Need For Speed Underground

Games - Need For Speed Underground Review PS2
Need For Speed Underground Review PS2

Need For Speed Underground is very reminiscent of the film Fast and the Furious and they are basically the same on two different platforms. This in itself will lead to a good following by young kids who where fans of the film and its sequel 2 Fast 2 Furious. Need For Speed Underground makes a good attempt of bringing the street racing lifestyle to the home consoles.

The first thing that Need For Speed Underground needs to get right is the handling of the cars, because without this you don't have much of a racing game. Thankfully the handling is very good, it doesn't reproduce the realism of Gran Turismo nor does it reproduce the full or arcade thrills of Ridge Racer, it has placed itself somewhere in the middle. If you have played Burnout2 you will have a good idea how Need For Speed Underground plays, in a similar way to Burnout2 NFSU will cut from the driving camera to a road side camera to catch huge airs and slides on tape. This is a nice idea and the option to change the sensitivity of this feature is also well thought out as the cut scene jumps n stuff can get a little irritating in the middle of a very close race.

When you do pull of a massive jump or drift in style round a corner you will be scored on it, in a similar way to Project Gotham Racing you will be awarded style points. These points are also given for slipstreaming, once you have filled your style bar rewards such as performance upgrades, visual upgrade and cars will be unlocked. NFSU has a good selection of cars on offer but to start with you will have the choice of either a VW Golf, Mazda MX5, Peugeot 206, Honda Civic and a Chrysler Neon from recollection. Soon after starting the game you will start to see other cars are available such as a Mitsubishi Lancer and a Ford Focus. All these cars are very similar in performance and handling, it is only when you start to buy performance upgrades that certain cars will begin to shine, the Mazda MX5 is

 
Games - Need For Speed Underground Review PS2
Games - Need For Speed Underground Review PS2
Games - Need For Speed Underground Review PS2

one of these. The one thing I have found strange with NFSU is that you win plenty of money for all the races you win, but you can't spend it straight away because the parts you wish to buy will be locked until you score highly on the on recognition and style. So when parts are unlocked you should be able to spend you money freely and max out your car are soon as the various new parts become available.

Cars upgrades come in two different categories visual and performance. The visual upgrades make you car look cool so people recognise that you have street cred, therefore increasing your reputation rating. The reputation rating helps you score higher on the style scoring while driving the races. It works something like this, you will score style points while racing for jumping, sliding and slipstreaming as mentioned earlier, at the end of the race this total sum of points is multiplied by your reputation rating, which starts as 1 and can increase to a level of 5. The short of this means, if you score highly on your style you will unlock various extras, if you have a good reputation this will enable you to unlock those extras a little (or a lot) quicker than you would otherwise. Back to the visual upgrades, you can upgrade the body of the car by adding spoilers, headlights, skirting, bonnets and front spoilers among other things. Then you can also paint you car and wheel independently in a variety of different colours and place sticker all over the car. Although these vinyl stickers are very basic boy racer type affairs to start with. Later you will be able to add manufacturers stickers and go faster stripes over the top of each other consisting of four different layers. Basically later in the game you have the freedom to make your car look as unique as you so desire and NFSU makes all this so easy it is a piece of cake.

The performance upgrades are probably just what you might expect and these directly relate to the performance of your vehicle in top speed, handling or acceleration. Included are turbo chargers, new engines, up rated brakes, ECU's and nitrous oxide among other things. Some upgrades come as a package so you are able to choose which brand of package you would prefer, the choice you make between with manufactures you select will have no effect on the performance of you car it will just enable you to use stickers from one manufacturer and not the other.

The tracks in need for speed are all very good but there is not enough of them. NFSU takes a leaf out of the Ridge Racer book and most of the tracks will be in reverse and others will be reconfigured to include a bit of road that wasn't available previously. This is all well and good but you will find you're travelling along the same piece of road numerous times of different tracks. This can cause a bit of a problem too, remembering the tracks can be quite confusing as you might think there is a right hairpin turn up ahead just to be caught out on a mild left hand turn. That said all the tracks give the opportunity for great racing whatever you driving skill maybe. Before you start a race you will be asked which difficulty level you would like to play. There is easy, medium and difficult, if you choose easy and win you will not earn as much money as you would have done by winning the medium difficulty race and so on. This is a great idea as it gives you the ability to play to you strengths for each individual race. If you have a great car that is faster than the competition you may want to select hard for the drag races which are by comparison extremely easy and in turn easy cash. The PS2 version of NFSU is online compatible which is great news as you can take on other mad machines online in races with up to four people. There can be a touch of lag but the fun aspect of the online mode is great.

Looking at the screenshots you will see that NFSU looks very nice indeed. One thing that promotes the silky look of the game is the wet roads which are extremely common place. The shadows on the cars look great although the refresh touch slow and if you take notice the shadows will appear to chug along. EA have used a lot of speed blur on NFSU to great effect, the streets look dirty and really quite realistic. If you hit large speeds on the drag races the blur effect really kicks and the camera will start to vibrate fairly viciously in giving a really great sense of speed. If you imagine doing 150mph in a battered A registered Fiesta you will get the idea. With all this going on the frame rate can take a slight dive but it is hardly noticeable. The cars themselves look the business, especially when you have some really aggressive looks spoilers, skirts and wheels.

The audio side of things is also good, the music that has been used is all hip hop orientated with performances from Nate Dogg and Dilated Peoples. The sound of the cars could have been a bit better to be honest, I thought EA would have gone to town on this and I was expecting some really good engine samples n stuff but generally most the engines sound very high pitched and raspy. I was hoping for some real growlers and throaty noises but it wasn't to be. The turbo sounds are very good when you actually get them fit to your car, the sounds won't jump out at you because they are subtle and very realistic.

Overall Need For Speed Underground is a good racing game and a definite for anyone who is in to the Fast and the Furious style cars and racing action. It is unfortunate that there aren't any more tracks than there are. If NFSU was a free race type game through an open city it would have been an awesome experience. The learning curve is nice and easy for the young or inexperienced gamers, and the ability to select the difficulty level for each race is a touch of genius. Obviously the customisation side of Need For Speed Underground can and probably will keep some people occupied for hours just getting the car to look how they want it. Overall, a great game and one to be recommended to every race fan.

8.0 out of 10

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