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December 16, 2003
Need For Speed Underground - Review
Release Date Distributor Developer Players Rating Difficulty
20/11/2003EA GamesBlack Box1-4 GMedium
Save Size Sound Format Vibration 60Hz Mode 50Hz Border Widescreen
139KBDolby Pro Logic IIYesNoNoneNo

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Check out the car detail.
You would think that with only a year since the release of Need for Speed Hot Pursuit 2 that this would merely be another update with some more cars and new tracks. This couldn't be further from the truth. Need For Speed Underground is a total reworking of the game with all new graphics, game modes and cars. Gone are the normal street based cars and cops chasing you down as the developers of this game have opted for souped up cars as seen in movies like The Fast and the Furious and 2 Fast 2 Furious. In fact, much of the game has taken inspiration from those two movies.

The variety of game modes is certain to keep you entertained for some time. These modes include a Circuit where you can race on a looping course for several laps, a sprint which is a race through the city to the finish line, the drag race which is a pedal to the floor (mostly) straight line race. Drift races determine the winner by how well you can drift around the course while a lap knockout will see the last placed car knocked out on each of the first two laps leaving two cars to race the final lap to the finish line. A free run mode allows you to take it easy around the street.

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Racing down the street.
It's the Underground Mode, however, which provides the meat of the game as you can unlock cars and upgrades as well as entering tournaments where points are awarded depending on your race placing. This main single player mode includes a whopping 111 challenges (races, tournaments or drifting competitions) to complete. During many of the races you will also encounter other traffic, a collision will almost certainly cost you precious seconds, and the race.

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Getting air over the train!
Need for Speed Underground allows you to take on 20 of todayís most popular tuner cars from Mitsubishi Motors, Ford, Honda, Subaru, Toyota and many more, building the ultimate street machine by earning cash to pay for custom body kits and a host of licensed car performance mods. Most interestingly, the developers have dumped the more "upper class" cars such as Ferrari, Mercedes, Jaguar, and Aston Martin instead relying on more street styled cars as seen in the movie 2 Fast 2 Furious.

Of course upgrading you car is an essential part of this game and the developers have incorporated hundreds of ways to customize your ride. It's possibly to pick from major aftermarket parts such as tyres, engines, paint jobs, decals, nitros, spoilers from manufacturers including AEM Inc., Audiobahn, Bilstein, Dazz Motorsport, DC Sports, Eibach, Enkei, GReddy Performance Products Inc., HKS, Holley, Injen, Jackson Racing, MOMO, Neuspeed, Nitrous Express Inc., O.Z, PIAA, Skunk2 Racing, Sparco, StreetGlow, and Turbonetics Inc. Basically if you want it, this game has it. While many upgrades will improve your cars performance some of them, such as paint jobs and vinylís will add to your reputation.

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Check out the background detail.
Reputations play a big part in Need For Speed Underground. Depending on how your car shaped up your reputation will act as a multiplier in the style points during the races. A neat feature that forces you to build your car in order to enter the Underground tournaments. The multi-player modes also deserve a mention. Firstly a 2-player split screen mode allows you to race against a friend in races however it's the online gameplay that deserves the biggest mention as this could keep you hooked for weeks, if not months. You can take your customised car, show it off, and then obliterate the competition. Tremendous stuff.

Problems with the game are few and far between. It would have been nice for split-screen gameplay to include 4-player support as the races in the main game, and online game, include 3 other cars to compete against. The game also makes you play for a long time to unlock upgrades, something which some gamers may object to, but it does ensure you spend the time in the game. The collisions, and indeed the traffic in this game still pale in comparison to those in Criterion's superb Burnout 2: Point of Impact.

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Gorgeous paint job.
You could be forgiven for disputing the graphics in these screen shots, but that is certainly this game. The lighting, texturing and indeed detail on the cars is impressive and is all streamed off the DVD during the game. The detail on the cars is impressive while the backgrounds are easily among the best ever seen. The FMV cut scenes, while rather sparse, are of exceptional quality. The intro in particular deserves a mention, even if it does blatantly rip off the movies that inspired the game. Hitting the nitros during a race starts a gorgeous blurring effect which gives a perfect sense of speed and adrenaline.

There are a couple of niggles graphically with the game. Firstly, Need for Speed Underground only runs at 30fps which is well below the 60fps which we've become accustomed to in many other games. Streaming the graphics off the DVD during races causes the very occasional extremely brief pause which while not disruptive to the gameplay can take you out of the moment. Finally I'm a little disappointed that all the races take place at night time, and often in the wet. While it looks gorgeous, I would love to see these cities during the day. Still, this is a great looking game that will turn heads.

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Looking behind.
Once again the sound this EA game is THX certified which guarantees quality, and what quality it is. The music is predominantly rock based but also includes some rap/hip-hop stylings as well. Fortunately you can even set (through the options) which songs to include in the game and menus so you can remove anything you don't like - but there won't be much of that.

EA's Need For Speed Underground was always looking good, and thankfully the gameplay matches the looks. Sure, it's not as technically polished as the Gran Turismo or Colin McRae titles, they are more simulation styled, but as an arcade based racing game this is a stunning title. If you like racing games, are looking for some online action, or love souped up cars then you can't got past Need For Speed Underground.

Review By: David Warner

GRAPHICSDespite a lack of variety this is one of the best looking PS2 games.
SOUNDGreat music, sound effects and most importantly engine sounds.
GAMEPLAYThink interactive 2 Fast 2 Furious. This will have you hooked.
VALUEPlenty to unlock, and it will take ages. Online gameplay is addictive.
OVERALLNeed For Speed Underground is a tremendous game that rev heads and casual gamers alike will enjoy. The graphics and sound combine to make this a visual and aural feast while the number of races and unlockables will keep you racing for weeks. Excellent stuff.

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