|Need for Speed: Underground 2|
Cover art featuring a Nissan 350Z
|Developer(s)||EA Black Box|
|Series||Need for Speed|
|Platform(s)||Microsoft Windows, Game Boy Advance, GameCube, PlayStation 2, Xbox, PlayStation Portable, Nintendo DS, mobile phone|
Need for Speed: Underground 2 is a cross-platform racing video game and the eighth installment in the popular Need for Speed driving game series published and developed by Electronic Arts. Released in 2004, it is the direct sequel to Need for Speed: Underground, and is part of the Need for Speed series, available on Microsoft Windows, Game Boy Advance, GameCube, PlayStation 2, Xbox, PlayStation Portable, Nintendo DS and mobile phones. Like its predecessor, it was also commercially successful, breaking sales records in the United Kingdom.
The game entails tuning cars for street races, resuming the Need for Speed: Underground storyline. Need for Speed: Underground 2 provides several new features, such as a broader customization, new methods of selecting races, the "explore" mode (similar to the Midnight Club series, in a large city known as "Bayview"). The City Center was based on Philadelphia, Beacon Hill was based on Beverly Hills and Coal Harbor was based on Camden, New Jersey, and Bayview as a whole is a microcosm of the west coast of the United States. Underground 2 also introduces several SUVs, which could be customized as extensively as other Underground 2 vehicles and used to race against other SUV racers. Brooke Burke is the voice of Rachel Teller, the person who guides the player throughout the game.
The game has been ported to PlayStation Portable, under the title of Need for Speed: Underground Rivals. The Nintendo DS port introduces a new feature in which the player is able to design custom decals to adorn any vehicle in the game.
In addition to the racing modes included in the previous Underground game (Circuit, Sprint, Drag and Drift races), four new variations of races have been provided in Underground 2. One racing mode was dropped, this being the Knockout competitions. Still, a Lap Knockout option is available when racing Circuit in non-career races.
Underground 2 is unique among the games in the Need for Speed series in that it requires players to drive to a certain place in the city in order to begin a race (other games allow the player to select a race from a menu). Most races are marked on the in-game radar, but some are hidden and the player must search for them, should he/she decide to play them.
Once any stage is completed, all of the race locations for that stage are removed from the map and a new set of race locations are placed on the map for the next stage. While in the garage, there is a "World Map" feature that includes a menu of races for all prior stages, with the menu noting which races have been completed or not completed, and the player can select any race from any prior stage to run from the menu. After completing stage 2 through stage 5 (stage 5 is the last stage of career mode), there will always be 8 sponsor races that will not be completed, since a player has to choose a single sponsor per stage and can only run 3 out of 11 unique sponsor races, leaving 8 sponsor races not completed at the end of each stage. These can only be run using World Map. Due to a game bug (at least on PC version), if running a non completed race from the World Map, no credit (cash or rep) will be awarded unless the player uses restart at least one time during the race. The restart can be done as soon as the race starts in order to get credit for the win.
A circuit race is a standard race that involves up to four cars driving around a track that loops back to the start line of itself. A circuit race is typically a maximum of four laps and minimum of 2 laps (The final career race is 5 laps). A sprint race is just like a circuit race except that the track does not loop back to the start line. It's a point to point race involving a maximum of four vehicles. Street X races are similar to circuit races, but they take place on tight closed courses similar to drift tracks, and there is no nitrous.
Drifting is one of the easier types of racing (depending on difficulty level) in Underground 2. One difference to the drifting mode compared to the original Need for Speed Underground is that the player drifts with the other competitors at the same time. Players race against a maximum of three competitors. Points are awarded when the player successfully slide the car and finishes the drift without hitting any walls or traffic. Like the Street X mode, no nitrous oxide is allowed. There are also some special downhill drift races where the player starts at the top of a hill and has to slide down from top to bottom, a drifting equivalent of a sprint race (from point A to point B). In these races, there are no other racers, however there is normal city traffic. Players increase their points by sliding past city cars. Drag racing is a point-to-point race that forces players to use a manual transmission. Steering in this mode is simplified to simply allow for lane changes, while the game handles the steering along the lanes, and the player focuses more on maintaining an optimum speed for the car. The Nitrous Oxide meter is enlarged and displayed on the left side of the screen.
The Underground Racing League (URL) is a set of tournaments which takes place in a specific set of closed tracks outside city streets - either actual racing circuits or airport runways. URL tournaments typically consist of one to three races, with up to six cars (both in career mode and online). In tournaments with two or more races, a points system is used. At the end of each race, drivers receive a specific amount of points according to their standing in a race. The total score at the end of these races determines the winner of the tournament.
