Need for Speed Underground Rivals Review

Disclosure: We may earn a commission from links on this page

Developer: Shaba Games Publisher: Activision
Release Date: March 24, 2005 Available On: PSP

Thought street racing was just a fad? I thought it was too, but fads these days evidently don’t die rather quickly. Street racing has had a presence since the beginning of this generation. It has graced each console, every major handheld, and even more obscure handhelds like the N-Gage have seen their share (Asphalt Urban GT).

What is even more impressive though is that for the past two years, Electronic Arts’ Need for Speed Underground titles on the consoles have been the biggest selling attractions on consoles. The newest, Need for Speed Underground 2, has sold over 7 million alone in just its first few months. EA hopes to continue the success of their console/handheld brand (it has appeared on the Game Boy Advance twice) with Need for Speed Underground Rivals for the PlayStation Portable.

First let me say that if you are expecting PlayStation 2 quality visuals and gameplay experience, you may find yourself disappointed. The PlayStation Portable can hold its own from a visual standpoint, but if Rivals displays the full power of the PlayStation Portable, it falls well short of what the PlayStation 2 is capable of on a visual level. On an audio level though, Rivals packs more songs than its console brother, though nearly all of them are borrowed from Need for Speed Underground 2.

The same can be said for controls. The analog nub is an inadequate substitute for the traditional analog stick. I can equate the analog nub to having a Spanish teacher teaching an English class. If you are accustomed to intuitive controls, you will find the analog nub on the PlayStation Portable as unresponsive. There is no angular tilt, so while you can rotate it 360 degrees, the nub will fight your thumb, as its natural position is centered. There is no sensitivity to speak of either. You either move the nub far left/far right or you will not get a response.

As far as gameplay goes, Rivals is broken down into a few gameplay modes. Race Now for a quick fix, Quick Play Battle (more below), Circuit Race (more below), Head to Head (WLAN for 2 players), and Party Play (switch between human players using a single PSP). There is also a Pocket Garage where User Points (earned from racing) are used to purchase and upgrade your rides. Upgrades are unlocked through the game modes highlighted above.

Quick Play Battle is broken into four different modes. They include Street Cross, Drift Attack, Nitrous Run, and Drag. Street Cross will be familiar to players of Need for Speed Underground 2, as its roots come from Street Racing X, only with tighter confines and turns. Drift Attack is a change from the original in that it is in an open building, much like, oddly, Tony Hawk. You now need to drift around metal objects in the building, sliding on select draft areas.

Nitrous Run is the new (and most welcomed) game mode. You will race in one of the circuit tracks using a full nitrous meter. You will need to reach an X amount of checkpoints before a stop watch ends. With each checkpoint comes a full nitrous meter and added time. Drag is much like its console counterparts, only with less traffic and hazardous objects.

Circuit Race is broken down into four categories. These include Novice, Pro, Master, and Car Spec. Novice, Pro, and Master only differ in difficulty. Each have Circuit, Lap Knockout, and Rally Relay. Circuit is of course your traditional three lap racing, a boss race, and a three-race tournament, where points are awarded according to your place in each race. Lap Knockout eliminates the last place vehicle after each lap is completed. In the tournament, instead of eliminating the last place car after each lap, the last place car at the end of the race is eliminated, until a winner is crowned. Rally Relay requires you to have two vehicles. You will race one car for one lap, then switch cars the second lap to complete the race.

I have written a lot about the gameplay elements, but little about my feelings on each. I’ll first say that I embarrassingly did not realize that Quick Play Battle existed as an extension of single-player for hours. From the title, I thought it was a “quick play” multi-player mode, so I didn’t even touch it until I was five hours into the Circuit. Perhaps they should consider changing that next game. What also needs changing is their backwards step. Need for Speed Underground 2’s free-roaming city was a leap forward for the series. Taking Rivals back to a menu-surfing experience is a disappointing step back for a series that I love. In NFSU2 for the consoles, each race felt unique, due in part to the city environment. The repetitious races in Rivals become cumbersome after a few hours of play.

So far as replay value goes, there really is not any if you do not expect to play online. This is not necessarily damning, considering single-player entails well over ten hours of play. All told, I count 288 races, and that includes the three-race tournaments as one race. In other words, much like the console versions, you will grow wary of Rivals before you actually complete it, which like I said, is not a bad thing, since you get your money’s worth of entertainment. The problem still lies in races being too unchanged.

In conclusion, if you are coming into Rivals expecting a PlayStation 2 experience, go elsewhere (most preferably the PlayStation 2 version of Need for Speed Underground 2). If you keep in mind that this is not a PlayStation 2 title, you may find it entertaining for several hours, but more of a burden to beat than fun. If EA releases a free-roaming version of Need for Speed Underground on the PSP, I would be pleased, but until then, we will have to settle for what we’ve got.

Graphics: 7.5
Sound: 9
Gameplay: 7
Creativity: 7
Replay Value/Game Length: 10
Final: 8.1
Written by Kyle Review Guide

Leave a Comment