Written by  :  AkibaTechno (254)
Written on  :  Apr 12, 2010
Platform  :  GameCube
Rating  :  1.57 Stars1.57 Stars1.57 Stars1.57 Stars1.57 Stars

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An embarrassing indictment of how out of touch EA actually is with reality.

The Good

Underground is graphically competent featuring some nice little trickery like reflective surfaces (that don’t reflect anything other than a pre-defined light map) and decent car models. The city itself you find yourself driving through is a garish, neon jungle with enough lights and flashy things to keep the un-evolved mind occupied.

Driving actually feels alright when you first begin, cars handle responsively and the inclusion of Nitrous Oxide for a quick speed boost in a pinch is a nice touch.

Underground features several different game play modes to keep you interested including but not limited to drag racers, sprints and drifting competitions. There are over 100 events to compete in meaning there is a lot of content for you to wrap your gums around.

The Bad

Alright, I’ve been diplomatic enough. The beauty of Need for Speed: Underground lies in how mundane it all is. It’s a game about illegal street racing, coming from squeaky clean, appeal to everyone EA. This should disqualify it immediately from any sort of credibility it could possibly have garnered on the “street.” What you get in this, laughably G rated experience is a super diluted Disney version of illegal street racing. In reality illegal street racing is a violent, intimidating affair. The people who do this are the kind of people who will stab you on the street because you accidentally looked in their general direction. Illegal street racing is just that, illegal, and the people who engage in it are criminals. They are the kind of people with no regard for the law, no regard for other people’s safety and with their sights set primarily on fulfilling their unbreakable addiction to adrenaline. So if you’re coming to Underground expecting a game with a sophisticated, crime thriller storyline and mature dialogue you’re going to be vastly disappointed.

Need for Speed Underground is let down entirely by its laughable presentation, that and a close to broken engine, which I will get to later. You are herded from flimsy character to flimsy character, each giving you a heaping bowl of ‘tude. They all sound like they are poorly written characters from an after school special from the early 90’s, their poorly acted “attitudes” are nothing more than a vague threat that amounts to about 5 seconds worth of useless dialogue. The final straw however is the fact that all of the EA Trax music in the game are radio edits, with all the bad words edited out. This game is so devoid of attitude and any sense of danger and excitement that it could proudly sit alongside Super Mario Kart as one of the most inoffensive racing games ever produced.

Each race is an almost identical tribulation against 3 other mid sized family sedans with neon stripe and tear decals splashed across the sides. The physics engine is laughable, with your car flying ten feet into the air if it even barely clips traffic and coming to a complete, frustrating halt if it hit’s a pole or cement block. So, even with a crappy physics engine as long as the car handles alright this shouldn’t be an issue right? Wrong. Your car fishtails so easily that it isn’t even close to funny. It doesn’t matter what you are using if you over steer by even the slightest of margins you’ll begin to fishtail and power slide uncontrollably. This isn’t so much of an infuriation when you’re racing however in Drift mode it makes you want to snap your controller in half as you’ll constantly have to hit restart as your car hits boundaries and the several thousand points you’ve just accumulated disappear. Drag mode is totally pointless. The races are often over in around 30 seconds, which although might be the nature of drag racing, is totally redundant in a video game. On top of being short and pointless it is also laughably easy, requiring maybe one or two runs to know the lay out of the strip and then the difficult task of pressing the shift button at the right time begins…for 30 seconds. It is virtually impossible to lose these races. They shouldn’t be here. The AI in the regular races uses rubber banding to catch up to you, no matter how you are doing. How does this archaic method of conveying artificial intelligence still exist? This is a relic and should be banished to hell. In any case, you’ll be driving along, totally smoking the competition when the car you passed five seconds ago suddenly rockets up beside you for absolutely no reason. It’s cheating, plain and simple. It makes you feel like no matter how well you’re doing, no matter how good you get at the game it doesn’t matter because the game will just cheat and make you look like you suck.

Graphically this is a weak game. At first the gaudy neon lights and slick roads will put a smile on your face, however if you stop to smell the roses now and then you’ll see bland, blurry textures on the buildings and horrible, jutting geometric shapes that are supposed to pass as fountains and arches. There is no real time reflection and a cardinal sin in the form of aliasing on the cars. Then the repetitiveness of the environments will begin to get to you. No matter how much you block roads off to make alternative routes you’re still going hell for leather down the same road you were going down at the beginning of the game and it becomes tiresome.

Sound? The music is a bizarre mixture of generic tracks aimed to placate everyone. There is some gangster rap, disco metal, rock music and electronica. The selection of music is terrible, limited and full of radio edits to avoid anything even mildly offensive infiltrating this already bland, inoffensive Frankenstein of a game. As I’ve already mentioned the voice over work is terrible. The dialogue is full of weak, forced attempts at conveying attitude while trying to skirt around rightly offending anyone. It’s like Marv from Home Alone is talking to you through your TV every time someone opens their mouths.

The Bottom Line

Need For Speed: Underground isn’t a particularly terrible game. It is fun to some degree for a little while however it is just impossible to take it seriously. EA has tried to give us an insight into underground street racing however by diluting it, censoring it and neutering it they simply demonstrated that they know next to nothing about their source material. They think underground street racing stops at applying decals to your car and using Nitrous Oxide. This game had the potential to be gritty, sophisticated and mature however in an attempt to appeal to as many people as possible EA churned out another limp wristed game that not only disgraces the name of the franchise, but the entire scene it is trying to represent.