Special events - these are similar to sprints without any barriers, with the goal to reach a target point on the map (using the in game guide helps here), which is a "photographer", and the player needs to reach the target within a specific time limit. Achieving this will reward the player with a magazine cover. Ten of these special events are called "DVD" events, which get unlocked based on a cars visual rating, and stages 2 through 5 each require completing some number of "DVD" events to complete a stage.
Outruns - while in free roam (cruising), players can challenge specific computer opponent cars (potential outrun opponent cars appear different than normal traffic cars) in an "outrun", where the goal is to start an outrun and then distance the player's car from the opponents car by 300 metres (1,000 feet). The player can choose when to initiate an outrun, and can take any path and/or use tactics to achieve this goal. Each stage, including the intro stage, has a limited number of outruns a player can win. For example in the intro stage where the player is driving Rachel's car, 3 outruns can be won. After winning the number of outruns allowed for a stage, the outrun opponent cars cease to appear. After completing career, there is no limit to the number of outrun wins allowed. Depending on the stage, after winning some number of outruns, the player is rewarded with a unique part. Some stages allow a player to do a series of outrun sequences, rewarding the player with multiple unique parts (one for each series of outruns won). The outrun mode is similar to that of Tokyo Xtreme Racer and Wangan Midnight video games, which uses health bars instead of distance to determine the winner.
Cell phone / SMS system - During game play, the player will occasionally receive phone calls or text messages. The game maintains a list of messages and game info that can be reviewed via a menu system.
Cash and info icons scattered about the game - Each stage, including the intro stage, includes a set of hovering icons scattered throughout the games map. As a player explores the map in free roam, the player receives a cash reward and/or info as the player discovers and drives through each of the icons.
As in Need for Speed: Underground, Underground 2 continues to offer similar vehicles for purchase and modification, most of which consist of Japanese models, with some European and American models. In addition, Underground 2 is the first game in the Need for Speed series to offer three SUVs as racing vehicles. Also, it is the second game in the Need for Speed series after Underground to offer a Korean-made car (Hyundai Tiburon) as a racing vehicle. There are two versions of the game, US and EU, where each version has 29 of 31 possible cars: the US version has an Acura RSX and a Honda Civic, while the EU version instead has a Peugeot 106 and a Vauxhall Corsa, the rest of the 27 cars in both versions are the same.
SUVs, also known as sport utility vehicles, were a new element added to Underground 2. The SUV's can be upgraded and tuned in the same manner as cars. Some of the events in career mode are SUV only events and only appear when a player is driving an SUV. In career or any offline mode, if the player is driving an SUV, the computer opponents also drive SUVs. However, after completing a stage, the World Map allows a player to run any event from prior stages in either a car or an SUV.
Customization in Underground 2 was significantly expanded compared to previous iterations from the series. Visual customization has expanded with the ability to customize the car's front and rear bumpers, side skirts, spoiler, hood, exhaust tips, doors, roof scoop, wheels (including the ability to put on spinners), headlights and taillights, side mirrors and paint. Vinyls and decals can also be added, as well as car stereos (speakers, amplifiers & subwoofers), hydraulics, nitrous bottles and under glow neon. Most visual modifications to the car have no actual effect on vehicle performance. The sound systems, for example, could be put in the trunk of cars, but served no purpose other than visual cues. Hydraulics can be used in combination with nitrous at a start of a race which can cause a car to do a wheelie and for some cars get a better launch. The performance and handling of the car is affected by cosmetic modifications like spoilers and hoods, which affect the downforce of the car - better spoilers allow better tuning of the downforce management both in front and in the back of the vehicle. Visual upgrades increase a cars visual rating, up to a rating of 10.0. At least one car in a career garage needs to be visually upgraded to a 10.0 rating in order to unlock all 10 DVD events (completing these rewards the player with a DVD cover), and each stage has a required number of DVD events.
A car's performance can be enhanced by upgrading the car's engine, engine control unit (ECU), transmission, suspension, tires, brakes, reducing the car's weight, and adding a turbo and/or nitrous. The player has the ability to either upgrade the performance through upgrade packages or by purchasing individual parts of each performance category. NFS: Underground 2 also introduces a dyno-tuning system which allows players to specifically tune certain aspect of the car such as ECU, turbo, suspension springs, front and rear shock absorbers, gear ratios, aerodynamics, brake bias, individual tire grip, etc. The player can test the settings via a dyno run which will display a torque and power versus rpm graph, and an estimated 0-60 mph (0-100 km/h) time.
Underground 2 had online multiplayer capability on PS2, PC, and Xbox, however by 2010, EA Games had shut down their servers, rendering the feature inoperable. The PC version has a multiplayer LAN mode, and multiplayer races over the internet can still be run using the games LAN mode and a virtual LAN (virtual private network).
