If this version of Need for Speed Underground 2 appeared on the GBA, looking exactly like this version, I would be impressed. Even though the 3D graphics are really well done and there are lots of features as well as a very smooth racing engine, it still doesn't get my motor running.

The DS version of Need for Speed Underground 2 has more in common with the console version than the GBA. It could be this comparison that underwhelms me. I think the developers should have made this version a little more unique and exploited the touch features and dual screen capabilities. Like many gamers I've already played this on the console a long time ago. What's the draw to make me what to play it on a handheld?

There is no real bonus to play this game on the DS. Other than the obvious portability factor. This is still an inferior version of the console game. It's one of the better handheld racing games but the feeling of danger and excitement isn't there. That's especially disconcerting when you consider that the gameplay is fashioned after illegal, outlaw racing.

Modes are plentiful and you'll be required to play them all, with the exception of the multi-player mode. All of the modes are unlocked, and since they increase in difficulty you'll have to play the first few races of each to earn enough points to upgrade your vehicle to take on the increasingly demanding AI. Modes include Circuit, Standard, Time Trials, Drift Drag Race and Own the Zone. You can "own" certain segments of the track are divided into zones. If you have the best time in a particular zone, you Own the Zone.

Upgrades do tend to make your vehicle perform better but you'll be purchasing these upgraded on blind faith since the interface doesn't give you any specific information on what exactly you can expect from each of them. Balance is the key. If you just keep upgrading one specific aspect of the car you will actually begin to hinder your vehicle's performance.

The courses are large, fast and smooth. The 3D graphics are great and run at a smooth and impressive 60 fps. You'll encounter plenty of shortcuts to take and obstacles to avoid. Most of the action takes place at night and unfortunately the developers attempted to replicate that darkness to convey a clandestine atmosphere. Resulting in graphics that are too dark to make things out. Some of the backgrounds blend in with foreground hazards that you can bump into. The only way around this is to take note where they are on the track.

The only real unique thing that you can do with the touch screen is creating your own decals by outlining various shapes with the stylus. It takes a bit of skill to get it right but it adds a touch of personality to your vehicles. You can also choose to touch the nitro canisters when you want a boost but you can also access them with the trigger.

Multi-play might add some replay value but it will require a separate copy of the game which might be a pretty heavy requirement depending on the finances of your friends. The multi-player isn't a great feature and it won't seal the deal if you're humming and hawing about getting this game. I think you'll get everything you're going to get out of this game with a rental.

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System: DS
Dev: Pocketeers
Pub: EA
Release: May 2005
Review By Dan