|System: X360, PS3, Wii, PS2, PC, PSP, DS||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. 18, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-4||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
In terms of actual events, there's a nice variety of things to do in Undercover. Most of the standard races are just that: multi-lap races around a set course. However, in traditional Need for Speed fashion, you'll also find some other racing-themed items, such as drag racing or races with special requirements. For example, some races have no laps but are simply a sprint from one point in a city to another. The police chases and much-touted highway battles were interesting and more fun than the typical races. There are also some more creative modes, such as one in which you attempt to cause more destruction than your opponent.
The multiplayer component of Undercover is functional, but nothing to write home about. One particularly fun mode is a play on cops and robbers, where players split into teams. One team attempts to complete a specific (usually illicit) goal, while the other team plays as the cops and tries to stop them. It's a neat idea, but it doesn't work so well with only four people. There are very few multiplayer modes with Undercover, and it's clear that it definitely wasn't a focus of the game. WiFi compatibility would have fixed this problem, but unfortunately, the development team decided not to include it.
A big part of any Need for Speed game is the car selection, and I was pretty impressed with the variety of vehicles in Undercover. I hate to say it, but it's actually one of the only good aspects of this game. There are tons of very sporty, very exciting vehicles that you can unlock throughout the game. And of course, in typical Need for Speed fashion, you can deck out your cars with a variety of customizable options, from vinyls to body kits as well as several different colors.
Unfortunately, while the cars look great, they don't handle particularly well. When you're flying down streets at high speeds, you'll rely mostly on the slide move in order to take sharp corners. This move seldom worked well, however. And ridiculously expensive real life cars have loose, unresponsive steering, which just doesn't make sense. Finally, the physics of the game feels decidedly off. You'll stop suddenly during minor collisions or veer off in weird directions after hitting another vehicle. These issues are somewhat minor on their own, but together they work to form a real sense of lack of polish throughout the game.
Aside from some weird issues with handling and a lack of cohesion in the open-world mechanic, the most significant problem is the numerous technical problems throughout. The game suffers from pop-in, lousy textures, and bland coloring. The framerate dips only occasionally, but other components of the games graphics suffer all the more for it. What's even worse is that the graphical problems negatively affect gameplay. For example, on some gradual highway curves, you sometimes won't notice that you're driving into a wall until you're right on it, because it can be difficult to distinguish the road from the rest of the environment.
As racing games go, Need for Speed Undercover is a weak offering. The Wii controls offer nothing particularly interesting (though it's worth noting that the game is compatible with the Wii wheel accessory and Logitech Speed Force Wheel) and even four-player multiplayer does little to relieve the game's significant problems. If you're looking for a great open-world racing game, Burnout Paradise or the recently released Midnight Club L.A. are far better choices. Unfortunately, neither is available on the Wii. Even long-time Need for Speed fans are best served by passing on Undercover.
CCC Freelance Writer