The player races around in his Nissan Skyline GT-R over Olympic City, the setting of Need for Speed: Underground. He then receives a race challenge from a rather ominous personality who offers him a spot on his crew, but "won't take 'no' for an answer". The player races off -- Samantha calls the player to inform him about the party -- only to be ambushed by a mysterious driver in a black Hummer H2, who blinds the player with his headlights, then totals the player's Skyline, and the flashback fades out. Although the concept is this intro sequence takes place in Olympic City, the actual in game video location is Bayview's Lower Eastside area.
Fast forward to the present, the player arrives in Bayview with the keys to Rachel's Nissan 350Z, which is waiting for him outside the airport. The player is able to run 3 races (one of them hidden) and 3 outruns before returning it to Rachel. After he arrives at the car lot in the city core district, he takes one of the cars for free, as it was paid for by insurance for his totaled Skyline.
It is then that the player embarks on a quest to become the top racer in Bayview and eventually take down the man who sabotaged his ride months ago. After winning many races and getting many sponsorships, the player runs into a street racing crew called The Wraiths. After winning against them, the player progresses until he hears more about the Wraiths, who have been manipulating sponsor deals in their favor (and against both the player and Rachel), before a URL (Underground Racing League) race. The player challenges them to a series of URL races and eventually gets to Caleb, who is the man responsible for wrecking the Skyline in the prologue. After the player beats The Wraiths in yet another URL race, an infuriated Caleb with his modified GTO challenges the player to one final race. After Caleb is defeated, the player gets his role back as the best driver in Bayview.
Need for Speed: Underground 2 received positive reviews. GameRankings and Metacritic gave it a score of 86% for the Mobile version; 83.50% and 82 out of 100 for the PC version, 82.61% and 83 out of 100 for the Xbox version, 80.77% and 82 out of 100 for the PlayStation 2 version, 79.98% and 77 out of 100 for the GameCube version, 76.44% and 74 out of 100 for the PSP version, 69.45% and 72 out of 100 for the Game Boy Advance version and 65.44% and 65 out of 100 for the DS version.
The game is widely regarded as the one of the best games of the series (along with the previous year's Underground) and is remembered for the quality of the gameplay, the length, the endless customization, the interesting side-missions, the graphics and the addition of "Free Roam". However, some of its elements were criticized as well, such as having to drive excessive amounts to get to specific races, bland voice acting and strong product placement for companies with no connection to auto racing, such as integrating the logo for Cingular, an American wireless communications company, into the game's messaging system and displaying it on-screen for much of the gameplay. The GameCube version was also criticized for its unstable frame rate and inferior graphics, the hip-hop slang used by the characters (such as calling the money "bank"), the comic book styled cut scenes, and a lack of police also garnered criticism.
GameSpot gave the Mobile phone version a score of 9.2 out of 10 and said that it "isn't just the best racing game ever made for a mobile phone; it's also a much-needed showcase for V Cast technology. This game boasts game length and replay value so many orders beyond the mobile norm that it calls for a total paradigm shift. Simply put, mobile gaming just got a much-needed kick up the evolutionary ladder."IGN gave the same version a score of eight out of ten and called it "a big step for mobile gaming, in my opinion. While there are things I did not like about the game -- loading and some control issues -- I cannot deny that this is one hell of a package. If you want a game that maxes out your 3D handset, Need for Speed Underground 2 is the game to get."
Detroit Free Press gave the Rivals version all four stars, exclaiming, "The racing here is just flat-out fun, with growling engines, jumps and shortcuts that allow you to smash through fences. But there are thoughtful additions, including Party Play."The Sydney Morning Herald, however, gave the Rivals version three-and-a-half stars out of five and said, "While not PSP's best driving game, Rivals is an entertaining street racer that offers quick thrills." On the other hand, the same newspaper gave the GameCube, PS2, PC and Xbox versions a score of four stars out of five and said, "While the driving action isn't quite as satisfying as the superb Burnout 3, it's still strong enough to keep you playing through the 150 or so races."The Times also gave the game four stars out of five and stated, "The courses in this game are just as much the stars as the cars. The dazzling downtown locations are massive, dominated by skyscrapers whose light bathes the streets in a radiant glow."
The PlayStation 2 version of Underground 2 received a "Double Platinum" sales award from the Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers Association (ELSPA), indicating sales of at least 600,000 copies in the United Kingdom. The game ultimately sold around 11 million copies and entered the "best-sellers" of each console PS2's Greatest Hits, Xbox's Platinum Hits, and GameCube's Player's Choice.