Review by Cybersk8er5000

"Underground takes a second shot at dominating the street racing genre..."

Need For Speed is probably one of the best known racing series to exist. Fast (and beautiful) cars, long tracks, intense speed, etc., etc. Need For Speed Underground is a completely different story. Instead of jumping into a car with a 6-digit price tag and tearing up a track filled with cops and other super expensive cars, you hit the streets in a Japanese econo-box, and race against other broke racers. It's a completely different situation, and everyone loved it the first time around. Now, in NFS:U2, you're literally thrown onto the streets of Bayview, forced to buy some crappy import, and push it to its limits against other crappy imports amidst traffic filled highways and streets. This step from menus to streets can be a good thing, but it also has plenty of flaws...

Gameplay: 8.2

Gameplay is comprised almost entirely of driving fast. It's a 85/15 ratio between driving and shopping, and maybe 30/85 is just trying to find a damn race that's nearby...

This section is gonna be divided into 3 sections: Race modes (the largest of the 3), exploring, and car customization.

- Race modes:

I. Circuit: 8/10

Circuit racing is simple enough... A track is lined out in the streets, and you do a number of laps around it. The only problem is that sometimes, you'll be doing 4 minute laps around Bayview, with 3 laps in the race, and you'll end up winning all of 1,000. Kinda lame, especially when your competition seems to have the tendency to come right up behind you 3 corners away from the finish line...

II. Drift: 10/10

In the first Underground, you were a single car on a track, drifting your heart out until you got first. In Underground 2, you're actually facing 3 other cars, and when they finish, you've got 30 seconds to finish as well. It's still a lot of fun flinging your car sideways around every corner of the track, so it's not like anything is worse, and it's not like you have to place first to win. Also, its nice to see a large number of new tracks, as well as all the old tracks making a return.

III. Sprint: 8/10

Sprint is extremely similar to Circuit, except you're just going from Point A to Point B and crossing the line before anyone else. Only problem is, much like Circuit, most of the tracks are extremely long, and the AI likes to ram your car around 3 turns away from the finish, stealing your hard earned victory from you...

IV. Drag: 9/10

Drag racing is another awesome racing mode from the first Underground. It stays pretty much the same, except with more complex tracks. Yeah, you might be thinking 'How can a straight line be more complex than another straight line?'. Well, obstacles, for one. In this game, when you reach 150 MPH+, things get REALLY blurry, and seeing 15 feet ahead of you becomes difficult. In most cases, you'll end up memorizing when to change lanes and which direction to change to in order to avoid all the stationary obstacles on the road. Traffic is another thing you'll have to avoid, all while shifting at the right time, using your N2O at the right time, and beating the other 3 cars to the finish. Also, some of the tracks (check that: most of the tracks) now have long, sweeping turns, and alternate routes to confuse the hell out of you. Each race is short (less than 40 seconds) and sweet, and it keeps you on the edge when you're neck to neck with that computer controlled driver in his 350Z.

V. Downhill Drift: 9/10

Downhill drifting is essentially the same as drifting, except it takes place on the hillsides of Bayview. Think of a mix between Drift mode, and Sprint mode, and you'll get the idea. Go from Point A to Point B while drifting as much as possible. There are no competitors this time around, but there is traffic, and this time you've got a set score to beat. You can't turn around and go back up for more points, so if you don't have... Say, 175,000 points for the set 250,000 point score set on the final stretch of road, then you're kinda screwed. Otherwise, it's a blast, just like normal Drift mode.

VI. URL: 9/10

URL (Underground Racing League) is the only mode that takes place on an actual track. No traffic, 5 other racers, and some crazy looking tracks. It's like Circuit, except with more competitive racers (and a larger number of them), and no traffic. And, it gives you the most cash, which makes it even more fun.

VII. Street X: 5/10

Basically a really dumbed down URL. It's a race with 4 cars on the drift tracks. You're probably not gonna go faster than 70 MPH, and every turn is taken at 40-50 MPH. It's really lame and slow, and in most cases, all the cars are in a pack. One of the worst modes in the game...

