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XBox Reviews: Need for Speed Underground


Need for Speed Underground Screenshots


The Final Say!


Need for Speed Underground - reviewed by Andrew B
Review Date: January 2004
Review Score: 9.5/10 
Distributed By: Electronic Arts

With blockbuster movies such as The Fast and the Furious and 2 Fast 2 Furious, it was only inevitable that game developers would cash in on the success of this franchise but generally when this happens, the games are nothing more than a pale imitation of the original idea. Fortunately for Electronic Arts latest high speed car furore, Need for Speed Underground is an exception to the rule and is probably one of the most entertaining and high speed fun one gamer can have on the XBox without actually getting into a car.


Need for Speed Underground is the latest instalment of the Need for Speed series that not only brings something new to the world of console racing but also excels this series by bringing the gamer into the world of illegal street racing. Before continuing, I must admit that I was mildly amused by the warning on the first screen of the game that loosely states that some drivers in the game may be breaking the law by their high speed erratic driving. I'm sure this was only added because of the moral crusaders of society who believe that video games damage the very fibre of society... anyway, enough of my soapbox ranting and onto the review!


Need for Speed Underground puts the gamer in the role of a novice street racer who must race his way through the high speed stakes of street racing to not only increase their reputation and prestige but also make a living on the way. Need for Speed Underground reminds me a little like the career mode of Gran Turismo, where gamers are awarded money for winning races that then lets them upgrade their cars with more powerful engines and also add various pleasing prosthetics to their car like "cool" stickers, tinted windows, paint jobs, rims, neon lights and even various types of mag wheels. Underground also has a similar career mode called "Underground" that allows you to race various different type of races around the city such as traditional street racing, drag racing, drifting, knockout and various other activities to help increase your profile among racers and of course increase your bank account.


The first mission of the game is a basic street race against three other competitors that introduces you to the world of street racing. As you progress through the game and win races, you are awarded cash that can not only be used to upgrade your car but also allows you to buy faster and more powerful cars. The title features a plethora of different style of mini-games that really helps break up the monotony of plain "vanilla" racing but my two favourite modes of play are the traditional races and the drag racing that really gives you a sense of speed.

The game also boasts a variety of cars that include the stock standard Honda Civic and even the latest edition of the Nissan Skyline that is truly a work of art. The multiplayer mode allows for split screen views that is actually quite entertaining and had my friend and I playing it for hours on end.


The control system of Underground is perfect on the XBox s-controller and you navigate the car via the analog stick with the two shoulder triggers used to accelerate and break when needed. The game also supports two traditional racing views, an outside view of the car and an extremely fast bumper view which is my favourite camera angle. You can also switch the camera angle to see out through the rear window, just to make sure no one is sneaking up on you. Although Underground does not contain a set difficulty rating at the start of the game, each race allows the gamer to choose a rating from easy to hard. I must admit that when I selected hard on a few occasions to booster up my cash supplies, the A. I. really whipped me around the track.


Graphically, the XBox version of the Underground is once again the king of the console version that features extremely sharp and clear graphics that look like it was taken from the blockbuster movie, 2 Fast 2 Furious. The car models look realistic and contain some amazing texture details from metallic reflective surfaces to beautiful lighting effects such as the headlights or neon lights that may be on your car. The developers  have done a great job at recreating the high speeds of the car and when you are drag racing, the blurring effect really comes into its own as you get a sense of extreme high speeds. Although you don't see pedestrians on the street, the races start with two girls flagging the cars down to start and at the end of the race, the crowds all gather around your cars to cheer the victor. The backgrounds of the game are detailed and feature a variety of special effects such as lighting, weather effects and some beautiful city scapes, not to mention the gorgeous reflective surfaces of the roads. Probably one of the most impressive effects of the game is the nitrous oxide effect that although a rip off from 2 Fast 2 Furious is a really neat effect that the developers have perfected to a t. It should be noted that Underground does suffer from a few frame-rate problems, especially when going around corners when there is too much traffic but fortunately this problem only occurs every now and then.


Underground also supports Dolby Digital 5.1 for those gamers who have the "right" entertainment setup that not only makes the noises seem more real but also enhances the gaming experience. Everything has been implemented into this game from the screech of tyres, cars hitting objects and other cars at high speeds and even the high speed sound of the nitrous oxide being released. The soundtrack of Underground features a plethora of music that is mainly hip hop, rock and rap but suits the racing mood of this title. If you don't like a track, you can simply just change the tune or even turn it off completely for those gamers that just want to hear the sound of the engine.


In conclusion, Need for Speed Underground is a very addictive and entertaining racing game that I would highly recommend to all fans of car games. With exceptional graphics, a kicking soundtrack and a very sturdy gaming engine, this game is a must own and can be played over and over again. The only setback of this title is that it does not support XBox Live and until EA and Microsoft solve their differences, online support will only be available for the PlayStation 2. Once again the Need for Speed is the king of all arcade racers! Check it out!

- Andrew B

Also available on Nintendo GameCube, PlayStation 2 and PC-CD-ROM

Copyright 2004 www.impulsegamer.com