Need for Speed Underground GameCube Review

Illegal street racing is now very popular, thanks to the ‘Fast and Furious’ movies, and now EA are jumping on the late night, high speed bandwagon by taking the Need for Speed franchise underground.

Graphics

As you’d expect from an EA game the graphics are very good. The car models look great, especially when the cars are fully customized. I can’t comment on their authenticity, but as it’s an EA licensed game then I should imagine that they’re spot on. The backgrounds are well rendered and certainly look the part, there is lots of neon and shop fronts in the downtown area and plenty of Skyscrapers in the city areas and the reflections on the City streets looks great. The graphics could be a little sharper and the frame rate is not as high as it could be, but all in all they are well above average.

Gameplay

The game has a large selection of options, a range of licensed cars all of which are fully customisable and 4 different race types. Modes include Circuit racing, Sprint racing, Drag racing and Drift racing. Circuit racing, as the title suggests, puts you racing a set number of laps against 3 other computer controlled drivers. Also included in circuit racing are knockout races as seen in Hot Pursuit 2, in these the driver in last place at the end of a lap is knocked out until only one driver remains. Sprint racing is just a straight point to point race. Drag racing is just a straight line race but in this you are forced to use manual transmission and your success in this mode is largely dependant on precision gear changes. And finally is Drift racing, in this you are alone on the track and it is all about scoring points by drifting your car. The points you earn are determined by the angle and length of the drift, you can earn score multipliers by performing big drifts but if you crash it zeroes your score multiplier and reduces your score by the last amount scored.

The main mode of the game is a story mode entitled ‘Underground’. In this you work through a series of races covering all 4 race types, with the odd cut scene to forward the story. The races get progressively harder and there are a lot (over 100) to get through if you want to make it to number 1 in the driver rankings. There may be a lot of races but there are not a lot of courses as they are all set around one city. This is a one of only two real flaws in the game, the other is a lack of a replay. These are not serious problems but the lack of courses does affect the longevity of the game. There is a two player mode as well but I can’t really comment on it as I have not played it yet.

Sound

Sound-wise the game is great. There is a full range of engine sounds and a very nice soundtrack. The soundtrack is a mixture of punk and rock with a couple of dance tracks thrown in for good measure. It makes for some quite good driving music but to be quite honest I preferred the soundtrack from its predecessor, Hot Pursuit 2.

Lifespan

I would say this game has a reasonable life-span as there are a lot of races to get through to finish the Underground mode, but some people may be put off by the repetitive nature of the tracks. Of course the two player mode will add a fair bit to the lifespan of the game if you have someone to play it with, unfortunately I haven’t so I’m not sure how much more it would add.

Overall

Overall, I would say this a good arcade style driving game. Perhaps not the best of its type because of its minor shortcomings, but still good fun for a while. It’s not for your serious driving game nut, but should appeal to most people.

8.2 out of 10

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