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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Need For Speed: Undercover - Review

Need For Speed Undercover is about a cop who goes underground to try and uncover a smuggling operation. You take the role of that cop and take to the streets in your Nissan to prove your skills as a wheel man.

I decided to play Undercover to try and give Need For Speed another shot. Ever since I played Underground, I was wary of the poor mechanics they implemented in the game (mainly, rubberbanding, I hate cheating A.I..... Endurance races of 6 laps lasting over 8 minutes total.... in underground races? Really?) Then I saw Underground 2 and their attempt to make it super realistic to the point where you needed to drive a good 2 and a half hours or so throughout the city to understand each and every curve and corner... I can't believe how many times I got lost doing time trials cause the GPS sucked and highways have 8 exits in close proximity to each other all going different ways..... It was around then that I quit Need For Speed games. It wasn't because I didn't like tuner cars, but more of, "I think they're beginning to lose their vision in racing games. So, I took a break. Any new NFS title I just kinda ignored.

To be honest, I don't know why I picked Undercover. Perhaps because Most Wanted sounded like they were going back to the Hot Pursuit days. Knowing EA and most software companies, the initial release tends to have a lot of issues. I don't know how Most Wanted was, but I can say for sure, I'm pretty glad I picked Undercover.

First and foremost. I'd like to tell you all that Undercover does NOT HAVE RUBBERBANDING. If you aren't sure of what rubberbanding is in racing game terms. It's when either you or the computer gets a significant lead in terms of checkpoint times (usually around 00:04+). Depending on who's in the lead (the player or the computer) the A.I. cars compensate by either going faster or slower to "emulate" difficulty. What that often means is that the A.I. cars cheat. One great example is how the cars in underground have unlimited nitro. I've seen this happen. A.I. cars in Underground are equipped with the same exact parts that you have, so when I nitroed in a straightaway and held it down, i saw the computer do the same. However, when my nitro was finally depleted, I saw the computer car's nitro still running and nitroing along turns completely overtaking me. Other times I'd see that I had a 7 second lead only to see that dropping on a straightaway even though I had a faster car.....

I feel like I've said this before: Cheating A.I. does not entail difficulty. Complex algorithms do. Forza and Gran Turismo are high praised for their realism as well as cars that handle almost.... too perfectly. Regardless, they drive well.

Anyways. Undercover has no rubberbanding, you can be assured of that. Any overtaking of your car is strictly because that car is actually better.

It seems pointless to say since it's almost expected of games but Undercover looks beautiful. It's not too demanding on your computer and supports some really nice graphics. I'm not too keen on some of the modeling and textures of the environment, but the cars look amazing.

The cars are what I've expected from the Need For Speed games. There's been a lot of detail placed in each and every car. The Lotus Elise for example handles much easier than the Nissan GT-R Skyline despite what stats say because of the light body of the Elise handles better than the heavy Skyline. Drivetrain becomes a big factor in handling until near end game when basically all your cars are Rear Wheel Drive.

The game is broken into 3 general types of missions. Cop Missions, Races, and Jobs. Jobs can entail a variety of missions from time trials to escaping the cops with a stolen car and returning to the garage. Cop Missions can be broken down into cop takeout missions, wreaking havoc and costing the state, and escaping the cops. Races can involve Checkpoints, Circuits (3 laps max), Sprints, and 1-on-1 battles.

It seems that EA has learned from the travesties of Underground 2. For some odd reason, the developers thought it would be a good idea to have roads as intricate and polluted as an urban city such as New York or Los Angeles (even more cluttered than any GTA game) thus making free roam and overall racing dreadful. It's a lot more cleaned up where there are still cross sections but not as numerous.

My main complaint with this game would be how easy it is. Perhaps it's because I've played racing games for a while, actually read the Skip Barber tutorial in the backside of the manual of Gran Turismo 3, and worked on getting the best times during licenses, but I digress. The game itself is quite easy and I've more or less dominated every race except when I've been completely overwhelmed by super tuned cars vs my low tier tuner.

Running from the cops is also quite easy unless you're on a highway as there seems to be very few exits, leaving you only to hug a wall to avoid spike strips as you desperately hope that you get to the next urban area. It's also a bit irritating to see the cops go only after you when there are clearly other cars illegally racing (1 or 7, to be exact).

Online play's pretty fun. What's odd is that you can't use the vinyls you applied to your car online. It was fully compatible with Underground, so I don't see what the problem is with Undercover. I get that there's more information than in Underground that needs to be stored, but people have spent a lot of time customizing their cars... At least let that come to fruition online...

Need For Speed: Undercover is like the mix between Underground and Hot Pursuit 2 that was really needed. The difficulty seems to have dropped significantly but it's still a fun title to play around with.

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