Shift into the down low. Review

Need for Speed Underground Info


  • Racing


  • 1 - 4


  • EA


  • EA

Release Date

  • 12/31/1969
  • Out Now


  • PS2


Shift into the down low.

The Need For Speed series is known for its exotic cars, extreme

speed, and often-breathtaking international locations. EA has always been ready

and willing to tamper with the details of this potent elixir, varying upgrades,

limiting vehicles, intensifying traffic, altering physics, and increasing or decreasing

police presence from game to game. The latest incarnation of the series, Need

for Speed: Underground
, marks a complete revamp of the main ingredients

and the result is a solid and unique arcade racer.


Two-Player and even online racing modes (on the PC and PS2, at least) are available,

but the main feature of NFS: Underground is the “Underground’

mode itself. You don’t have to delve deeper than your first race to see what’s

different about this game.

Underground is basically an illegal street racer career mode consisting of

a whopping 111 race events, including Circuit races, point-to-point Sprints,

Knock-Out, Drag races, and Drift competitions. You begin the game with a small

choice of upgradeable tuner cars like the Volkswagen Golf GTI, Dodge Neon, and

Peugeot 206 GTI. Though your chosen vehicle begins as basically a dud, you are

offered a bevy of upgrades to customize and personalize your ride making it

as unique as possible.

Unfortunately, most of the upgrades are cosmetic ” different headlamps, neons

for the underside, a different type of hood, vinyl patterns, decals, etc. There

are performance upgrades available, but these are offered in an assortment of

packages and are not a mix and match affair. While they do add speed and alter

handling, don’t expect the level of customization displayed in Need

For Speed Motor City
or Gran Turismo.

Another unfortunate aspect of the customizations is that they are unlockable

as well as available for purchase. You can’t add a particular feature to your

car just because you can afford it – you’ll have to unlock it first, and you

will be unlocking far more vinyl patterns than anything else. This puts a sad

and confining limitation on customization; if you’ve earned the cash to purchase

an upgrade, you should be able to just buy it. No one down at Kragen’s is going

to talk you out of a new exhaust pipe for you car if you have the cash to pay

for it.

Thankfully, as a consolation prize, you can switch vehicles at almost any point in the game and most of your upgrades will carry over. You won’t have to start again from scratch.

NFS: Underground is an arcade-style racer, complete with

huge red arrows set up in front of buildings indicating the direction you should

be heading and a reset feature which kicks in immediately if you happen to miss

a turn and plunge beyond the designated track. The learning curve has less of

a bend than an iron rail, so this is definitely ready for any newbie to jump

on and play to their heart’s content.


turn, the vehicles handle like arcade cars and, while they certainly are not

weightless, in collision they do twist, flip and spin much more than they would

in real life, even possessing a tendency to bounce back on the track. This makes

it possible to crash and still finish the race in first place, which provides

a nice chaos factor without tons of frustration. There is no damage modeling

on the cars, which can be a bit disconcerting after an insane collision, but

cars do not take operational damage, so you’ll never have to worry about the

engine exploding and you’ll never have to coax your wounded vehicle to limp

across a finish line.

Drag racing and Drift competitions are what really set this game apart from

its predecessors. Drag races pit the player against not one, but three other

vehicles, your own shifting ability, oncoming civilian traffic and varying road

hazards and jumps. Unlike Test Drive, it takes

more than just shifting gears at the right moments; you will also have to change

lanes to avoid whatever is thrown in front of you and opponent vehicles are

about as friendly about letting you merge as commuters stuck in bumper-to-bumper

holiday traffic at 5:30 p.m. on a Friday. This manages to be frustrating and

fun in equal parts and is a great addition to the game.

The Drift challenges pit you and your ride against a short track with a myriad of turns and grades you on how well you can ride a curve without slowing down to a crawl or banking into a wall. This, like Drag racing, takes more than a little skill and a whole lot of patience and is definitely one of the high points of the game.

Sprint and Circuit races are a weak spot for NFS: Underground.

Unlike other NFS games which had players going up against as

many as seven other vehicles, here there are a piddling three opponents and,

aside from sheer opportunism, there is nothing remarkable about them. They are

not particularly aggressive or considerably better drivers; they’re just as

likely to plow into unwary cross traffic as you are ” and that can be a good

thing. There just aren’t enough of them.


four version of NFS: Underground feature superb graphics. The

cars are crisp and detailed and the lighting effects are first rate, with an

abundance of sparks, motion blur, light trails and lens flares. The Xbox is

obviously the smoothest of the consoles with the Gamecube and PS2 placing second

and third, respectively, but none will disappoint.

Although there’s plenty of shine and polish to this game, the glitter of these

effects are wasted on the most boring tracks on record. These are all night

tracks, all in the same “metropolitan” location, and all of them are shorter

than Emmanuel Lewis in a pair of flats. Dispensing with often stunning, international

and fantasy tracks, NFS: Underground has opted to present the

tracks as various streets in one small city. This quickly becomes as redundant

as driving around the block about 150 times and is a pure travesty when compared

to the tracks in Need for Speed:

Hot Pursuit 2
or any of the previous NFS games.

For that matter, NFS: Underground has dispensed with exotics

and faraway locales to focus on the illegal street racing scene (i.e., “The

Fast and the Furious” or just about any other Vin Diesel movie set on planet

Earth). And what would illegal street racing be without cops on your tailpipe?

Well, it would probably be very much like this game, since there’s nary a pig

to be seen. All of the coppers in Underground have apparently

converged on the local Krispy Kreme for a cruller convention so you’ll never

have an impromptu meeting with Officer Friendly no matter how much road you

manage to tear up. And that’s just a shame.

The PS2 and PC versions of NFS: Underground also have online

capability. Players can race up to three other online opponents using their

saved car from their single-player game or a default bucket. Of course, you’re

not racing for pinks since you can’t own more than one car at a time, but you

can race for online ranking recognition. And although there is no voice-support,

PS2 and PC players can battle it out against one another, a nice touch which

definitely broadens the field.

NFS: Underground is an uneven mixture of gorgeous graphics,

upgradeable street racing vehicles, variety of race modes, unique customization,

lack of opposition, repetitive tracks, and no law enforcement presence. Somehow

they have even managed to get rid of the replays all together. The additions

and subtractions seem so random, it’s almost as if they picked this game’s elements

out of a hat. But the game still manages to be involving and fun, although not

quite as engrossing as NFS:HP2. It’s surely worthy of gracing

any racing aficionado’s collection; the various events and practically endless

cosmetic customizations should keep this one out of the trade-in stack for some

time to come.


Great graphics
Drift and Drag modes are fun
Tons of events
Repetitive tracks
Not enough opposition
Small variety of performance upgrades