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Game Over Online ~ Need for Speed Underground 2 (c) Electronic Arts

Need for Speed Underground 2 (c) Electronic Arts

Published: Tuesday, November 2nd, 2004 at 10:21 PM
Written By: Jeff 'Linkphreak' Haynes

A sequel to Need For Speed Underground was inevitable considering its rampant success. Capitalizing on the widespread popularity of The Fast and the Furious movies and car modification, NFSU was a glimpse into the illegal street racing scene. Along with a number of diverse race types and a ton of customizable feature, Underground really struck a cord with gamers looking for a newer twist to the driving genre. With the sensation it caused, the designers could've just pumped out a carbon copy as a follow-up; instead, they've dwarfed their original title in just about every way possible. Get ready to jump behind the wheel, because we're about to burn out with Need For Speed Underground 2.

While the demo we received didn't include the story mode that will be featured in the final product, it did provide enough of an idea as to how it will be implemented. First of all, the city of Bayview is easily five times the size of the city from the previous game. What's more, it will be a continuous driving experience, meaning that you'll be able to maneuver from one side of the town to the other without ever seeing a load screen. You're no longer restricted to city streets or small sections of freeway either; Underground 2 has miles and miles of freeway connecting the separate suburbs together. It appears that you'll have to unlock some of these areas, most likely by winning a number of races, but once that's done, you'll be completely unlimited by deciding which races and competitors you want to go against.

That's actually another significant facet of the game: a much more open-ended driving experience than before. Thanks to the mini-map provided, players will be able to decide what kind of competitions they want to engage in whenever they want. There were three types available in the demo we received. The first was Circuit racing, the typical high speed lap based jaunt around a track that most drivers are accustomed to. There were a number of shortcuts scattered along the course, which gave significant opportunities to extend a lead or make a dramatic come from behind at the finish. The second was a race mode called Street X, a bruising sprint along a dramatically confined course that prompted a lot more physical driving and ramming opponents into walls as well as precision driving to cut corners.

The last mode in the demo was Outrun, which revolved around open challenges to fellow drivers around the city. Once you locate another member of the Underground scene, you send them a text message and the race is on. The goal of an Outrun challenge is to outdistance your competition by 300 meters in a game of virtual tag: Someone starts out as the leader, and it's up to you to take that title and escape your rival. This can force you to double back a number of times through streets or drive a little more wildly in an attempt to lose your opponent.

Some of the previous features of Underground have also received significant facelifts and renovations. Players will no longer find their car driving down an endless tunnel as they try to perform upgrades. Instead, you'll have to drive to body shops, performance stores and car lots, amongst other places, to find and upgrade your vehicle. Unlike the previous game, you'll also have the option to discover just what kind of an impact these tweaks will have on the performance of your car, as shops have dynos that track the power and operation of your machine. Other facets, such as nitrous boosts, are no longer limited to what you start with at the beginning of a race. Now, nitro is continuously acquired and lost due to your driving ability: perform a powerslide, find a shortcut or drive a clean section, and you get points and nitro added to your machine. Have an accident or other crash and lose boost. Influenced by NBA and NFL Street, cars can get Nitrobreakers if you fill up your gauge entirely, providing extra speed and tighter handling on curves.

The graphics have received a much sweeter upgrade as well. Car models are at least twice as detailed as the previous game, and feature many more reflection and gloss effects to show off both the paint and environmental details of the nighttime scene. Brightly lit by neon and fluorescent lights, Bayview feels evocative of Miami and Los Angeles in some ways, and the sweeping curves of the streets and freeways provide an incredible sense of scale. There's also going to be a massive soundtrack that will cater to a number of tastes. Artists like Helmet and Mudvayne are along for the ride with Chingy and Snoop Dogg. Although the demo didn't even hit the tip of the massive iceberg that Underground 2 appears to be, it really gets us excited about the competition we'll face when the game peels out of stores in a few weeks. Check back soon for a full review!

Questions or comments about the upcoming release of Need for Speed Underground 2 for the PlayStation 2, Xbox, GameCube, Game Boy Advance and PC? Talk to us!

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