Need For Speed Underground 2

December 1, 2004

[floatleft][/floatleft]With so many sequels to games being released this holiday season, it’s hard to pick and choose which titles are going to be better or worse. In the case of [i]NFSU 2[/i], you can pretty much count on major improvements and added features for this racing title. The list of improvements includes: free roaming city, twice the number of visual customizations since the first NFSU, a variety of races to choose from, and intricate fine-tuning for your vehicles.

I’m not a big fan of racing titles, personally, because it’s the same thing over and over again. But in [i]NFSU 2[/i], you find yourself going beyond the limits of redundant racing and almost role-playing so to speak, in car terms. Not only is the inside of your car completely customizable to certain types of races, but also every aspect of your vehicle can be tuned to your specifications. Suspension, tire-to-brake ratio, N2O management-it’s all there to tune, using your individual parts and calculating them on a tuning machine. The use of graphs and numbers help you decide the integrity of the overall performance of your vehicle. I don’t know much about vehicles and their parts, so using these features was like reading a different language. This is definitely geared towards gamers who know a great deal of tuning vehicles and so forth. Although for people like myself, they have helpful hints and notes to guide you through the tuning phase. This entire tuning feature really adds an awesome, unique taste to the NFSU series.

The gameplay for [i]NFSU 2[/i] has the standard race-and-win-for-cash scheme. The more you win, the more cash you get, but you still need reputation points to earn respect on the street. You earn reputation points by racing with style and obliterating your opponents. So it’s always better to win by large margins than to just barely win. Of course, the more cash you earn, the more you can spend. Customizing your ride isn’t cheap, so save to buy the parts and visuals you want. Pimping out your ride will score you DVD and magazine covers. But remember to unlock visuals, parts, city parts, and other features that you must win. Winning is huge; winning will get you contracts from sponsors who will pay mad cash and also get you in the Underground Racing League. Once you are sponsored, you have to fulfill certain requirements in your contract to make your sponsors happy. Getting on magazine covers, winning certain types and numbers of races, and customizing your ride are just a few requirements. It goes without saying that the sponsored races pay much more than regular non-sanctioned races. So freaking win!

[floatright][/floatright]The entire city is your playground and is yours to explore. And let me tell you, it is very important that you do get to know the city. I’m glad that EA added a GPS gadget in your vehicle because I would never be able to get around. Exploring the city helps you find shortcuts, hidden cash, shops, and races. The cityscape and skylines are beautiful with very tasteful scenery. Not to mention, when roaming in the city, you notice the great cityscapes with lights and neon signs. The entire city reminds me of Las Vegas, New York, Florida, and California all jumbled together in one great big metro. As you win, you unlock districts of this great big city of Bayview to find more races and events.

In my humble opinion, I believe that racing video games are generally very difficult overall. In [i]NFSU 2[/i], as you improve, the AI just gets tougher and tougher-rightfully so if you want something challenging. But the racetracks are just insanely hardcore; I mean I don’t care if you have the best tires and brakes, you just can’t make those turns. (You need skill to make those kind of hairpin turns.) The physics in racing play a huge factor when racing on certain tracks. For example, when you race in Street X, which is a type of race, you will find yourself more hitting the walls more often than none. Street X is a four-lap race with massive hairpin turns on a closed track. Drag is a straightaway race: whoever gets the jump and saves the juice until the end wins. Circuit is a series of laps with straightaways, turns, and jumps. This type of race requires some N2O management and patience. Drift is not a race; you win by your drift or slide points around the corners. This definitely requires skill and the quality of your vehicles handling by a large margin. If you’re not careful, you might find yourself always against a wall. Sprints are self explanatory; just run your butt off to the finish line. My suggestion is to save the juice until the end. Another type of race which I find very cool is the outrun race. Roll up next to certain vehicles around the city and challenge them to a distance race. Beat them by reaching a certain distance and earn some extra cash for your purse. I have mentioned URL, which are sponsored races that have big purses and are closed circuits on closed tracks.

EA added so many features to this title that they had to take some out from its predecessor. For one, they took out the elimination races which were awesome, and they didn’t add real-time cosmetic damage. With 30 cars to choose from and almost endless customizations, you truly have full reign on your vehicle’s look and performance. You can choose from spinners, stereo systems, roofs, hoods, vinyl, neon, and the list goes on.

[floatleft][/floatleft]Did I mention that Brooke Burke helps you out throughout the game? Brooke Burke plays Rachel, your racing guide, as you hit the racing scene. Along with her voice talent, you can hear music from Xzibit, Snoop Dogg, and many new artists with a customizable playlist as well. The graphics and sound of [i]NFSU 2[/i] are solid with great lighting, great cityscapes, and stunning cars. Cars have distinct sounds as they rev up in races. Peeling out is always pleasing to hear, and the small sounds of turbo and N2O being disbursed is always a unique sound.

While [i]Need for Speed Underground 2[/i] holds a lot of features and endless racing hours, you still might find yourself tired of roaming the streets in explorer mode and also find yourself laughing at the hideous dialogue by some of the voice talent. EA goes over the top with some of the slang and urban dialogue by Brooke and her counterparts. The Live multiplayer is not for noobs either; my suggestion is to pimp out your ride and spend some hours on the streets before going online. The matchmaking is not accurate at all, and you will find yourself racing against a high rated vehicle that will leave you in the dust. Other than some minor flaws, [i]NFSU 2[/i] brings the tuning culture and a unique spin on racing and competing. [i]NFSU 2[/i] is a significant advancement in the [i]NFS[/i] series and allows you, the gamer, to be engulfed in the racing scene with endless features and gameplay.

Score: 1/5

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