Review by Ice27

"The streets literally have never looked better on a handheld..."


Need For Speed: Underground 2 is the latest game in the acclaimed Need For Speed series by EA Games, and is a direct sequel to Need For Speed: Underground.

This game and its predecessor are very different from the other games in the series, mainly since these two games do not use exotic cars like Ferraris or Porsches, but instead uses urban street cars from manufacturers such as Nissan, Mitsubishi, Honda, etc.

Also, the theme of Underground is basically a view of what the underground street racing society is like, which is a huge difference compared to the previous games in the series, which featured competing in exotic locations while using exotic cars.

This handheld version of the game obviously has both pros and cons, most or all of which will be covered throughout this entire review.

Gameplay: 9/10

If you got the first NFS:U game on the GBA, you'll find that Underground 2 is very similar, if not the same, to the first game, like it's only an upgrade of sorts.

Obviously, there are some things that are new to this sequel. Some cars that have not been added from the console version to the handheld version of the first game are now in this sequel. To make up for the cars missing from the first game, cars that are new to the series replace them, and fortunately, most happen to perform well in the game. But unfortunately though, SUVs are not included in this version of the game. As for game modes, sadly, Sprint has been taken out, but is replaced by three new modes which will be familiar to those who have played the console versions of the first game, and a new Mini Games section, which will have 4 mini games, all of which will have the theme of testing things in a car. Also, you can now view your statistics for the game, which will include things like mileage, driving style, and more. Oh, and to unlock new cars and performance upgrades, you need to exchange "points" that are earned by beating a new event.

Controls are exactly the same as the first game, minus the "Advanced" Manual Transmission setting, so those of you who have played the first game shouldn't have any problems with the controls in this game. You'll see what I mean when you can easily score at least 10,000 points within a few laps in a Drift Race.

The game's difficulty has been refined a bit, and no, I mean that in a negative way. This time around, you CAN'T choose the difficulty level; the CPU racers will always rival your current car's performance settings, and sometimes, its visual settings also. Even trying to finish Go Underground's Level 3 Circuit events won't present that much of a challenge, even with a fully tuned-up Volkswagen Golf, trying to pass Nissan Skylines and such. The good (or maybe the worse) thing about this, is that the traffic which you probably hated in the first game have finally passed their driving test and are now driving on the roads along with you, making for some unexpected collisions and spinouts in almost all modes except for Drift. Yup, it's in all 4 Drag Tracks. Oh, and did I mention shortcuts and jumps in tracks?

Overall, gameplay will test your racing skills and it's definitely fun smoking the CPU racers and/or your friends.

Story: 2/10

No!! The Go Underground Mode has been totally destroyed by replacing the ranked races with some event races in which you keep racing against Duke, Steele, and Swift! And obviously, the unique racer names and their ability to have a rematch with you has been taken away. The events can also get somewhat repetitive and boring, though. The one good thing I can say about Go Underground is that the Mini Game events that occur tend to be challenging, keeping you focused for about 3 to 6 minutes or so, depending on the type of Mini Game.

Graphics: 10/10

The screenshots of the game that I've been seeing gave me a reason to get this game, and not just because Brooke Burke replaced Melissa on the downloadable PC wallpaper title screen, but because of how the graphics looked better in comparison to the first game. Some people may still say that the tracks' graphics are still "blurry" as the first, but you'll find that you're not crashing into walls often, unless you're like me and you just crash into them for fun. A more notable difference is that car graphics and design look more like their real-life counterpart.

Music: 1/10

The game's music is downright bad, being similar to music from past NFS games like High Stakes. It doesn't fully use the GBA's capacity to produce above average sound quality, unlike the first game, whose music is almost exactly like the real thing, save some few verses here and there. It's a pity that I actually had my hopes up for slightly improved sound quality on real music made by real artists. I guess we were all better off listening to the repetitive tune of Lil' Jon and the Eastside Boyz f. Ying Yang Twins' "Get Low" in the first game.

As for the game's sound effects, yes, that annoying screeching noise that you hear when you turn is still there. The sound effect of when you shift gears doesn't bother me as much as that horrible screeching noise.

Play Time/Replayability: 10/10

The time to finish this depends on how good a racer you are and how much time you are willing to spend on it. Two to three days is a rough estimate, since all you have to do is beat Go Underground Mode and set some record times in Race Now mode.

As for replayability, once you finish Go Underground Mode, you can go for random races or races that you can set up in Race Now, set some "unbeatable" high scores in the mini games, and the Multiplayer option should keep you engaged for a long while. But then again, if you like to torture yourself through seemingly repetitive events, start over from scratch and beat Go Underground Mode a second time.

Final Recommendation:

Need For Speed: Underground 2 has its own fair share of pros and cons, but if you want the best portable racer out so far with you, then you should definitely get this game. You had better not trade this one off by accident...

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 12/13/04

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