|System: PS2, Wii, DS, PSP< X360, PS3, PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: EA Black Box||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Electronic Arts||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Nov. 17, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Pete Richards
Those who battle over which style of Need for Speed they enjoy more the deep cops n outlaws storyline and open world of Most Wanted or the more street race rooted Underground have the best of both worlds with Undercover, a game that combines both ideas with live-action cutscenes and a very cinematic feel. Essentially, Need for Speed: Undercover returns to the concepts of Most Wanted with even more aggressive police chases, involved Career Mode, and larger open world.
The Career Mode plays out like a film, as opening credits roll and youre quickly thrust into the action having to speed away from cruisers on your tail. Cutscenes are all live-action and the cast includes names such as singer Christina Milian and Kurt Caceres of Prison Break bringing their star power to the game. Career Mode can be entertaining, albeit not entirely original with somewhat of a contrived storyline and clichéd scriptwriting. The story brightly reflects the plot of the original Fast and the Furious movie, as youre put behind the wheel as an undercover agent with a mission of busting a street-racing gang involved in criminal activity. Typically, your options are limited when first beginning, as it seems the Tri-City P.D. doesnt have the budget to start you off with a decent ride. Youll have to win crowded street races to earn money (which is illegal, by the way) and unlock new rides, upgrades, music, courses, and the respect of local street racers to work your way into the circuit and dismantle their organization from the inside.
The in-game graphics are initially unimpressive. Everything from the cars to the cityscape seems to be boxy and poorly rendered. When in a high-speed race or in hot pursuit, the cars and city whizzing by become blurred as if the game has trouble rendering at such speeds. Finding where you need to go can be straining on the eyes, as it is difficult to see directional markers from a distance. The poor visuals also make for less enjoyable free roaming, as the game has an open city concept that seems somewhat wasted while you never really forget youre playing a video game. With outdated graphics as a constant reminder, Undercover simply lacks visual appeal.
Where this racing title excels is in its blending of free-roam capabilities throughout the Tri-City Bay area with a variety of races and challenges you can pick up at any time. The setup offers some variety while playing, as you can choose your challenges by quickly jumping to any one on the map. You cant actually drive there, which also makes the open world feel somewhat pointless, though roaming and exploring the map can be fun for short periods of time. The map is the largest free-roam environment in the NFS series with a number of different districts and a long stretch of highway where youll have to partake in a number of challenges. It doesnt take long until you have a fleet of vehicles available to purchase either. There are over 50 cars to unlock, including Porsches, Lamborghinis, muscle cars, and the new, notably publicized Nissan 370Z. There are lots of upgrades and overall upgrade packages available which make the game even more interesting, with enough unlockable courses, cars, and tune-ups to make playing through the entire story worthwhile. It would, however, be nice to see a few more variations in the types of challenges in Career Mode. You will repeatedly take part in Sprit and Circuit comps on the same courses, which tends to get repetitive with time while not without ample reward upon completion.