Need for Speed Underground
Written by Daniel Westerstal   
Saturday, 14 October 2006
EA took a chance to ride the waves of the Fast and the Furious by releasing Need for Speed Underground, now the players would be able to pimp their ride in front of their computer. We’ve reviewed the next step in the Need for Speed series.

It’s been four Need for Speed games for the PC, the successful series has been ported to consoles and the very first PC version is still played to this day. However the concept in Need for Speed needed to be evolved in order to get new customers and keep the series fresh. Most people where fed up with cruising lonely country roads in France and Great Britain with Ferraris. EA added a hot pursuit mode, which gave the series a positive injection. But since then nothing much happened.

In Need for Speed Underground most of the stuff we associated the older games with was torn down. This time you would participate in street races with modded cars. There are practically no expensive sports cars in the game; you start with cars like the Golf GTI, Ford Focus, Peugeot 206, Honda, Nissan and Toyota.

EA managed to capture the different characteristics of the cars. The engines of the cars will sound differently and if you ever driven a Golf GTI you will actually recognize the engine noise.

Then you hit the streets trying to win races, if you win cash will be earned and you can buy upgrades for your car. EA has included upgrades from famous manufacturers. There are different types of upgrades; exterior and performance. With the exterior upgrades the appearance of the car can be changed. You can for example add stickers, change colour, and add spoilers and much more in order to get the right street race look. The performance upgrades usually increases the top speed, acceleration and handling. It can be everything from turbo, NOX-gas to new tires.

EA also added a story to the game, which previous games lacked. Between some of the competitions the story is evolved using cutscenes, which looks pretty good despite the computer generated characters. They are however silly and almost a complete rip-off of the Fast and the Furious (which also had a silly story).

There is also a ranking in the game with the best drivers in the city. So some races will be about trying to gain places in the ranking. The races also have different characteristics; some are about just getting around a circuit in the city several laps while others are about drifting around corners trying to earn as much points as possible.

Need for Speed Underground includes some flashy and great level design. Most of the races are taking place in cities at night. There are some traffic but not much (even when set to maximum). But there are lots of details such as neon signs, shortcuts and jumps. I must say that the tracks in the game are the best EA ever done.

The graphics engine has been tuned to give a better speed and arcade experience than previous games. In Need for Speed III 50 km/h and 140 km/h felt the same, in Need for Speed Underground the speed experience is much better. You can really feel how fast you are going.

If you are looking for realism Need for Speed Underground might disappoint you. It’s actually a bit better than in the previous games but no where near the Grand Prix –series for example.

I was a skeptic to this series, especially since EA removed the Hot Pursuit mode. But after playing for weeks it can only be concluded that this is one of the hottest and most fun racing games on the market.


Related: Need for Speed 2: Special Edition, Need for Speed 4: Road Challenge, Midtown Madness
Developer: EA Games
Website for Game: http://www.ea.com/official/nfs/underground/us/
Publisher: EA Games
O/S: Windows 98/ME/2000/XP
Year of Release: 2003

Requirements:
Pentium III 700 MHz, 128 MB RAM, 32 MB VRAM
Tested on:
AMD Athlon 64 2.2 GHz, 2x512 MB RAM, Geforce 4 64 MB, Windows XP.





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