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Need For Speed Underground 2

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 2, Xbox
Genre: Racing
Publisher: EA
Developer: EA

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NDS Review - 'Need for Speed Underground 2'

by David Wanaselja on May 28, 2005 @ 3:11 a.m. PDT

Genre: Racing
Developer: Electronic Arts
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Release Date: May 10, 2005

Buy 'NEED FOR SPEED UNDERGROUND 2': NDS

Electronic Arts' Need for Speed franchise has been around for quite some time, having undergone a ton of different changes throughout the years, most of them having been for the better. With each new generation of consoles and PC hardware, the series has grown and turned into something better looking and more enjoyable. Now that the handheld consoles have leapt into the future in terms of their technical specs and abilities, it makes sense that the series would make the jump to Nintendo's newest handheld, the Nintendo DS.

The Need for Speed Underground series takes the player into the realm of underground racing. It's all about tricking out your car, customizing the body, paintjobs, engine, adding nitrous, and speeding down city streets at breakneck speeds. All of these aspects of the series are present in this handheld version, and they make the transition quite well for the most part.

To start the game, the player enters his name and then picks from a few starter cars. Once you choose your car, you can either customize it with some basic color options, or start to race. You can participate in any of the races that you have unlocked in the Underground mode, or set up a random race to keep it interesting. To get the better cars and to purchase the upgrades, you'll have to win races in the Underground mode. In this mode, there are four different race types in which you can participate.

Circuit mode is your typical race, where you go a certain number of laps, and whoever is in first place at the end is the winner. Own the Zone is an interesting race type, where the course is broken down into several different sections, and the racer who gets the best time in each section "owns" that zone. At the end of the race, whoever owns the most zones is the winner. Another race type is the drag race, which is just what it sounds like: there is one long strip of road that you have to finish as fast as possible. This mode requires you to shift manually using the left and right trigger buttons, and timing your shifting perfectly is necessary to win. There are also some bonus races that you can unlock and partake in.

On top of the races, there are also some mini-games thrown in that make use of the touch screen. For the most part these are pretty boring and just seem like an excuse to make use of the touch screen "because it's there." The only reason to even play these mini-games is because you can unlock extra items by getting certain scores. They might be fun once or twice, but you'll quickly grow bored of them, and stop playing them altogether once you've unlocked what's available.

Winning these races gives you points that you can spend to buy new cars or upgrades for your current car. It quickly becomes necessary to buy upgrades, as you'll soon find yourself outmatched if you don't. It's fun to upgrade your cars, changing the tint of your windows, getting a new paintjob, buying new rims, spoilers, neon lights, engine upgrades, nitrous, and everything else that is necessary to make your car a truly impressive underground racer. One of the more interesting additions to this title is the ability to draw your own decals to add to your car using the touch screen. This is pretty cool, and you can come up with a lot of different designs to put on your car.

The actual racing portion of the game is a lot of fun, even if it is extremely difficult. The opponent cars are relentlessly good at getting ahead of you at the most inopportune times. They race hard and don't let up until they've beaten you. The game is insanely challenging, and you'll be hard-pressed to win some of the races. The AI is pretty good, but sometimes when they get rammed off track, they'll get stuck on something or other and stay there for the rest of the race. This helps you win, but unfortunately doesn't do anything to make you feel good about your skills. There can also be some civilian traffic on the courses, which serves to really increase the difficulty level because it's certainly hard to avoid T-boning a bus as you fly through an intersection at over 150 mph. With some practice, you'll definitely get better once you learn the tracks and get the feel for the mechanics.

One thing that this title does better than almost any other DS title to date is the graphics. The car models are extremely well done and look really close to their real-life counterparts, and the tracks are all sharp and detailed. The game moves at an awesome 60 frames per second, which really makes an incredible difference in a high-speed racing game like this. Watching your car speed along the track and seeing the oncoming traffic at such a high frame rate is really quite a sight to behold. The only hitch is that there is some graphical pop in of the buildings that occurs during the races. It's nothing too distracting and doesn't do anything to detract from the overall racing experience, but it's there and it does interrupt the overall feel of the game.

Depending on your taste, you'll either be happy or disappointed when you find out that the "EA Trax" are not present in the DS version of Need for Speed Underground 2. Instead, some original music is in its place, although it's pretty generic. The music isn't grating or bad; it's just there, and the sound effects are just as average. Engine noises are basically indistinguishable between cars, and the oncoming traffic all sounds the same. It's just a decent auditory experience, but not impressive by any means.

Longevity is something that this game has in spades. It is extremely difficult to beat the AI racers, so it'll take some practice to win consistently. Including all the different types of races, the different modes, the mini-games, and the customization options, you'll be busy for quite a while, and the best part is you'll be having a lot of fun the entire time.

Need for Speed Underground 2 also features a multiplayer mode. Although it doesn't include the coveted single cartridge multiplayer, it does support up to four players as long as they each have a copy of the game. This helps add a lot of replay value, and can be a whole lot of fun if you've got some friends with a copy of the game. The wireless connections are pretty solid and keep things moving smoothly the entire time.

Overall, the game turned out to be a fantastic and deep experience on the Nintendo DS. The only major downsides of the game are the difficulty, the average sound, and the fact that there's some graphical pop in while racing. Everything else comes together to turn this title into a solid racing experience. After playing for a while, you'll really come to enjoy and appreciate the details and speed of Need for Speed Underground 2.

Score: 8.0/10


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