Need for Speed Underground 2 Review

Developer: Pocketeers Publisher: EA
Release Date: November 15, 2004 Also On: GCN, PS2 and Xbox

The Need for Speed license is one of the most profitable that Electronic Arts currently has under their gigantic belt. It’s of no surprise to me that a Game Boy Advance version of the game would be made to coincide with the release of the home console versions. Of course, this was the case last year, when EA released Need for Speed Underground on both consoles and the GBA. This year’s the same way. Just like its console brother, there are some heavy improvements from the last game.

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The first thing that you’ll notice is that EA opted to remove the soundtrack featured in the last game. While playing the same handful of punk rock/rap songs over and over did get tiresome, the music quality was still better than the new techno vibe that is felt in NFSU2. When I end up turning the volume off, so that I don’t have to listen to music, you know that’s never a good sign in the sound department.

As far as graphics go, there are still chips in this game’s armor. Like NFSU, NFSU2 still has the problem of not seeing on-coming traffic until it’s nearly too late. You’re given, at most, about a two second response time. This is especially frustrating in the drag racing, where if you get hit, you have to restart the level. For the most part though, it continues to push the GBA to its limits. The frame rate holds steady, the textures are clean, and the road, which I complained about in the last game for not knowing where the course was going, has been improved.

Onto the gameplay. The beef of the game is featured in the Underground. Here, you’ll compete in Circuit (three difficulty levels), Drag, Drift, and Bonus. Circuit will pin you against computer AI, set a lap limit, and then expect you to place first. As you complete races, you’ll earn points, which can go to improving your vehicle’s appearance and performance. Drag has you shift gears in a linear track with traffic, computer opponents, and in some cases, obstacles such as ramps, walls, etc. Finally, Drift, the easiest event by far, has you drift around corners for points. Your points can be increased by two, three, etc., but once you hit a wall, your bonus multiplier will be lost, along with any points racked up.

Aside from the Underground mode, you also have Race Now, Mini Games, Garage, and Multiplayer. Race Now allows you to select between ‘Random Race’ and ‘Custom Race’. Random will select all the settings for you, whereas Custom will allow you to tweak your experience. Mini Games are unlocked as you play the Underground. The goal of these varies substantially between one another. For the most part, they involve pressing the A/B/L/R buttons at the right time. Garage, as described above, allows you to customize your vehicle. Once an upgrade is purchased, it’s available for all the vehicles that you own.

Instead of challenging racers, you’ll perform in races from a list. As you complete a race, you will engage in the proceeding races as they become available. You will also be given a percentage of completion for each mode. Circuit, spanning three difficulty levels, is the longest to complete. The shortest was Drift.

NFSU2, like its console cousin, is an excruciatingly long game. Underground will have the most time investment, whereas, depending on your capability of interacting with friends, multi-player would come in second for time consumption. The new courses, different for each of the modes, is also a refreshing change from the tracks we have burned rubber on with NFSU for a year now. Overall, NFSU2 is a satisfying racing experience on the GBA. Until the versions of NFS come out on Nintendo DS and PSP, this game should preoccupy you on the GBA.

Graphics: 9
Sound: 5
Gameplay: 8
Creativity: 7
Replay Value/Game Length: 8.5
Final: 7.5
Written by Kyle Review Guide

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