VIII. Outrun: 3/10

This is the worst of the worst. While exploring the city, you'll come across plenty of other racers in crazy tuned up cars driving like psychos that you can challenge to an Outrun race. The whole point is to get 1,000 feet ahead of the opponent. Take any route to achieve it, and keep them from getting 1,000 feet ahead of you. Unfortunately, they made it extremely hard by making it so that if you go through a hairpin, the distance will drop radically between you two, because it counts the distance in a direct, straight line, over buildings and stuff. It really, really, REALLY sucks to have them 980 feet away, go through a hairpin, and watch that number swing down to 250. Races can go on for several minutes (took me 17 minutes to beat a Corolla with a freakin G35 once!), and it really sucks when after 8 minutes you see that number hit 800 feet, you hit a car, and they fly past you, never to be seen again, and lose several seconds later. 8 minutes, down the drain. And when you DO win, you win a measly 100. Whoop-de-doo. What the HELL is that gonna buy me other than a stupid company sticker??? If it were an optional thing, this mode would definitely score higher, but seeing as how you need it to unlock unique stuff and to beat the game 100%, its extremely lame.

- Exploration: 7/10

What can I say? It's like that free roam mode in Driver 1, where you can't jack other cars, and there's no pedestrians. You just cruise around Bayview, looking for a race to race, or a shop to, well, shop at. Not much else to say... The city is pretty well crafted, with plenty of little back alley shortcuts (good luck finding all the hidden shops without a map...). The only problem? Sometimes its a little too big. Say you've got only one race left to do before you move on to the next part of the game. You're in the Harbor, down at the south side of the city, and the only race left is a circuit race that you can enter, if you go all the way to the northern part of town. It takes forever to get there, because you're gonna drive through highways that have more twists and turns than California's Highway 1. Also, Nokia was really stupid to put themselves in the game. Whenever you want to go somewhere, you can use your Nokia phone (in the game), and use the GPS tracking to have a little arrow guide you there via the fastest route. The only problem? If you even try to go off the street, it loses the signal, and your super helpful arrow disappears until you reappear on the streets. It makes Nokia look like crap, and makes me not want to sign up with them for fear of them being like that in real life. It was a stupid move by them, and a stupid move by EA for making it only work on the streets. Otherwise, it's not THAT bad to just drive around.

- Car Customization: 10/10

Name any sort of upgrade you can think of for a car, and this game probably has it. With tons of different body kits, performance upgrades, and crazy/outrageous upgrades that do nothing but look pretty, you can find them in this game. You can put neons in your engine bay if you so dearly please (once you've unlocked it, at least), and you can change the color of your nitrous purge (gas that shoots out of different openings that you can customize). Roof scoops, spoilers, bumpers, side skirts, rims, spinners, hydraulics, audio systems for your trunk, tinted windows, neons, headlights, brakelights, and more different vinyls than you can even count. You can, literally, take a (for example) Toyota Celica, and make 1,000,000 different variations of it. For example, each Tribal Vinyl has a couple different parts that you can paint different colors. 4 layers of vinyl comes out to about 12 different possible colors, out of approx. 50 different colors, plus about 100 different base colors, spoiler colors, roof scoop colors, brake caliper colors, rim colors, headlight colors, muffler tips, etc. You can completely customize your car how you want, and you'll probably NEVER find someone online with the same exact car. Ever.

Graphics: 9/10

Considering this game can lay out some extremely realistic looking skidmarks where ever you go, I'm amazed there's still enough memory in the PS2 to keep up with the graphical beauty that is this game. At the speed you'll be travelling most of the time, the game seems to keep a smooth speed all the way throughout. I've encountered slowdown only once, and that was in the middle of a 6 car pile up in the dirt during a drag race. The smoke that comes from your car looks extremely real, as do the actual cars. Although it did seem that most of the cars were a bit squattier than their real life counterparts (the Supra looks kinda weird from the back). Other than that, though, there are some amazing graphics in this game.

Sound: 7/10

Polyphony Digital should bribe the sound crew from this game into teaching them their secrets. Seriously. Hearing the roar of that Pontiac GTO puts anything Gran Turismo ever put out to serious shame. Pretty much all the other sounds are comprised of people talking to you on their phones, tires squealing, and you hitting walls. So why the low score? The soundtrack. First time around, the music was awesome, with songs like BT's Kimosabe gracing the soundtrack of the first Underground. This time around, we've got Snoop Dogg doing a remix of a song by The Doors. Felix Da Housecat has probably the only good song in the game, and that's one out of about 30...

- Excellent car customization options
- Decent car roster spanning everything from the Infiniti G35 to the Hummer H2
- Plenty of gameplay
- Large variety of race modes
- Amazing sense of speed

- Nokia's stupid GPS crap
- Plenty of outrageously UGLY body kits
- Rubberband A.I.
- Street X mode

Buy or Rent?

Seeing as how its still $50, you should only get it if you've got plenty of cash to spend on games. If you're on a tight budget, save it for Gran Turismo 4, which comes out in a week.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 02/16/05

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