Need For Speed Underground 2 Xbox
by EA Games
Developed by Electronic Arts
Release Date: Out Now
The Need For Speed series has long been a favourite with gamers but when EA Games released the multi-platform Need For Speed Underground last year they must have been surprised by the fantastic success it had. Of course with such success a sequel is demanded and here we have Need For Speed Underground 2. At the time of writing the game has been released for a few weeks and already it's stormed to the top of the UK sales charts knocking such titles as The Sims 2, GTA San Andreas, Half-Life 2 and Halo out of the way. It's already beginning to look like EA have another smash hit on their hands. This review will look at the Xbox version of the game. It's worth pointing out though that the game is also on PC, PlayStation 2 and GameCube.
The Need For Speed Underground series allows you to take a street car, customise it to your hearts content with specialist parts etc., and compete in race events to earn money to buy better cars and then customise them and so forth. In short it's a car enthusiasts dream come true. The ability to then take your cars online and race against others is simply the icing on the cake. The first NFS Underground was a big success as an online game on the PC and for the first time you'll be able to play on Xbox Live and take on the other Xbox gamers out there. This sequel offers you the chance to play in Career, Quick Race, 2 Player Split-Screen and Xbox Live races. The bulk of your time though is going to be spent in Career mode because that's where the main action takes place.
Career mode begins with you arriving in Bayview and just leaving the airport. Waiting for you is Rachel's car which you can use to drive back to the shop to pick a car of your own. The story goes that after NFS Underground you were in an accident, caused by a rival gang, and as such your special car has now gone for good and you'll have to begin from scratch. As you'd expect the cars that are initially available to you are run of the mill, fairly low-powered cars such as the Vauxhall Corsa or Peugeot 106 but they are good enough to get you started and bring in the money from winning race events so you can enhance your cars and ultimately replace them with better models.
The whole game is set in the large city of Bayview and by using the mini-map and GPS system you'll be able to locate the events that are taking place. You'll also receive SMS (short message system) notifications that provide information. The game is fairly open ended in that you can do what you want when you want but you will have to drive around a bit before you get to your desired locations and these driving moments do have a detrimental effect on the overall pace of the game. Of course driving around the streets is not what the game's about and you'll have picked up the game for it's races. In NFS Underground 2 you'll find Drag, Street X, Circuit, Drift, Sprint, Underground Racing League and Out Run races. Most of these race types will be familiar to you so I'll just explain the more unusual ones. Street X races are lap based on tight and testing closed circuits. These races are close affairs and will test your ability to fight your way through. Sprint is essentially going as fast as you can from one point to another and recording the quickest time. Finally Underground Racing League races are just mini-championships which involve a number or races, on circuits with no oncoming traffic, and the idea is to gain points in each race and win the overall event. On the whole the races are enjoyable and it's a shame you couldn't just go from one to another without having to drive around a lot in between them. You can finally take your custom cars online and show other Xbox racers what you're made off. You can take part in any of the race types online. You can join or create your own races where you set the race conditions such as limiting the performance of the cars that can be used. You can also look at the online rankings to see how your performance stacks up against the rest. The online performance was fine and I didn't experience any lag at all. Along with Project Gotham Racing 2 and Burnout 3, NFS Underground 2 should become a favourite Xbox online racer.
Compared to the PC version of NFS Underground 2 the Xbox version, as you might expect, isn't quite as sharp. However it's not far behind at all and that's quite an achievement. The car models do look good and whilst their appearance will change when you apply customizations to them to increase your visual star rating (which will give your car a chance of appearing on magazine covers to bring in extra money for yourself) their stock appearance looks just like their real life counterparts. If you crash your car you'll get a slow motion clip of it which looks kind of dramatic but you won't see any damage modelling which is disappointing. Occasionally when you are driving around it will rain and the rain effects are very good, particularly the droplets that fall onto your main view. The blur effect that you get when you use your nitrous is also good but it's not as elaborate as it was in the first game.
NFS Underground 2 is not subtitled and whilst this is disappointing it doesn't mean that the game is too problematic. The cutscenes (and the safe driving warning at the beginning of the game) are not subtitled. You'll notice the cutscenes have a cartoon strip in the background and this cartoon strip more or less gives you the gist of what's being spoken. However your view of the comic strip is quickly obscured by other images so you don't get time to read it. The tutorial messages are given in text and any important phone calls or messages that you receive can also be read in text. When a phone call or SMS is received you'll see a phone or an envelope icon appear on the screen. Pressing the Tab key will allow you to read the messages. As you're driving around you'll see an encircled 'i' icon and driving into these will also give you text messages which will give you information. Not all the speech you receive is shown in text though but the important stuff is, so you'll be able to enjoy the game.
If you were a fan of NFS Underground you'll also like NFS Underground 2. Not being subtitled and having to drive around to get to the races is perhaps the biggest bugbear with the game but these are niggles that can be overlooked if you want an engaging street racing title. The addictive nature of the car customisation has been retained in NFS Underground 2 and being able to take your creations online, as this is the first in the series with Xbox Live support, is an added incentive to make sure you have the best set of wheels that you can. It's by no means an earth shattering sequel though but it does enough to keep fans of the series happy.
Game Rating: 8.0/10
An enjoyable sequel to NFS Underground. The sequel brings online racing to the Xbox and for fans of the original game this alone will make it worthy of a purchase.
The game isn't subtitled but there's plenty of text information here. It's a shame you miss out on the contents of the cutscenes though.