Need for Speed Undercover
Recent Need for Speed titles have left a bad taste in the mouth for a lot of fans of the series. Whilst Electronic Art’s other franchise Burnout has gone from strength to strength, Need for Speed has been in need for a make over. Thankfully I can say that this instalment is definitely a step in the right direction.
To anyone who has ever played a racing game before, Need for Speed Undercover will come very naturally. The cars handle well and performing 180 degree turns, wheel spins and drifting around corners is second nature. Your cars can be fitted with nitro boosts for extra acceleration and there is even an option for super slow motion, to nail those tricky tight corners.
Cut sequences tell the story of an undercover officer required to outrun police, take part in street races and cause damage to the environment to infiltrate gangs of local street racers and thieves.
Between races and missions you can drive all over the city, cause mayhem, attract the attention of the police and outrun them. However, there really is no need for the sandbox environment when you can select the map and start any race from any location.
If you complete a race in a certain time limit, you will dominate the race and a small bonus to your car is awarded so it can run faster or handle better. Your wheelman level is your rank, which increases as you drive well or complete races and will improve your stats and unlock new races or missions relating to the plot.
Issues start to occur when you are evading police as, rather than just bashing them into submission you can use pursuit breakers, which cause the police to crash. These bring down petrol stations, release pipes across the road, or some other device that is shown in a brief cut sequence. Afterwards you may find yourself stuck against a wall or under rubble and easily busted by the police.Get busted three times in the same car, you have it taken away from you, leaving you spewing bile at the TV screen in frustration.
More frustrating is that some of the missions are fundamentally broken. The outrun events have you racing all over the city and trying to stay ahead for some length of time, but often you can find it not registering overtaking the opponent.
There also seems to be some sort of disease that Electronic Arts games have caught of late with a lack of split-screen multiplayer. In this case it is clear to see why they chose internet-only multiplayer; the game becomes jerky and items pop into view when there is too much action on screen and occasional lockups of the system entirely give the impression that they are pushing things to the limit [or couldn't be bothered to make it work..? - Ed]. Its glaring omission should not detract from a reasonable racing experience through Xbox Live, but those hoping to play with a friend over the holidays should be aware.
It is in no small part to these persistent problems that enjoyment of the game is hampered. Whilst it is still great fun to play, I cannot help but feel that Electronic Arts have let themselves down when they were sitting on potentially one of the best racing games on the Xbox360.
What you have is a fun and frantic single player game that deserves to be played through to its conclusion. The blend of arcade racing style and ability to customise and tune your cars will have the casual gamer and hardcore petrol-heads happy enough, but it could have been that much better.
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