E3 2003 – First
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.