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Need for Speed Underground

To prove that EA just about covers everything in the world except bingo comes Need for Speed Underground. NFSU takes the Need for Speed series and takes it into the fast life of the street-races. One of the best racers on the market, and only a few technical issues keep it from being perfect.

You start off as a young up and comer with a dirt cheap car. You're are desperate to get into the Underground life style of street racing, and to get the chance to be in it you'll take just about anything. Even though you have a stock car with nothing that special you'll soon find a way of improving everything on your car with the best aspect of this game. Customizing, that's right just about everything on your car is customizable. From paint-jobs, wheels, rims, window tints, roof-scoops, to the color of your wheels is all in the customizing options, and that's just the look of the car! If your expected to when anything you're expected to have some good performance in your car. This brings in even more customizing under the hood. Engine upgrades, weight-reduction for more aero-dynamics, NOS, Tubing, and tons more are all here to help you rule the streets. As you progress and win races you'll gain reputation. The more races you win the more requtation you get. There are four racing types to go through. Circuit which is your standard lap race, Drag which puts you in a straight-away and actually lets you gear shift up and down to gain speed, Lap knockout which is a standard race, four laps except whoever comes in last on that certain lap is knocked out of the race, Sprint, this is where it puts you in a good ol' race against the clock to get to a finish line, and the brand new Drift which allows you to skid and turn to gain points. You also get requtation in adding new features to your car. Now of course none of these add-ons are free of course, so you need to win races to get money to add new stuff to your car to win more races to get more money to add more stuff to your car so on and so forth. This brings in one of the problems of the game. After you're only about 25 races in (of the 112!!!) you're bank account is bulging and would make Bill Gates cry with jealously. This means you'll never have to conserve money or think about what you're buying before you buy. Normally this wouldn't be a problem, but it takes away a strategic aspect of the game.

Let's get this straight, this is not a Simulation racer. This is a beefed up arcade racer. It's not as arcadey as say Outrun, but it's definetly not as complex as Grand Turismo 3. With that out of the way the controls are very nice. You can use either the analong stick or the D-Pad (which is a nice touch). Since this is a street-racing game it wouldn't be complete without the NOS. Yes, that's right the Nitrious....oxygen.....supplier? Well only gear-heads know the real name of it, but it's still cool. There are three different levels of NOS. Level one is just a short spurt used for a little extra UMPH when you're neck and neck with an opponent. Level 2 is more of a burst not a huge burst, but just enough to gain some pretty good ground on the other gear-heads. Level 3 is a long extended boost. You can easily go for about 8-10 seconds applying NOS. While all the aspects are pretty much flawless, the level design is limited and seems to get repetitive. The tracs look and ride beautifully, but there are only about 20 or so tracks.   This isn't a big problem, but some tracks seem to be the same track except backwards or turned in a different way. You'll start to recognize certain buildings or landmarks when you get really into the game. Also compared to some big tile racers like Project Gotham or Gran Turismo the number of cars is a little on the shallow side.

The lighting effects in this game are superb and are only second to Splinter Cell. You really get a sense of speed while racing threw the back-alleys and streets. The game gives you this feel by all the bump-mapping, sparkles,a nd shiny surfaces throughout the game. The streets seemed to be coated with glitter their so shiny. When you apply the NOS the screen will become blurry as you propel through the highway. With this comes a problem however. Since there are just so many things going on at once the frame-rate drops in a few places. There is a steady frame-rate at 40 frames a second, but it can drop considerably at times. Overall the game looks incredible no matter what platform you pick it up on.
You know it's hard to make a racer that doesn't sound good, and this game surely is no exception to that rule. The engine roars, NOS bursts, and tire screeches all sound great. The voice-acting isn't that hot though. The fake accents are at times really annoying. Then there's the music. The music is top-notch from such artists as Lil Jon, T.I. and Dialated Peooples, but EA just had to make a punk part to the soundtrack. I don't like punk, and that's why I'm so glad that EA has a customizable soundtrack. So you can turn those whiny brats off and turn up the Krunk with Lil' Jon....YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAHH!

Lasting Appeal:
The single-player story mode is pretty lenghty with 112 races to go through. All in all the single-player mode is a solid 14 hour go through. But there really isn't much of a reason to go through again. Although there are a few unlockable cars, there is almost no unlockables. There is a pretty good multi-player and online for the PS2 though. It's definetly a good sized game.

Need For Speed Underground has brought me back into racers. The customizable everything is a great feature. The music is good (hip-hop version at least) and the graphics are very purdy. It's just the simple problems that make this game less than perfect. This is definetly a must buy for any fans of racing, and non racing fans will love this one. Go pick it up!


-Blake Becker (GoinCommando)

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