GAMECUBE REVIEW: NEED FOR SPEED UNDERGROUND 2

Some of the best sequels, ever, have been released this Fall. No exception is Need For Speed Underground 2. A sequel to one of the most popular games of last year, this one doesn't just pick up where the last one left off, it passes it on the freeway like a rocket sled on rails.

An amalgam of Midnight Club and Grand Theft Auto, Need For Speed Underground 2 is aimed at the "hip" crowd with "current" tunes and slang sprinkled atop various gameplay formats which have been marinated in illegal activities. In this case, illegal street racing.

Located throughout the city of Bayview are several tracks comprised of public streets, tunnels, freeways and thoroughfares. Races include drag, circuit, drifting and Out Run where the object is to lose your opponent in the dust. Different areas of the city facilitate different courses. Even though the races take place at night there are many hazards to navigate such as oncoming traffic and various roadblocks. There are no pedestrians and not much is going on in the city at all which makes it seem like a huge piñata void of candy or toys.

Exploring the city is encouraged although there aren't as many rewards as I imagined. Drive around looking for secret areas and you'll discover money and uncover new races to enter. The key to success in this game is multi-tiered. It's not enough to be a good racer, you have to be good in other areas including money management and customizing.

There are 40 vehicles available in the game which include models from Ford, Toyota, Nissan, Hyundai and even a Cadillac - unfortunately it's a SUV. The SUVs handle terribly. It's a wonder why there were included at all considering how great the other vehicles handle.

Since all of the cars are licensed they won't display damage. This encourages sloppy and unrealistic driving techniques since you can smash head-on into a wall or another car and remain unscathed.

When you find a race you can bet on it. If you win, you win money, if you lose, you loose money. The money that you win can be used to purchase more vehicles or customize existing ones. You can only have five of them in your garage which may not seem like a big problem until you gain a reputation. More "rep" will be awarded depending on how badly you beat your opponent. Having more rep will result in more lucrative sponsorship which in turns means more money. The sponsors will also give you new cars if you meet their requirements for certain races which are essentially side quests.

Customizing your vehicle is easy. You can just change is cosmetically or actually try to tune-up its performance. Aside from spoilers, paint jobs, decals and neon lighting, you can upgrade your engine and test your results in the Dyno room. After which you can take the vehicle on a track and see how it performs in real life. The tweaking does make a difference but then again you might just find that another vehicle will do the same job. It's all about experimenting.

Variables such as road conditions and the weather will also affect your performance. It can rain at any time during any race. If you're powersliding around corners this can be a godsend but it can also make you lose control around turns if you haven't perfected your skills.

Online you can race against five other players in a variety of modes. You can talk smack with them vai the headset. There is a little slowdown but it's not very severe. Accessing races is easy thanks to the user-friendly interface in the lobby. Having played a few games online I was reminded at just how good the AI was in the single-player modes. The AI takes no prisoners and can give you just as good, if not better, challenge than experienced gamers.

I'm not a big fan of the music here and the dialog tries so hard to be "current" that it just ends up sounding ludicrous. In case you were unaware, "Yo" has officially replaced "dude" in the latest "hip" lexicon. I don't even know who some of these bands are and by the sounds of their uninspired offerings, I doubt I'll hear from most of them again.

The lighting effects are great. Buildings and streetlights reflect off the windows and shiny surfaces of the licensed cars. There are a few more degrees of night including twilight and just before the dawn. I was so impressed with the pre-dawn scene that I actually began to feel tired and it was only 7 PM. You get to see more of the city than you would in the wee hours when the city is enveloped in darkness. It's just too bad that the city is void of any life other than a few people in cars after work hours.

Considering all the ad placements, this game should be handed out for free. This is certainly a trend I would like to see stopped but considering how great this game is it's doubtful that any one would consider boycotting it by standing up for some principal.

Preview By Chris

EA had a huge hit with Need for Speed Underground. It mixed the trend of tricking out your car and the fast paces world of illegal street racing. While the game was fun, there were a few things that just seemed missing-the local cops for one thing! Let's face it-the NFS games that had the cops chasing you just added something great to the overall racing experience. The other thing that many complained about was the tricking out part of the game. It did have an impressive amount of parts and decals but getting the new added parts or decals to save was a pain. The only other complaint was the fact no matter what changes or new parts you added the car seemed to react and control the same. Now EA is releasing NFS Underground for every system including the PC and even the new handheld systems. From the looks of things EA has addressed almost everything mentioned above with the exception of one.

EA stated they felt pleased with the last game and it was certainly a hit for them. They did feel the game needed a few tweaks and more freedom. So this year players can expect a free roam mode as well as mini type games to unlock more parts and all the bling to trick out your ride in the process. A better system has been developed to change the parts and looks of the car and those changes will have an effect on the cars handling and corning etc. While we don't expect it to be a huge change it is nice to see they have added this to make it feel more realistic. For Xbox owners the big thing will be the new online mode and from the hush from EA they have big plans. Last year the online mode for the PS2 only had the head to head racing. Might we be lucky to have an 8 or 16 player race through the streets? While it's not confirmed we have a feeling they will beef up the online play.

EA has made some great changes and are still working to get it ready for the winter release date. We noticed that the game will still be at night and will have some graphic improvements. A new blur mode and a revamped display will be added. Of course the game will also feature more girls both on the streets and behind the wheel. We also know that EA has been revamping the drafting effect to make it really work as if you were racing for real. The only thing EA has not mentioned is if there will be any cops to try and out run. This would be a great addition to the game. From early reports from the movie footage shown around, the game will have some aspects that will remind players of the game Tokyo Xtreme Racer. It looks good so far and come late November or early December we will find out what EA is not telling us that will be in the game. Take a look at the tons of screenshots for now and we will update you with online play and other features once we can confirm them.

Features:

  • 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 Mitsubishi Motors, Nissan, and Toyota to Ford and Volkswagen, if they're hot on the street, they’re in the game.
  • Visual Customization: With more than twice the visual customizations of the original, 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.
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System: Xbox, PS2, GC, PC, GBA
Dev: EA Canada
Pub: EA
Release: Nov 2004
Players: 1 - 4
Review By Dan
RATING (OUT OF 5)
OVERALL
4.5
GRAPHICS
5.0
CONTROL
4.5
MUSIC/FX
4.0
VALUE
4.0