Need for Speed: Undercover Review for Nintendo Wii

Need for Speed: Undercover Review for Nintendo Wii

Need for Speed Undercover is the latest entry in EA’s popular racing franchise. The series has taken some hits in quality lately, but that doesn’t stop EA from continually publishing titles or fans from buying them like crazy. But Undercover is one of the worst Need for Speed games in recent memory, and I highly recommend staying away from it.

Need for Speed: Undercover screenshot

The first really significant problem with Need for Speed Undercover is the plot. Actually, the story itself isn’t terrible. You play as an undercover street racer attempting to bust a smuggling ring. It’s nothing particularly unique or interesting, but it’s not really bad either. What really fails in Undercover is the primary method of storytelling. The story is told through live action scenes – movie segments with live actors. These scenes are terribly done and genuinely laughable. You get the feeling you’re watching an old ’80s B-movie, and I doubt that was the feel the development team was really going for.

After a less-than-awesome venture into menu-based racing events with ProStreet, Undercover moves back into familiar ground: open-world racing. You’re given three large cities linked by huge highway systems. Each metropolis is complete with lots of different environments, which largely serve to keep driving enjoyable and interesting.

Need for Speed: Undercover screenshot

However, this open-world racing approach usually fails to work. For example, there’s no real benefit derived from roaming the open world. There are no secret missions, no unlockables to find, and no goals to accomplish (like breaking down gates in Burnout Paradise, for example). So, while just driving around can be pretty fun at first, it quickly wears thin because there’s not much to keep you going.

While there’s no material reward for exploring your surroundings, an obvious advantage to doing so would normally be your mastery of the streets and knowledge of shortcuts that can help you out in races. However, the development team foolishly decided to map out very linear courses for races, completely blocking off any streets outside the main course. As a result, you seldom get to take advantage of shortcuts you discover, which leaves the whole open-world mechanic feeling decidedly useless.

Need for Speed: Undercover screenshot

Another really strange part of the free-roaming component of this game is that you’ll seldom run into other vehicles on the road. It’s really strange to be speeding along the freeway and encounter just a handful of cars in a four or five-minute period. It doesn’t do anything to dramatically affect gameplay, but it supplements the lack of reality that’s set up by the storytelling.

Actual racing events are fairly standard fare; if you’ve ever played a Need for Speed title, or any racing game for that matter, you’ll have a good idea of how Undercover really works. You’ll participate in tons of different races against a variety of computer-controlled players. You’ll have to complete a certain number of events in each area before unlocking a new one, which works to the detriment of the game. Because of this mechanic, you’ll find yourself doing tons of races in one area, invariably getting really tired of your current environment, and therefore find the events significantly less fun.

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.

Need for Speed: Undercover screenshot

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 game’s 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.

Undercover is plagued by terrible textures, annoying pop-in, bland colors, and numerous other graphical glitches. 2.8 Control
Wii controls work fine, and using a Wii Wheel or the Logitech Speed Force Wheel are great options, but the cars themselves handle poorly. 3.2 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Voice acting is enthusiastic but misguided, and the game’s music is not particularly impressive. 2.0

Play Value
Races are plentiful and the environment is huge, but you’ll find little reason to spend much time undercover.

2.2 Overall Rating – Poor
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

Game Features:

  • Take on jobs and compete in races to prove yourself as you infiltrate and take down an international crime syndicate.
  • Fight off the cops and others as you take down your prey in high-speed, high stake multi-car chases.
  • Tear across the massive highway system and discover the open world of the Gulf Coast Tri-Cities area, with three unique cities connected by an extensive highway system.

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