(EA Games, November 17, 2003)

Ever since the days of the 3DO (an old 32-bit game system that nobody liked by the way), the Need for Speed series was always a street racing game with an edge. The games were famous for breaking some rules since you had to race as fast and as wild as you want across open roads while you out run your competition and even the local cops. Now Need for Speed franchise is taking a page from these popular yet brainless race flicks like 2 Fast 2 Furious and to less extend that crappy Torque because you're racing across the city streets late at night to earn some cash and respect. Is NFS Underground enough to do the long running series justice or will you need to go back to play Mario Kart Double Dash or Project Gotham Racing instead?

NFS Underground is a strange mixture of a more serious simulation like Gran Turismo and intense arcade action like a Burnout rolled into one. The game is both easy to control but there are still lots of other issues you need to worry about precise braking for taking corners and the drag races require you to slowly building up speed first. The controls are great for beginners and pros a like here.

To make you way to the top in this game you have to work your way from the bottom first. Underground will open up a teaser test run with a 100,000 plus muscle car complete with NOS speed boost but once you place first in that race, reality kicks in and you only have 10,000 bucks and only a lame cars (like the Dodge Neon) to pick from. If you don't like the wheels the game gives you (believe me you won't) then you can easily mess around with some of the custom options so you can create your own perfect machine. Before you can do anything too cool though you need to unlock a lot secret car parts first. Sadly like the selection of vehicles, the game really doesn't give you a lot to choose from at first and you have to slowly get a lot of the fun stuff first so you may want to stay away until you play most of the Underground mode.

Fortunately the game lets you compete in all sorts of different events to earn more cash and stages like basic battles for first place, drag races, going laps for technical Drift points, and many more. With all these race types, it's hard to get bored even though you're racing in the same night time city environment.

Maybe NFS Underground's greatest feature is the game's killer looks. Just imagine going so fast that the screen will actually blur while you hit a nitro boost plus the camera may even shift away to a better angle during a big crash just like in Burnout. Unfortunately, there is no damage modeling like in more intense racing games out there and that really sucks because it feels out dated. I guess EA wasn't aloud to smash up the license cars and disturb the almighty sponser but who are they trying to please here: Burger King or us? Sure, the overall night time theme really doesn't change much and it can be hard to see the road sometimes but Underground still looks incredible. Since this is a EA game here there are some huge music bands doing the background tracks from artist like Rob Zombie and Crystal Method here. Some of the tracks work well while other songs are a little too slow to be in an illegal street racing game like this. Overall though it's a great list of tracks and the realistic engine and crash noises are amazing as well.

This game sure has a lot going for it but would have been even better if there were more diverse tracks and more unlocked features near the beginning. Starting out a Need For Speed game with a lame 20,000 and under car like a Mitsubishi Lancer or a Volkswagen GOLF GTI just isn't right! First impressions are important you know. It would have been awesome if EA took the Xbox edition of NFS more seriously as well. Although this game is a lot closer to its Playstation2 counterpart unlike in the NFS Hot Pursuit 2 game on Xbox (believe it or not but that PS2 game was actually much faster), the game doesn't even have any online support like the Playstation2 one has. EA said the reason they won't use the Xbox Live online service is because they won't make any additional money from it. I can see why EA would do this from a business standpoint but as a gamer, I personally feel ripped off! Despite a few negatives, Need For Speed Underground not only gives you a list of cool racing options to keep the racing fresh but the game also lets you earn fast cash, fast women, and even faster cars and who doesn't love that, eh?



Need For Speed Underground
overall rating: 75/100
Find this game on eBay here!

For 1 or 2 players
Rated (E) for Everyone

graphics: 7/10
sound: 8/10
gameplay: 7/10
replay: 8/10

(Ryan Genno) 2007

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