost half of the customization options are useless. I mean, Engine Neon, Trunk Neon, Sound System, Side Mirrors, Split Hoods, and different Door designs? I don't think anyone is going to notice any of these things. I would much rather have more Front Bumpers, Rear Bumpers, Side Skirts, etc. to choose from. Also, it's impossible to customize every single vehicle in the game. You can only have a maximum of 5 vehicles in Career Mode, and there's not enough room under the "My Cars" section if you choose to use "Customize" from the main menu to customize them. And for some reason, you need to leave one free space open under "My Cars" if you wish to alter an existing car.

And speaking of racing, NFSU2 does have quite a few different race modes available. All of the race modes from NFSU except for Lap Knockout make a return in the sequel - Circuit, Sprint, Drag, and Drift. Circuit is pretty much self-explanatory; Sprint is just a a straight-forward race from one point to another; Drag takes place on a (usually) straight course, sometimes with obstacles to avoid. You need to manually shift at the right time, and the game will tell you when to shift by making a colored light appear. Other than not coming in 1st, you can lose by blowing your engine or totalling your car; Drift is a different type of race that puts emphasis on style rather than speed. You'll earn points depending on the speed and angle of your drifts, and the player with the highest score at the end wins. NFSU2 also introduces several new race modes - Downhill Drift, Street X, U.R.L., and Outrun. Downhill Drift is just like normal Drift except that it takes place on a downhill course (hence the name), complete with civillian traffic that you have to avoid; Street X is just a Circuit that takes place on a much tighter and more technical closed-off course; U.R.L. (Underground Racing League) is essentially a tournament; and in Outrun races, you have to take the lead from your opponent and then get 1000 ft. away from them using any possible method.

Finally, I think Career Mode deserves its own little section since it is the meat of the game. The only way to unlock everything without cheating is to play through Career. In this mode, you'll watch the laughably bad story unfold and navigate the game's lackluster Freeroam Mode. You'll get to choose a car and enter a ton of races to earn money to upgrade and customize the afformentioned car to unlock new cars and parts, possibly ditching it for a better car. Unfortunately, you don't get any money back when you trade in a car, and you get stuck with stock cars. So if you completely upgrade a car and turn it in, you basically wasted your money on that car. One of the interesting and tedious parts of Career is that you'll have to find shops on your own since they don't appear on the map. But all is not lost since you'll find hints about certain shop locations scattered throughout Bayview. However, there is no option to jump directly to a shop, meaning that you'll have to drive all the way over there yourself, which gets old and tedious very quickly. Throughout the course of the game, you'll get to sign with 5 sponsors, who require you to do things such as complete a certain amount of races and create a car with a certain visual rating, usually resulting in new areas being opened up. However, that's one of my problems with NFSU2 - the fact that you're FORCED to customize your ride. It wasn't so bad early in the game, but it got worse and worse as I got further into the game. I had an awesome looking 6* EVO VIII, but I was forced to turn it into a 10* piece of crap. ANd the worst thing is that these cars appear on DVD covers that you can view.

Difficulty - 5/10
Because of the Rubberband A.I., it's pretty hard to give an accurate score for NFSU2's difficulty. I decided to score it right in the middle because either the game is pathetically easy or incredibly cheap and frustrating, especially during Drag races. I don't believe for a second that my fully upgraded Mustang GT (one of the last vehicles to unlock) can be beaten by a Peugeot 206 (one of the starter cars). Repeatedly. And then there's nothing worse than having a 30 second lead through out a 5 Lap race, only to run into traffic on the last lap, and have the 2nd place car fly past you 10 seconds later.

Overall, NFSU2 feels like a half-assed sequel. While the tuning aspect of the game is superb, the rest of the game is fairly mediocre. If you're into tuning and only own a GCN, then sadly, this is your best bet. If you're just looking for a good racing game featuring licensed vehicles, you're better off buying one of the other Need for Speed titles available (Hot Pursuit 2, Underground 1, or Most Wanted). And if you're a multi-console owner, your options are even greater. But NFSU2 is accurately priced an $19.99 now. So if you've played pretty much every good racing game out there, still have the need for speed, and have $20 to burn, then I guess you could buy this game. Paying any more than $19.99 for this game is just a crime IMO.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.0 - Fair

Originally Posted: 08/21/06

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