Need For Speed: Undercover
Ever since Need For Speed Underground 2, Electronic Arts’ exhilarating series has helped fine-tune the open-world racing genre that Midnight Club developer Rockstar San Diego pioneered with Midtown Madness. Everything was going fine until EA inexplicably threw all its progress out the window and instead opted to release the poorly received ProStreet. This was blamed on a ridiculously limited development window of roughly 12 months, and rather than releasing a new game every two years, the development team was split in half and here we are a year later with yet another Need For Speed title.
The solution, it seems, was to create an almost carbon-copy replica of the large, sprawling city found in Need For Speed’s first this-gen outing, Most Wanted. Even the perpetual magic hour visuals have been retained, as have the campy live-action cut-scenes. Maggie Q headlines an otherwise forgettable cast, but honestly there is simply not enough of her throughout the game to make her character – or even the plot as a whole – relevant. What drives the game forward and will undoubtedly hook racing fans is the gameplay itself. It’s loud, it’s fast and it’s an absolute blast to rocket through the wide-open streets and hidden shortcuts in excess speeds of 150mph with an army of police chasing after you. The undercover aspect means you will be doing some of the chasing yourself this time around, and there is a wide array of exotic vehicles at your disposal to do just that. The licensed soundtrack is also a step above most racing games, including EA’s own Burnout franchise. The hard-hitting beats are a perfect match for the speaker-rumbling engine sounds, crashes and tyre screeches which make up Undercover’s audio.
Despite tweaks here and there and a few ‘new’ modes, Need For Speed Undercover feels an awful lot like Most Wanted. However, Wii owners never got a chance to play the latter, which is arguably one of the greatest Need For Speed titles yet, and so while the unoriginality will likely be met with some apprehension on other consoles, on the Wii it is somewhat of a treat. So long as next year’s Need For Speed outing is better, of course.