Review by johnebp

Reviewed: 11/23/03


...a game developed for the illegal racer in all of us. I want to first explain that I am not a Need for Speed fan, infact, its previous games lacked any appeal to me. But, like all things, there are times for drastic changes and much needed improvements. EA clearly took its golden opportunity in implementing these ideals in its brand new title, Need for Speed Underground.

Gameplay : 9/10
Brilliantly designed levels mixed with several challenging modes of play, EA took its time and thought out every aspect of street racing, and then put it into a precise little package. The sheer size of the levels can be overwhelming at first, but the complexity soon wears off as you build your way towards the ranks in this hidden world. The modes of gameplay available not only offer much diversity, but also an appealing type for all race fans. For you dragsters, hit the raceway with the finely tuned Drag level, and for you rear-wheel drive showoffs, the Drift course. Few negative aspects can be discovered in the game's basic setup though, one of which being, the completion and outlook for upgrades. It is not clear... whatsoever on what upgrades you will receive, when you will receive them, and what you need to do to receive them. Another one of the downturns this game makes is the overall repetition of levels. Basically, there is one. It is rerouted and tweaked for many of the races, but all in all, the scenery is very much the same, the city or the uncompleted city. A raceway or a suburban run through might be a welcome change to this overbearing environment. One incredibly disappointing feature... there is no garage. You are only able to keep one car at a time, which basically means if you find a configuration to a car you really like, but you choose to drive another car with changed modifications, break out the pencil and paper, it's the only way to save your previous car.

Controls : 8/10
The controls are one of the best configured groupings for shifting and steering that have been seen for quite sometime. Downshifting to Nitrous Oxide to gearing back up to e-brake slide is a one second process, saving up to ten seconds in crashing into an obstruction or moving vehicle. Fluent steering leaves any upgrade immediately noticeable and front/rear/all-wheel drive could never be more accurately differentiated. The ability to drift really sets this game apart, on the circuit tracks and the special drift tracks. The ability to downshift and slide correctly pertaining to a vehicle's drivetrain and speeds has been a long sought after experience in racing games and is done justice in Underground. A funny mistake in this programming is the ability to steer your car... mid air. A hard fault to stumble upon, but when done correctly, you can steer your way out of a flipping rotation.

Sound : 7/10
Each car has its own sound, particular to its engine upgrades and car type, but its suddle enough for anyone playing to not know which car is coming up from behind by sound alone. This can cause problems if one decides to look in the rear view, while forgetting about the trolley about 50 feet in front of them. The first thing immediately noticed when upgrading your car's sound is, muffler tips are completely ineffective. Most drivers today do not build their exhaust systems for appearance as they do effectiveness, and even more so, the sound. EA decided to go all show on the tips, as they will have zero effect on any other aspect of your car. A matter of personal preference, but the limited soundtrack is built for rap fans or rock fans, with little room for anyone else. If you're unsatisfied with either, you have the ability to designate which tracks can play on what types of levels, or whether to play at all. As hard as it is to appeal to everyone, EA took a stab in the dark at what they figured street racers might be listening to, and managed to stereotype them into the 2 Fast 2 Furious soundtrack persona.

Graphics : 8/10
Well built cities are extremely vivid with attention spent to each building and vehicle. The levels were made to work with several applications, as one street can be used in 5 different ways for a completely different effect on the course. More detail could have been spent on amplifying the drone cars to be more realistic, but I'd suppose they're placed more for effect, and less cpu drain. One gorgeous effect administered by the creators was that of motion blur. Colors merge to a warp speed look in accelerated speeds, specifically when nitrous is shot through the engine block, giving a nice visual and general feel of speed. The player cars offer a wide array of vehicle modifications to enhance its appearance, such as vinyl coverings, several painted component, tinting, and so fourth. Over 10+ body kits can be outfitted on any car, all parts can be outfitted on all cars, for altered styles. Just about every aspect of every car can be adjusted, with the exception of suspension (no drops ladies and gentlemen!). Fine tune your machine to match your personal tastes as much as you can, but be warned, if you'd like to design your own crazy colors or vinyl schemes, you're flat out of luck, the only options you have are game offered.

Replay Value : 8/10
If you happen to accomplish all 111 missions, not only do you have the ability to redesign your car any way you see fit, but you can take your challenge global, playing your neighbor across the street, your best friend from the next town over, and Richard Simmons at the same time. With online capabilities, the game literally doubles its replay value, with always changing abilities and vehicles among your racers, it will take a lot of time spent to find boredom. Not feeling like finishing a mission? The quick race is a nice option to jump right into the game to hone your skills or pass the time, adjusting traffic and rival skill levels.

Overall : 8/10
With incredible graphics, many adjustable options, and everlasting gameplay, it's difficult to point out serious problems with a game near as flawless as this one proves to be. One of the best games I have played for PS2, it's what Vice City would've been if it was created as a street racing game.

Buy/Rent : Buy
90% of people will be satisfied with their purchase of this game, the other 10% will be overjoyed.

Rating:   4.0 - Great

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