Need for Speed Underground Review

Developer: Pocketeers Publisher: EA
Release Date: December 22, 2003 Also On: GCN, PS2 and Xbox

I’m from the Midwest, America’s heartland, where inter-states cross each other more than hikers cross paths. On these vast stretches of highway, you’ll find families in mini-vans, farmers in pick-up trucks, truckers in semis, and state troopers on patrol. This is not the world of street racing; this is the world of everyday living. While the extravagant cars might be built here, including the Hummer H20, actually built in my city, they don’t race here. The world of underground racing is unbeknownst to this region, but I’ll tell you one thing, it sure is fun in video game form.

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Coming into this review, the GBA version of Need for Speed: Underground would seem to have a steep mountain to climb in that you would think it would have a major graphical disadvantage to its console brethren. I won’t fool you, it does not compete on the same level as those games, but it’s not supposed to either. What it does do though, is impress the hell out of the people that play it, giving them 3D environments that will stun with nearly early-day PlayStation graphics.

The amount of detail is a mixed bag. While the game is evidently the top of its class in the graphical department for racing games, the resolution is off and the models are blocky. You’ll sometimes wonder which way an arrow tells you to turn, and even lose track of where the course is going. What could have been a major problem, can be resolved rather easily by both paying close attention to the course, and by learning the layout. Be wary of the intersections though, because the pixilated vehicles, which are quite often hard to see, will sometimes slam into you.

Moving on to gameplay, NFSU has all that is expected of it. Multi-player (though I haven’t played it), circuit, sprint, drag, and drift. The bulk of your time will be spent on the Underground Mode. It was thoughtful for EA to add multi-player, but the sheer amount of replay value from single-player races alone makes this game worth a purchase. You’ll start off purchasing a vehicle, of which you can later purchase new vehicles, or devote resources gained from races to upgrading your current ride. The console game was about customization, and EA tried to do the same with the GBA version; they succeeded.

In the Underground Mode, you’ll race against a group of street racers. You’re placed in a ranking system, where each night, you either challenge someone, or are challenged. If you get challenged, you select the laps, the course, any extra AI, etc. If you challenge someone, everything is selected for you by the computer. Your goal is to climb the ladder until you’re the top-dog.

I won’t go at length about the soundtrack for the game, but NFSU does have a distinct selection. It’s as if they classified people interested in street racing as being ghetto thugs. The songs are a mix between rap and a classification of rock that I’d prefer not ever hear on the radio. Four songs looping each race, of which none of them interest me, had me turn off the music and listen to the sound effects. On or off though, NFSU is definitely a game to consider. My suggestion: hold off on a purchase until NFSU 2 for the GBA is released next month.

Graphics: 9
Sound: 6
Gameplay: 8
Creativity: 7.5
Replay Value/Game Length: 8
Final: 7.7
Written by Kyle Review Guide

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