Need for Speed: Underground Review
PIII 700, 256MB RAM, 32MB Video Card, 2GB HD
|ESRB rating: E
release date: Nov 17, 03 (released)
|» All About Need for Speed: Underground on ActionTrip|
Is there a person alive in this world that enjoys driving to work during rush hour? You sit there in heavy traffic constantly trying to find that one lane that's actually moving, and of, course, as soon as you find one and change into it, it stops, and then the lane you were previously in starts moving. (Ed. - Urge to kill, rising...) The radio plays yet another commercial while you watch some ugly fat mother eat his booger as he waits for the traffic to move in the lane next to you. Casual everyday driving is certain to kill your will to live, along with any traces of testosterone left in your body! Before you know it you'll be shopping for a bra to cover your man tits!
Cool-looking license plates!
Maybe this will shake him off...
Things don't have to be so bad however. All it takes is a little engine tuning, a fancy paint job, new suspensions, spoilers, nitro... OK, it does take a little more than a casual makeover to turn your Dodge Caravan into a full fledged, hell raising, horsepower filled beast fit for underground street racing. Oh, and you need to grow some balls too, and hook up with the right connections in the 'underground.' Come to think about it, getting into underground street racing ain't really all that easy for a middle-aged overstressed office grunt, so the next best thing you can do is pick up a copy of Need for Speed: Underground. Sure, it may not give you the same adrenaline rush, but at least you won't have to explain to your boss why your Dodge Caravan has all that weird vinyl and decals all over it. Not to mention the fancy neon glowing under the car.
So yeah, today's topic at hand is EA's Need for Speed: Underground - a fast and furious (pun intended) racing game with the accent on illegal street racing where being cool is almost as important as winning. EA has had a lot of success with the Sims games in the past two years, so it only stands to reason that they would attempt to apply the same logic to their famous racing series. By far the most important mod in the game is of course the underground racing mod. Racing across the finish line is important, and it's mostly important because it gives you the option to modify your car - tune up the engine, tires, breaks, you name it. What's more you get to make it very, very fancy looking, with neon lights, spectacular headlights and taillights, purty bumper and hood, decals, vinyl and a host of other visual and performance tweaks that will turn your little sporting automobile into a freaking shrine to manhood, machismo, testosterone and overt cockiness. The most unique aspect about this game is that it lays heavy emphasis on the designer in you. It's like an RPG, where the main character is your car. Racing is almost like an afterthought, as you'll be spending most of your time tinkering with the many options provided for the more pedant and anal wannabe street car racers amongst you. Another very important aspect of this game are the style points, and the rankings system. As I said, this game is more about style than winning it seems, so it will be very important to select as many style points as possible. Leaving other competitors in billows of smoke will only do so much for your career. You got to get some magazine covers, become an underground legend - get your mean machine on the front page.
Not that there's anything seriously wrong with this concept mind you. Anyone who has enjoyed watching Fast and Furious will certainly get a kick out of playing Midnight R... OOPS, my bad, I meant Need for Speed: Underground. Just like in Midnight Run 2 most of the races take place during night. You'll have an underground racing map available to you, as various street-smart hard tuners approach you with their smooth-talkin' ho-smackin' attitude. From the get go, the idea for this game was to make it have a lot 'flava,' and as far as this middle class white boy could tell, it does. Hell, it's a great thrill to race at breathtaking speeds through fictional inner-city surroundings. As was the case with any other NFS game, the gameplay is all about arcade driving, so you can forget about any kind of believable physics and fancy steering subtleties. From what I could tell, the team at EA has done a very good job at striking the right balance between the purely arcade elements - like being able to slide in a sharp bend without even breaking and managing to stay in control - and the more realistic elements like how the car behaves in mid air, how the lighter road obstacles react to impact and such.
This is what street racing is all about.
Move that piece of garbage out of my way!
The AI is fairly aggressive and competitive and it'll even know how to take a shortcut or two. The game's not exactly too challenging on the normal level of difficulty, but it's challenging enough to keep you going. From a standpoint of someone who just wants to have some good clean arcade racing fun, I can honestly say that NFS: Underground does provide exactly that. Bear in mind that the visuals look spectacular, with loads of nice dynamic reflections, high-poly car models and well-designed backgrounds, along with some very fitting hard and heavy tunes from bands like Fuel and Rancid. For more details on the cars, tracks, soundtrack and such I turn your attention to our preview of the game (http://www.actiontrip.com/previews/needforspeedunderground.phtml).
The actual racing in terms of handling your car and competing against other drivers is done very well for an arcade racer. One extremely cool effect that I enjoyed immensely was the blur effect, which definitely gives you that extra thrill when you put the pedal to the metal. It's just awesome to see traces of lights and other cars as you speed by them in your fancy looking VW, Mazda, or Mitsubishi. Visually, I couldn't find anything wrong with this game, and when you combine that with the speaker-blowing tunes and sounds of revving engines, you get an explosive mix that's bound to raise your adrenaline levels and get that ole' testosterone bubbling.
There are a few things, however, that thwart the overall experience. First of all, there's virtually no visible damage on the cars even when you ram another vehicle head on at 130MPH. I don't know why that is, but that's just too much even for an extremely arcadish racer. I mean, I can understand that certain obsessive car tuners would hate to see their babies hurt, but there's just something about torn automobile chassis that gets the juices flowing. It would've been so nice to see some spectacular crashes with wheels flying up in the air, burning oil, and twisted metal. Certainly, for a game tailor fitted for adrenaline junkies this would do wonders for the overall fun factor. They didn't even have to modify the car's steering when badly smashed or whatnot, it would've been enough just to see the damage in the game.
My other complaint about NFS: Underground has to do with the track design. The thing I enjoyed about Midnight Run 2 the most was the relative freedom to discover numerous shortcuts and other cool ways of getting in front of your opponents. Unfortunately, Need for Speed: Underground seems a lot more linear and with far less cool additions on each of the tracks. There are some shortcuts mind you, but they don't seem to truly expand the gameplay. While driving around in huge cities, ports or stadiums at night can be loads of fun, the whole thing does get a little tedious after a while. A little more gameplay variety on each of the tracks could've done wonders for the overall experience. Still, as I said earlier, 'Underground' is mostly about making your car look mean and sexy, so the RPG factor should provide enough of an incentive for players to go through the entire single-player mode. Another welcomed addition to the gameplay are the sporadic drag races and sliding contests, which will test your ability to make tight turns and use the stick shift. Then there are always the magazine covers and cool babes which are the unavoidable accessories to success and fame. There are just enough of those in the game to make you feel like a hotshot for a while.
On a final note, NFS: Underground certainly has the flair and the flamboyance of an underground street racer game. It sounds and looks beautiful - the cars and backgrounds are superb looking, and the THX certificate ensures that the audio experience is top-notch. There's a ton of improvements for your car, and you'll certainly get caught up in trying to make it look like the ultimate shrine to coolness. On the other hand, the game lacks a more innovative and involving track design, which makes the actual racing and the map layout a tad too repetitive at times. I've also sorely missed even traces of a damage model, as I feel that twisted metal makes a perfect addition to hard and heavy tunes, hot chicks in tank tops and very fast cars. I'd recommend this game to arcade racing fans. What it lacks in certain gameplay segments, it makes up with its abundance of style and RPG features. It's not as good as Midnight Run 2, but it's still a must-have for street racing fans, if only for the ability to make your perfect machine.
8.0 Very Good
Pretty and flamboyant, blur effect, soundtrack, AI, make your ultimate racing beast and gain respect;
No damage model, track layout too linear and simplistic - this takes away from the overall fun factor.
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