previews\ May 13, 2003 at 8:00 pm

Need for Speed Underground - PC - Preview

E3 2003 - First Look


It was only a matter of time before Need for Speed capitalized on the illegal street-racing phenomenon.  One of the fastest growing subcultures of today’s youth, street-racing has gained popularity through action-packed movies of little substance, underground DVDs, and word of mouth.  EA Sports decided to abandon the whole Smokey and the Bandit feel of previous titles and develop a racing game more along the lines of The Fast and the Furious.


Gone are the Lamborghinis, Ferraris, and Porsches of past NFS titles.  In are the souped-up and customized Hondas, Dodges, and Toyotas, or as developer Chuck Osieja likes to call them, “Urban Exotic Cars.”  Part of the attraction of street-racing is that no two cars are alike, and EA stresses this in NFS: Underground.  The amount of customization of each car borders ridiculous.  Stock bumpers can be exchanged for funky new parts, paintjobs can be changed, altered, or combined, and decals, from classic flames to Chinese dragons, can be placed almost anywhere on the car in any size.  Racers can even pimp out the interior of their car by getting some chrome engine parts or throwing a little bling-bling into their sound system.  But just as in real life, you can’t customize your car without a wallet full of cash, and that’s where the racing comes in. 


New to the Need for Speed series is drag racing.  It’s generally a simple case of which car can accelerate the fastest, which driver can shift the best, and who can avoid cross-traffic and what are called ‘split-second’ decisions such as jumping over a flatbed truck or going around it.  It’s tough to handle while going 150 mph, and just like in real life, only the best will survive.  Underground also features familiar Circuit Racing, but these courses emphasize handling as opposed to top speed.  The circuit courses are shorter, but have more curves than Penthouse Pet.


The entire game takes place at night in the city and the developers have done a great job to get the look and gritty feel of street-racing down pat.  As cars reach top speeds, the surroundings begin to shake and blur for a feeling of speed I’ve only seen before in the Moto GP series. 


Need for Speed: Underground hits the streets in the Spring of 2004.


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