Need for Speed: Underground
17 inch wheels, side skirts, spoilers and bass cases, daily stuff for the Johnnies amongst us. Nobody understands this crowd which constantly drools on cars but thanks to Electronic Arts that may change.
You see them often at the local super market. The hard trance beats flying around your ears and the neon light is even more blinding that the window decoration at “Chez Nancy”. What are they doing there ? They’re just leaning against their matchbox car under the pleasure of 140 beats per minute. Don’t try to make a friendly conversation on social problems with these guys, the only thing they know is tuning and tuning is not a crime people !
Ok, the speed limits are often overseen and the slightest speed bump can cause major problems, but these guys are hip ! So hip that the box office hit “The Fast & The Furious” even got a sequel. Even the entertainment business is nicely using this hype.
EA seems to have lost a license at the very last minute as this game looks a lot as a street racing movie which in my opinion is a good thing as most games based on movies are cheap ripoffs that just have to bring in some extra cash. EA decided to put the “Need for Speed” brand on this game and look here; food for speed demons !
Believe it or not but the first thing I noticed in NFSU was the language setting. As with several EA titles it’s possible to play the game in a localised version and the “why” may be explained by the fact that most Johnnies are true English analphabetics. This way they too can enjoy this game to the fullest without having to open a dictionary constantly. Very friendly from EA and to be honest: I played it in my native language aswell J
Still, it’s quite strange and especially during the driftracing part, my jaw fell down when I heard the turbo-language EA used ! I thought I knew the current Dutch “slang”, but some of the words EA has put in this game really were new to me. A nice “touch” of EA.
As with each racer, NFSU includes a single race (read: instant racing) mode where you can take on all commonly known types of street racing. These are: Drag, drift, sprint, knockout and circuit. Let’s start with the simplest. The circuit races are pretty straight forward, you take on three opponents for a couple of rounds and the one that crosses the finish line first is the winner. In Knockout, the last car drops off each round and whoever remains last has won. This mode resembles the “Last Man Standing” mode we’ve seen in lots of first person shooters the last couple of years.
Then on to the specials ! Drag is the better Johnnie work and leans most towards the illegal street races. The goal is to switch gear as fast as possible and cross the finish as first. The circuit doesn’t have any corners but there are some obstacles on the way like other cars or road blocks. On your left side you’ll notice a nice meter which indicates when you need to switch gear so that’s very handy aswell as If you often switch too late you’re engine will sooner or later just blow up and believe me, this can be very irritating if you’re constantly at the head of the pack.
In drift races, your speed doesn’t matter one *censorship* as long as you make your wheels spin and slide through curves and score enough points that way. Throw your car in a curve and if there isn’t any, just spin it 360° and let those scores rise ! If you score enough in one drift, some turbo language will appear on your screen. Un-fucking-tastic, not ?
Especially these two modes are a lot of fun and give some variation to the normal circuit and knockout races.
All these different race types can be found together in the Underground mode where the real story and depth are. You’re a beginner in the streetrace circuit and you’re trying to make your way to the top. Choose your favorite car and get going ! Unfortunately for the older Johnny, there’s no Opel Manta present, NFSU aims more towards the younger generation with cars like the Focus, Peugeot 206 and of course the in Europe immensely popular Volkswagen Golf.
Underground of course gives you the possibility to tune. After each race you get a certain amount of styling points and money with which you can upgrade your car or just make it a bit more colorful. On the way you can free up different upgrades and if you’ve got enough money you can install them in your car. Unfortunately the system is a bit simplistic here. From the beginning you can see which upgrades are possible but you can’t install them yet and the money you’ve earned doesn’t really matter. Once you’ve freed up an upgrade, you’ll always have enough money to install it.
If you don’t like the car you’ve chosen, you can always switch it for another and this will set you back a couple of dollars but don’t worry, you’ll never run out of them.
Tuning your car stays fun of course and only picking the right color can already take a couple of minutes. Maybe a bit disappointing for the freaks is the fact that you can’t adjust anything but can only add expansions to the car. However, I personally didn’t car about that. Install that shit and Go !
In total you’ll have to win about 100 races if you want to win the game and although it may seem a lot, the end is nearer than you think. The freeing up of styling upgrades will have you occupied for a while though.
Us PS2 owners have an extra compared to Xbox’ers or Cubers, the online mode ! Here you can do all above mentioned races over again against any opponent you want. Unfortunately, cheaters are all around and winning is hardly possible. Still it remains fun to drag against a complete stranger from time to time. Freeing up new stickers is also something that’s possible in all modes by the way and thus also in online mode which is a nice little added detail.
Street racing is illegal and everything illegal happens during the night, right ? Therefore all races in NFSU are done in the dark. The wet surface reflects nicely and due to the crapload of motion-blur effects everything looks magnificent. Push your NOS (read: turbo) to its limits, I don’t know how many frames per second are poured out onto your screen but next to Burnout 2 this is the fastest racegame I’ve ever seen. I clearly stated “Next to Burnout 2” as this last one is just one tad faster but no despair, NFSU can give you epileptic attacks just as easily! The fact that each circuit is played during the night may cause some boredom as all tracks look a bit alike but due to the high speed you won’t have time to notice that. In other words: it won’t bother you.
Just like The Fast & The Furious, NFSU contains quite a lot of hiphop tunes to make your tires scream with. Not really my thing and luckily here and there you’ll find some guitar violence although the rappers are in the majority. Mystikal, Ludacris, Lost Prophets, Static-X and so on, all known artists that have contributed to the game.
As you’ve probably noticed, nothing but praise for this new Need for Speed. The Underground part is a bit short but due to the many unlockable things and the online mode you’ll keep busy for a while. Mandatory for each racing freak !