Review: Need For Speed Underground 2 (XB)

Need for Speed Underground 2
Genre: Racing
Platform: Xbox [PS2, GameCube]
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Electronic Arts
Release Date: 11-15-04

On the highways, freeways, and parking lots of the world are modified street cars, cars that have been painted with fantastic colors, outfitted with nitrous oxide, and bespeckeld with spoilers that really donâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t do anything but look pretty (unless youâ┚¬â”žÂ¢re a formula 1 car). As a driver trying to make it in the underground racing subculture youâ┚¬â”žÂ¢re not only after winning times but also winning looks.



STORY:

A bit of a recap of the events from the first Need for Speed Underground tells the story of a street racer who was on the top of the mountain only to cross the wrong man. Needing to get the heat off his tail this man gets set to go to the city of Bayview (a hybrid of New York, Los Angeles, San Fransisco, European cities, and Las Vegas) to find a new place in the world. There he meets up with the queen of the underground racing elite, Rachel, who will manage his career and give him a leg up as this man starts the climb from stock parts car to tricked out ride.

The writers from The Fast and the Furious have competition for boring plot. Jerry Bruckheimer will be looking for these writers for his next cinematic tour de force that requires only 3 brain cells to enjoy. Along with the career mode, there are your standard race now mode, 2 player race, and spilt screen racing. The bulk of the game is in the career mode though.

Story/Modes: 4.5



GRAPHICS:

For a game about how stunning cars can be, Need for Speed Underground 2 is not the belle of the ball in the looks department.

The first major offense are the cut scenes. Done in a comic book visage, the cut scenes resemble more of an art school drop outâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s water logged portfolio than a visual smorgasbord. The way each scene is presented, looks wise, appears less than flattering. The colors are rather drab in the game, which is set in a perpetual night. While the cars are well modeled the vaunted customization ends up turning into â┚¬Ëœwhich modification gives me more of a star ratingâ┚¬â”žÂ¢ than anything else, leading to some rather ugly car combinations to score more visual status points, taking away some of the visual aesthetic.

The other denizens of Bayview, the normal taxis, cars, mini-vans, and trucks that populate the streets are like paper dolls in detail, having almost nothing of note about them. The buildings look alright though, well lit and providing a decent backdrop. When races happen the cars look a bit choppy and seem to come down with a case of the jaggies, though nowhere near as bad as the few human models that appear before each race.

Graphics: 5



SOUND:

Racing sounds aside the soundtrack for Need for Speed Underground 2 is actually pleasant. Queens of the Stone Age, Snoop Dogg (featuring post-humorous Jim Morrison), Chingy, Fluke (whom I thought disappeared after Atom Bomb), Adam Freeland (via remix) are presented well, giving the game a hard driving music accompaniment to the fast driving action.

The voice acting, on the other hand, is a mixed bag. Brooke Burkeâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s work as Rachel is atrocious. She is stilted, boring, unmotivated, and generally a cold fish. The random racers you do get telephone calls from are voiced fine but you still have to hear from Brooke way too often and that is a pain in the ear.

Sound: 6.5



CONTROL & GAMEPLAY:

The modifications you put on your car really affect the controls. Turning is a dangerous prospect with stock parts but once you upgrade it becomes a precise endeavor. This giant leap in difference shows that something is lacking in the control department.

The moving of your car can be stiff and unruly then transform into smooth and delightful with one or two different parts, while this is possible it becomes a chore to readjust your driving instincts that have become used to the way your car handled before. It means rethinking how to approach each course in abrupt ways. To combat this EA did put performance tests so you can get an idea of how your car runs, but to most casual players it is like reading sanskrit or cuneiform: utterly foreign and completely incomprehensible.

Still, when pressed I will admit the game handles alright, just not well enough to be stellar.

Control & Gameplay: 5



BALANCE:

One good thing about Need for Speed Underground 2 is that the game is fairly well balanced. It does not take that long to learn how to survive each of the individual races and when you are approaching a certain race for the first time an actual helpful (albeit annoying) tutorial will show instead of the all mighty NOW LOADING screens.

