Need for Speed: Underground
The Need for Speed franchise has been around for what seems like an eternity, and aside for a few rally "spin-offs," the series hasn't changed significantly since the beginning (except for the enhanced graphics and more aggressive cops). With Need for Speed: Underground, EA Black Box is finally taking the extremely popular racing series in a totally different direction that most older teenagers and young men can certainly relate to. I am talking about illegal street racing, of course.
Instead of peering over the dashboard of a Ferrari, Mercedes, or Jaguar found in previous installments of Need for Speed, Underground will throw players into the driving seat of more affordable brands, including Honda, Acura, Mitsubishi, Mazda, Nissan, Dodge, Suburu, Ford, Volkswagen, Chrysler, and Toyota. Sure, you'll see fairly expensive and impressive sports cars like the Nissan 350Z, Honda S2000, and the Suburu WRX rally champ; but you'll also come across more common vehicles, such as the Dodge Neon, Ford Focus, Honda Civic Si, and the Mitsubishi Eclipse (there will be about 20 cars total). Don't worry though, you'll be able to beef up those stock cars using authentic aftermarket parts from HKS, GReddy, AEM, NOS, NX, O.Z, MOMO, Enkei, Bilstein, and much more. In fact, unless licensing deals suddenly go sour, at least 50 companies will contribute parts for the game.
Sounds interesting, but didn't Auto Modellista on the PS2 have the same nifty features? And didn't that game turn out to be steaming poop? Yes, but unlike Capcom's racing disaster, Need for Speed: Underground offers a nice blend of simulation and arcade controls -- none of that "hey look at me, I'm driving on ice" crapola that Auto Modellista provided.
Other features that you should look forward to in Need for Speed: Underground is the ability to participate in drag races, which makes sense, as that's how most street races are carried out in real-life. Drafting, shifting, and using your nitrous at the appropriate times are obviously the key to winning in this mode. Speaking of winning, cash will be awarded to you if you achieve victory, which can in turn be used to purchase more upgrades.
Other gameplay modes are available, including story, circuit, and multiplayer (and maybe a free-ride option as well?). Circuit mode is similar to other racing titles, in which you race through closed courses throughout the city. For example, think of the Seattle stage in Gran Turismo 3. In the story mode, players can race using their own routes in order to reach the finish line the quickest -- much like Rockstar Games' Midnight Club II. As for the multiplayer option, users can go online and join races with three other opponents using a broadband connection. Not much has been revealed about the online gameplay, so that's all we can tell you for now. Just be glad that you own a PS2, as Sony's machine is the only console that will be taking NFS: Underground online.
One last thing we should point out about Need for Speed: Underground are its incredible visuals and sense of speed. For starters, the game will take place in fictional cities, but that certainly doesn't mean that the locales won't look convincing like the carefully modeled, real-life metropolis' found in Midnight Club II. For instance, you'll eventually race through a Chinatown that isn't modeled after the one found in San Francisco, New York City, or Seattle. It's a Chinatown conceived by the folks at EA Black Box, but it still looks very convincing. By making their own buildings and streets, EA should be able to make the game more enjoyable, because they can place shortcuts and jumps anywhere they see fit.
Need for Speed: Underground also provides some truly jaw-dropping special effects. The streets are always wet, so you can see nearly every light source around you in the reflections of the water. It's even a step above the impressive water reflections found in Gran Turismo 3. Also, when you reach excessively high speeds, you'll be treated to some awesome looking blur effects. If Gran Turismo 4 wasn't around, NFS: Underground would certainly be the best looking racing game to date.
Be on the lookout for additional details on Need for Speed: Underground from now, until the game's arrival on the PlayStation 2 this November.
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