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Need for Speed: Undercover review

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Summary

Our Score

5/10

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Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 2, Wii, PC - Xbox 360 version reviewed.

Once as sure a bet for the Christmas number one as the X-Factor winner's single, Need for Speed's successful run fell apart last year with Need for Speed: ProStreet. Whatever the motivation behind it, the series' switch from outlaw racer to legit arcade racing sim wasn't appreciated by the fans, and it's widely regarded as one of the weaker Need for Speeds. Unsurprisingly, then, Undercover is EA's attempt to return to past glories; the urban setting, street style and focus on the illegal underground are a direct throwback to the days of NFS: Carbon and the NFS: Underground games, while the visual style gives more than a nod to 2005's NFS: Most Wanted. Unfortunately, it's not up to the same sort of standard. Frankly, it doesn't even feel quite finished.

This time Need for Speed takes the route followed by many a TV programme or movie in which criminal activities are going to be made to look glamorous and exciting: the old undercover cop routine. In a series of video cut-scenes so miniscule that you suspect they were paying her by the second, Mission Impossible III's Maggie Q briefs you on your continuing efforts to infiltrate a gang of car thieves/underground racers, giving you all the excuse you need to join their ranks and cause hundreds of thousands of dollars of damage to city property. The story isn't brilliant, but you can see what they developers were going for - a sort of Miami Vice meets The Fast and the Furious as directed by a Michael Bay or Tony Scott.

And you can see this influence in the visuals, which sidestep realism in favour of high-contrast, sun-washed imagery and lovingly modelled, over-polished vehicles that could have come straight from a car-porn magazine. Seen in stills taken at the right moment, NFS: Undercover is a beautiful racing game, and an almost perfect cocktail of the best style elements of Most Wanted and Carbon. The environment doesn't seem designed to be a living, breathing space like Burnout Paradise's Paradise City or NFS: Most Wanted's Rockport; it's more a canvas on which the game can paint its landscapes of headlight trails, speed blur and gleaming, pearlescent metal.

You can also see that this was a city designed to be explored. Like Most Wanted and Carbon, Undercover is an open world game. You cruise the streets looking for action, then join in races and police chases when the opportunity arises. Do enough to advance the plot, and you'll get a mysterious call from some potential friend or foe asking you to show off your skills or join them on a caper. The urban setting covers several centres linked by a series of highways, and while some of it is a little generic, you can see that the designers have engineered some areas for fun, with unfinished raised highways offering an enjoyable string of jumps, and loads of civic spaces and industrial facilities providing shortcuts. Credit where credit's due; the faults of Undercover aren't faults of laziness or a total lack of imagination.

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Randy

December 16, 2008, 12:37 pm

Sorry, i must disagree.





For me, this is just disrespectful. Being undercover cop, we've seen this already in Driver. Cop chases - Most Wanted. There's absolutely no improvements in this game at


all. I know, it's very hard now to come up with something fresh and original, but


this doesn't justify this level of laziness at all. They even got rid of drift and drag


(for me, the best game modes in the series). You really get the expression that the


only thing developers made with this game was sketch a new map and a couple of new cars.





Realism is - as expected - apalling. It's not that bad though, no one is expecting from


this series any sort of real life handling. Still - exactly what we saw in Most Wanted


and Carbon.





In my opinion the only impressive part of this game is the choice of cars. Of course,


you still can still blast through straight in a Veyron doing 250mph on nitro and get


overtaken by Golf :)





Overall 3/10, 5/10 if we consider NFSUC as a map pack/expansion for Most Wanted.

StuAndrews

December 16, 2008, 3:13 pm

Erm, I'm not sure we disagree that much! I can't remember saying that the game is fantastic and everyone should buy it - in fact the words 'seriously disappointing' in the verdict pretty much say it all. I'm also not suggesting for a minute that Undercover even tries to be original. What I would say is that Undercover was clearly an attempt to take the franchise back to the days of Most Wanted and Carbon and rebuild it on those foundations, and that there are elements of a good game in there if you look hard for them (the game has a weird way of growing on you given time). I'd also say that the handling isn't really that bad at all - it's arcade stuff, but there's a little grit and weight to it. However, the end result feels rushed, botched and unpolished. As I said in the review, the main thing that makes me feel sad about the whole affair is that a lot of people are going to end up unwrapping this one on Christmas Day, and with games like Burnout: Paradise, GRID and Midnight Club: LA out there, that's a crying shame!

ilovethemonkeyhead

December 16, 2008, 5:23 pm

this game could have at least tried to act a little more realistic. with the pc version there are horrible frame rates, and contrary to the console versions the graphics seem drab and dull - i actually went to the graphics settings expecting them all set to low or something. i was in for a surprise.





using the xbox 360 controller, the controls feel very imprecise (compared to grid, my new racing benchmark :D), and why the step backwards by omitting in car cams?





one thing i can't understand is the pointless damage system, traffic cars are near enough undamageable, your car will only suffer the odd dent and scratch and (absolutely ludicrusly) your car is repaired right after the race. i hate when you don't get punished for not driving properly, there was a time i won a race even after i had replaced the batteries in my controller, without pausing the game.

hankb6d

December 16, 2008, 8:46 pm

Christina Milian the one hit wonder i must visit youtube next.





NFS is a great game if your a chav so i'm told.

Matthew Bunton

December 17, 2008, 6:58 am

The series has been going backwards since most wanted imo that was the last good game from them. Carbon was a let down,Pro street was utter rubbish and this one seems even worse so it looks like i'll just have to avoid this years aswell.

Nick 7

December 27, 2008, 5:18 pm

Th graphics and trailer for this game looked very impressive, so I stuck it on my Christmas list.





I have to say that my disappointment once I started playing it was very hard to disguise. This game is utter rubbish.





I figured that Pro-Street was just an "interim" game to make some money from the franchise whilst they developed a hard core racer game similar to Most Wanted (my favourite game in the series). Turns out that was the new benchmark, and Undercover meets that standard.





The graphics are very poor. The colours are rubbish. The detail is just pathetic, and the gameplay is so easy my 9 year old son, who can't even get the car to go straight in Most Wanted, won a race his first time out.





If you don't yet have this game, avoid it at all costs. If you do, get yourself down to Game Station and trade it in for something (anything) else.

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