NFS: Underground Review

Ever notice how sometimes the further back in time you go, the harder the game gets? Well this is one of them. I spent the better part of the last month stuck on the 80-90 numbered races in this because I was determined to beat it on hard mode, which was quite a challenge. I spent an entire week focusing on beating just 2 races before I finally decided that hard mode was designed for someone who has either A: Better skills at racing games than me, or B: someone with far more persistence than me. I took one of the races I was completely stuck at and put the difficulty back down to medium and I beat it on the 1st try, after having spent over an hour and probably 14-20 times on hard mode :P.  (there are about 111 total races you can do, and you must do them in order).

Every 5-8 races you complete you can race in a tournament. If you beat the tournament you usually unlock a few new cars and a couple of new upgrades in terms of performance and visual effects.
The goal is to get to the number 1 spot on the different types of races available. Once you have reached the top, you are challenged 1 on 1 to become the top in each category. Then you get to challenge Eddie, who has apparently taken Samantha’s car, and part of your goal is to get it back.
Surprisingly, once you’ve beaten Eddie, you are still challenged by one more mysterious opponent, the elusive Nissan 350Z…Must be Melissa from NFS Underground 2. Always wondered what the story was there, guess there really wasn’t one…she kind of just shows up randomly.

Visually NFS: Underground is still an impressive sight when you consider it came out in 2003, and honestly after having played NFS: Carbon and Undercover recently it really looks far better…even before I even fine tuned it with the Nvidia control settings…Undercover on the PS3 looks completely horrible after comparing it with Underground, the cars look so much clearer and more detailed, and the backgrounds look so much nicer than the blur that best describes undercover. The reflections on the road from the lights and the designs on the cars are very detailed. I don’t recall NFS Underground looking this good on the PS2 when I first played it, perhaps it is just the PC version that stands out. Sure Underground doesn’t have the best story when it comes to racing games, but Most Wanted didn’t have an incredibly special story and yet it still ranks as my favorite NFS yet. I will admit that some of the races in Underground 1 can become pretty tedious and repetitive, I mean, 6 laps per circuit….really!? Then, later on in the game, there aren’t really any new tracks, but instead are just the same tracks set in reverse with tougher opponents…

Need for Speed Underground 1 was a milestone in terms of the direction in which the NFS series went. Porsche Unleashed was fun, but Underground went from serious racing to much more fun and customizable racing. It was the first racing game I can remember next to Midnight Club 2 which featured city landscapes and the first game of its kind to offer that much customization on the visual aspect of things. The flashing neon lights underneath the car and the unique vinyls offered still look pretty cool. And you can change all kinds of things on you car from the hood to the tailpipe and everything in between. NFS: Underground 1 and 2 are definitely two of my favorites from the Need for Speed series.

The music in the game tends to be a bit repetitive. There are only about 12 or 13 tracks total in the game and each time you start a new race (or restart) the song changes. The tracks are mostly hip-hip with one or two electronic remixes scattered about.

There are a couple downsides to Underground, my biggest gripe was the handling. Once you get into the later racing tracks where high degrees of handling are required, the games cars simply aren’t adequate for some of the tracks and I often found myself slamming head on into the wall along with the rest of the AI because some of the cars like the Nissan GTR Skyliner simply weren’t meant for those kind of loopy curves and sudden corners. Another thing that annoyed me was the excessive use of traffic, in lots of the tracks you go screaming around a corner, and BAM, there’s a gigantic tram blocking the entire road and there is absolutely no way to avoid hitting it dead on. The second Underground game also had a similar issue. Maybe I’m just bad at weaving in traffic -_-.

Sometimes your driving in a reverse track and there seems to be an endless flow of traffic coming your way and it is incredibly difficult to avoid getting hit. Once you do get hit and spin out or have to reset it is usually really tough to get back up to first place, and on the harder difficulties a single screw-up will often cost you the entire race. The difficulty settings leave a lot to be desired. On easy and medium the AI present little or no challenge, whereas on hard difficulty the AI have inferior cars to you but somehow still manage to stay way ahead of you and are far too difficult.

Update: some of the races after race 93 can be pretty tough, even on medium mode.

All in all I still think its a pretty fun game though, and even though I’ve beaten most of the other games in the series, I never quite managed to get around to finishing Underground 1 and 2, so I’m trying to finish them now…
Update: Finally got this one down, had this one on the backlog for so long. ^_^

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~ by kain243 on February 14, 2012.

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