Review by Stiva

Reviewed: 11/29/04

These cars go underground. If they did, they'd be Mine Carts.

If your idea of fun is strapping yourself into a Nitrous-loaded suicide machine on 20-inch wheels, spitting flames and making old ladies have heart attacks, Need for Speed Underground 2 will have you foaming at the mouth.

It's all about being over the top. There's no such thing as sensible in Underground. You get yourself a car and make it look as much like a UFO as you can. It's not hard-Underground 2 packs in all of the nutty mods you had in the original and plenty more. There's almost too many.

You can do anything. Want to look like a racing don? Give your ride a new coat of paint and slap on some fly decals. Then add neon under-lights, fat rims, a dirty great spoiler, change the mirrors and make the doors open upwards like Doc Brown's DeLorean in Back to the Future. The cars look wicked. Which is fortunate because if they looked as bland and blurry as the rest of the game, there wouldn't be much point in playing.

If you've got plenty of cash, you can turn anything from a Peugot 102 or VW Golf into a fire-breathing animal. Turbos, fat exhausts and a few NOS canisters will do the trick at first, but there's always more to do and you WILL spend hours doing it.

That's what separates Underground 2 from any other racer. Nothing is more satisfying than building up your own kick-ass ride and getting it on the road for its first burn around town. There's no speed cameras or police-it's a boy racer's fantasy.

The handling is much better than before, with more weight in the cars for a meatier feel. And controlling a drift is better too so you can really throw your ride about. You'll be handbraking it into bends and powering it out, leaving a trail of smouldering rubber on the tarmac. The bassy engines and the turbo spitting compressed air as you change gear are spot on. It's sweet. It's the reason you're playing the game.

Underground 2 has taken the Burnout approach to boosting. Now, your NOS can be replenished by narrowly missing non-racing cars, drifting, flying off jumps or doing doughnuts. If you max out your nitro bar, your boost will be twice as powerful and last longer than usual. Let rip with that and your eyes will spin in your head-it's that fast.

It's just a shame EA insist on using a blurring effect when you boost. The graphics are already blurry enough to make it tough to see where the track is taking you. The last thing you need when rocketing along at some silly speed over 100mph, is an effect that looks like someone's smeared vaseline on your windscreen.

There's no shortage of tarmac to tear up. Underground 2 is set in a huge free-roaming city. Your career kicks off at the airport in a car you've borrowed from a friend. You enter races by driving to a marker on a large map, then accepting the challenge. You can just roam around if you want, but you won't want to because the city looks drab. Martians must have kidnapped everyone because apart from the odd car, there's nobody about. The idea's a novelty at first but when all you want to do is race, having to drive to each race just breaks up heart-pumping action.

After a couple of events in your loaned, maxxed-out 350Z, you'll need to give the car back to its owner and get your own. With no money, you'll start off in something crappy like a Ford Focus or Peugot 106. Compared to the 350Z, these motors drive like they're stuck in cement. S-L-O-W.

But win a few races and you'll get a contract with a racing team and that's where things start to heat up. Winning races will rake in the dough and you'll be bolting in the psycho nitro in no time, making virtual magazine covers and getting the cyber-beatches. Even if they don't look all that sexy in NFSU2's blocky graphics.

Underground may not amaze in the graphics department, but if you're a street racing nut, this is where it's all at. This might be the closest you'll ever get to blazing around in a super car.

"Blazing" 8/10

Rating:   4.0 - Great

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