Reviewed by Downtown Jimmy
Dec 6th 2004
Introduction:Incase your need for speed hasn't been filled, Electronic Arts has returned with a second Need for Speed Underground game which expands on the original.
The Game:Need for Speed Underground was a popular hit last year when they switched up their long running Need for Speed series of games into the Underground. They've decided that the Underground franchise is the path to follow, so it's returned in 2004. NFSU 2 is could be compared to the new life brought into Activision's Tony Hawk series by adding the word "Underground" to the title. Electronic Arts has also rejuvenated the series with that same eleven lettered word, could it be a secret gaming phenomenon?! Or just a new way to look at an old idea?!
Roam Free little Focus, Roam Free!
The gameplay in Underground 2 is based on a fictional city titled Bayview. In Bayview you will be able to free roam and accept challenges similar to Namco's Street Racing Syndicate. If you want to race, mod or just cruise through the five distinct districts of it's up to you. Need for Speed Underground 2 also has some new gameplay modes; Street X, Downhill Drift, Outrun and the Underground Racing League added onto the original three competitions. Also not forgetting the other added elements involving sponsored races and media cover shots. There are always several races happening throughout the city so you have your pick at which ones you want to do. This gives more variation and lets you change it up if you're really stuck on one race always finishing last. One problem with all this racing is that you always have to rank 1st to progress through the racing ranks, I think a more well rounded ranking system should be thought about for the next game.
The majority of your time in NFSU2 is spent cruising through the city and doing races and it all ties loosely together by the story element of the game. Electronic Arts has gone Hollywood and hired the former Wild On diva Brooke Burke to star in the game. The story unfolds like turning pages of a graphic comic and Brooke is kind enough to sponsor your scrawny self, helping you take over the streets race by race. The story revolves around you and Brooke building up your reputation up to go deeper into the secret underground circuit to win money and become an underground icon. The story isn't too gripping, but it plays the part. The cut scenes will hold your attention for the duration they are on, luckily the drama is light and the emphasis is rightfully focused on the driving! Also, Brooke is a nice addition but it's too bad her beauty has been 'stylized' as they say.
Demolition Derby Anyone?
The downside to Need for Speed Underground 2 are areas related to the driving, and considering you will be spending all your time driving it does affect the game. I found the whole roughneck AI to be a bit of a strange addition because who would spend thousands of dollars moding factory cars just to drive like a their are in a demolition derby? I guess it is fine in the world of Bayview where cars are impervious to damage, but I would have liked a more clean driving style from the AI. The bash em' until I am first doesn't looses me just as I'm starting to gain more interest in the game. NFSU2 is an arcade style racer which means the handling is loose and acceptable, but once you get into the game you will really start to question the crash em' up AI.
When it rains, It Pours!
I have also have a strange question regarding the weather system in the game. This strange occurrence kept happening to me and I really wonder if it happens to everyone?! In almost every street race when I am close to finishing the race it always starts to rain! I understand the concept behind this to build tension in the final seconds of racing having the motorists drive over wet pavement, but common every time!! It hope it's just ironic that it's happened to me several times, but if not. I would consider this to be one bad point towards the programming team.
Graphics & Sound:The graphics in NFSU2 are improved from last year's game and look more glamorous and sharp. Need for Speed Underground 2 is a good looking game, although some might find it too bright and shiny. The have done a great job with cars models considering the staggering amount of visual mods. The design of their fictional city of Bayview is also a graphical environmental achievement. Bayview's architecture is pretty impressive and features a very complex set of roads, highways and city areas complete with classic suburban hills. You can tell they spend some time mapping out each street and back alley which really brings NFSU2 together into a solid game. NFSU2 also supports 480p for all you HDTV owners. If you don't a high definition TV, I believe Electronic Arts would suggest you shop at Best Buy because they are littered all over Bayview.
The audio in NFSU2 is realistic and good enough to fool anybody's ears from the different tones in imports to domestic cars, plus you can change the sound of each vehicle by enhancing the engine or adding new exhaust tips. There are lots of bands in the ever expanding EA-Trax, including Snoop Doggs exclusive cover of The Doors "Rider of the Storm", a track that is exclusive to NFSU2. I had higher hopes for that tune personally, but the rest of the artists make up for the Snoop messing with Morrison.
Mojo:Need for Speed Underground 2 definitely has the mojo. The car mods reek of awesomeness and feature some really cool features like spinners and scissor doors! It's feels great to trick out cars you normally wouldn't see done up to the games extreme. I love the opened feel of the game and even though I pretty much got the same experience through SRS, I think NFS does the job a little better. Step back from my purple Lincoln Low-rider, because I got the funk!
Lowdown:Driving games have changed over the years and it's not just about your skill behind the wheel anymore, it's about the whole package. You need to look the part as well as drive it. Need for Speed Underground 2 boasts more cosmetic upgrades, more challenges and more driving. this is a good thing. There is a wide selection of cars and newly added SUV's to choose from along with a hefty amount of tracks and race types. Need for Speed Underground 2 won't disappoint any driving enthusiast with its nitro fueled racing action.
Gameplay: 7, Graphics/Sound: 8, Innovation: 8, Mojo: 8. Final: 8
- Free-Roaming City: Explore a massive city divided into five distinct, interconnected neighborhoods, ranging from serpentine suburban hills to an intense downtown grid. A complex series of drivable freeways connect the neighborhoods together.
- Emergent Gameplay: Want to make a name for yourself in the underground? You'll need to find it first. Races can happen anywhere and at any time and as players encounter rivals on the street they'll be clued into where they can buy the hottest upgrades or enter the most elite events.
- New Gameplay Modes: Three new gameplay modes are added to last year's circuit, drift and drag competitions, challenging gamers to hone their skills in a number of driving disciplines.
- Performance Tuning: Tune every aspect of your car's performance with hundreds of licensed aftermarket performance upgrades and then fine-tune everything from the gear ratio to the suspension for the ultimate ride.
- The Hottest Cars: More than thirty of the most sought-after tuner cars are available from the hottest manufacturers-from Nissan Motor Co., Toyota, and Mitsubishi Motors and more -- if they're hot on the street, they're in the game.
- Visual Customization: With more than twice the visual customizations of last year's game, there are literally billions of car combinations available to gamers. Featuring audio upgrades, scissor doors, spoilers, headlights, side skirts, roof scoops, hoods, rims, wide body kits, neon and more, if you can trick it out in real life, you can trick it out in Need for Speed Underground 2.
- Environmental Variety: Each of the five distinct neighborhoods in Need for Speed Underground 2 feature a unique look and feel, including varied driving conditions and track types. Road surfaces, real-time weather effects, and environmental hazards will keep gamers on their toes as they race from dusk till dawn.
- Online: Gamers can put their reputation on the line, challenging the world's best racers online for the PlayStation®2 computer entertainment system.