"Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit 2 and Porsche Unleashed had you speeding through peaceful European villages in exotic cars. However, after the movie ďThe Fast and the FuriousĒ was released, EA decided to move the series into new territory. In Underground, you put the pedal to the metal in cheap import cars to prove your skill on the dark city streets. Thereís a vast amount of modifications for every vehicle, which ensures that no two cars are alike in the fabulous online play. In addition, each ..."
Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit 2 and Porsche Unleashed had you speeding through peaceful European villages in exotic cars. However, after the movie ďThe Fast and the FuriousĒ was released, EA decided to move the series into new territory. In Underground, you put the pedal to the metal in cheap import cars to prove your skill on the dark city streets. Thereís a vast amount of modifications for every vehicle, which ensures that no two cars are alike in the fabulous online play. In addition, each race is a frenzied battle to the finish, due to the gameís exceptional presentation of speed. You can almost feel the gravity force you back in your seat.
Zooming past competitors at high speeds isnít anything rare for the racing genre, but in Underground, you feel like youíre flying. NOS accelerates you to these incredible speeds much quicker. This doesnít mean that you wonít experience this fascinating feeling without it; you can still attain blazing fast speeds without any extra boost. Thereís a ďDragĒ mode dedicated to the exhilarating rush of speed.
However, Drag has you doing more than just stepping on the gas. You must concentrate on shifting and maneuvering around traffic to make it to the end. Shifting requires accurate timing because going too early or too late may have you finishing behind the competition. This is a captivating experience thatís fast-paced and difficult enough to hold your interest.
Underground has all the standard racing modes, including ďsprintĒ which is a normal race to the finish and a ďtime trialĒ mode. These modes arenít unique, but they still are very exciting when matched with the engrossing sense of speed. Another mode captures the sport of drifting, in which you swerve around corners to raise your score. This is perfectly balanced, so that itís challenging and still enjoyable. You need to slide around every sharp turn without smashing into the wall as that will cause you to lose the points gained in that drift. This gives you the feeling that youíre about to lose control, and thatís what makes it so entertaining.
If you drift in a normal race, you will be given reputation points that do a good job of rewarding you for both clean and dangerous driving. It encourages the player to perform impressive techniques, such as getting through a section of a race without a scratch or tailing another driver. Increasing your reputation will unlock new upgrades and get your ride on the cover of magazines. Getting a photo of your car on a magazine may not sound like much, but Undergroundís car customization makes it a treat.
The transition from Ferraris and Lamborghinis to Hondas and Nissans may not please Need for Speed fans, but the way you can trick out the cars will satisfy racing fanatics. Hood scoops, roof scoops, spoilers, and window tint are just a few ways to make your set of wheels stand out. Why not buy a body kit? Or perhaps stick some lights under your car. The car modification is so deep that you will spend more time tweaking your cars than actually driving them. There are also upgrades that give your cars a performance boost. Despite all the customization options, Underground is very user friendly because it tells you what each part does. Thereís a proficient lineup of cars in Underground, which features all of the famous street racers, but nothing that hasnít been used in previous games in the genre.
Since the sun never shines upon any of the courses, the tracks that you will be racing your Ďpimped out ridesí have a stale look. You also come across many of the same environments, so after a handful of races, youíll be begging for a fresh track. Invisible walls with lights pointing you in the right direction are placed on nearly every corner making the courses have a tiresome appearance. Underground throws in a couple of short-cuts to make the player less claustrophobic, but the short-cuts usually will lead you down another bland pathway. The dull environments usually donít present Undergrounds gorgeous visuals. Itís hard not to be impressed when you see a nicely lit hotel or even Chinatown, but you see dark buildings and hackneyed walls most of the time.
While EA doesnít fully tap into its potential, Underground can produce wonderful structures and models. Your headlights create a natural glow on the pavement, and the rare, bright areas have a slick look to them. The crowds that you see at the start and end of a race have fluid animations. The cars shine in the showroom and every element of its structure can be seen. Lag is non-existent, even with Undergroundís nice graphics and speed effects.
While youíre driving through these detailed environments, you will be accompanied by an average soundtrack. The songs are forgettable since they canít keep up with the intense action. The sound isnít all mediocre, due to quality sound effects and superb voice acting. An engine upgrade not only increases the speed of your car, but also will alter the sound it creates. Most of the voice acting consists of guys bragging about how skilled they are, and the voices fit the lines perfectly. Every time you hear a guy going on about how heís going to smoke you in a race, it pushes you to beat him.
Your competitors may be easy to pass, but itís difficult to hold them off towards the end of the race. Some levels will make you perform quick maneuvers that are tricky, but getting to the finish line first is tough, especially in the later races. One of the biggest flaws in many racing games and in Underground is rubber-band A.I. Itís satisfying to be in the lead, but thatís quite easy because your contenders let you pass by. The challenge is to keep the lead in the final seconds of the race, when your competition starts catch up. This is aggravating, because even if you had driven a near perfect race, any mistake in the end usually causes you to lose.
If you think you have the fastest and best-looking car out there, you can take it online to see if youíre right. What truly makes the online play great is that you can see everyoneís creations and show off your own. You also get to race against others online in every mode available in single-player, so itís going to keep your attention for awhile. If you donít have PS2 online, the offline split screen contains all the modes as well.
Underground has a lot to offer to fans of the genre, but also has great features that will appeal to many types of gamers. Undergrounds fascinating speed, robust customization, and stunning visuals overcome the flaws. The lengthy single-player and exciting online races will probably offer over twenty hours game-play. Besides, near the end of the game, you will get the chance to race against a Hello Kitty car, and thatís worth the money all on its own.
Community review by madskillet (August 08, 2006)
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