The learning curve of Need for Speed Underground 2 is gradual, but can be sporadic. Some races, like the drift races, drag races, and Street X runs, will take a good deal of time mastering as the AI controlled cars get better really quick. The circuit races and sprint rallies are simple to get good at and will become more challenging little by little, helping the player adjust instead of throwing them headlong into the gaping maw of difficulty.

Balance: 6



REPLAY ABILITY:

With all the cars to purchase, all the different modifications to utilize, and all the different types of races you have to go through you can spend quite a bit of time with Need for Speed Underground 2 should you choose to, but that would be insane. This game is boring, if I havenâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t already stated that opinion. Playing it for more than I needed to would be cruel and unusual punishment to me but those that enjoy this kind of game will be hard pressed to put down their controllers; luckily that is a niche audience.

Replay Ability: 4.5



APPEAL:

Modified car buffs, racing game fans, and those guys who love to look at modified cars but cannot afford them are people who will really want to play this game. Those people who are looking for flashy named gifts will buy this game. People who want good racing and some fun will hopefully rent this game and only be out 3-6 dollars.

Appeal: 4



ORIGINALITY:

The street racing subgenre of racing games is a crowded field and the modify your car subgenre of racers is a similarly crowded field. Need for Speed Underground 2 does nothing to set itself apart from the crowd, except maybe a few novel game play modes.

There is a race where you see how long you can drift to accumulate points, a short track speed race, and some drag racing. These are in addition to the basic circuit racing and sprint trials. The career mode is free form but seems to be an afterthought with almost no real context or hook to hold interest.

You could repackage the game, remove all the EA tags and most people wouldnâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t know the difference.

Originality: 2.5



ADDICTIVENESS:

This game can be a modifierâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s dream come trueÃÆ’Æ‘ÃÆ'”šÃ‚¢ÃÆ’¯ÃÆ'”šÃ‚¿ÃÆ'”šÃ‚½ÃÆ’‚ÃÆ'”šÃ‚¦ provided they can stand the tedious work of fulfilling â┚¬Ëœfind the shopâ┚¬â”žÂ¢ outings to unlock more and more different parts and upgrades. This feature ends up being cumbersome and frustrating when you are trying to build your car into a stunning land machine.

The racing is alright, but often times the game drags on. Racing games are supposed to seem fast and time is meant to disappear in a blink of the eye in games that have you speeding in excess of 100 miles per hour. Need for Speed Underground 2 seems to crawl, making a 4 minute race feel like it is taking an hour.

For those who really enjoy car modifications and lackluster racing, Need for Speed Underground 2 will hook you in from the get go. Everyone else should run away… fast.

Addictiveness: 3.5



MISCELLANEOUS:

Need for Speed Underground 2 takes place entirely in the car. You travel around Bayview in your car and never leave. No pedestrians exist and instead of using their eye candy, Brooke Burkeâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s real likeness, they opt for a comic book art telling of the story. The advertising by Burger King, Cingular, amongst others is hilarious because of how blatant it is. Burger King is in the game but for what reason? They have all these stupid stores there that are nothing but adverts. I can understand having them on the track or billboards. The entire cellular phone mode of communication with SMSs and other crap is tedious, along with the ill conceived GPS system that takes you to the most recently unlocked body, performance, paint shop or car lot instead of the closest one.

I did like the first 10 times there was a slow motion replay of my car accidents, but this effect immediately becomes a major flaw when it does this during races, causing you to have to wait for the replay to be finished with so you can get your bearings back and continue on the race course.

I hate this game, I really do.

Miscellaneous: 1



THE RATINGS:

Modes/Story: 4.5/10
Graphics: 5/10
Sound: 6.5/10
Controls: 5/10
Balance: 6/10
Replay Ability: 4.5/10
Appeal: 4/10
Originality: 2.5/10
Addictiveness: 3.5/10
Miscellaneous: 1/10

Final Score: 4.0/10.0 (Slightly Below Average)