Need for Speed Underground 2 is Electronic Art’s take on the world of street racing. At the beginning of the game you’ll start out as a newcomer into the scene. With each pass of the finish line, magazine photo shoot and drag race you will be closer to ruling the streets. Before you get all hyped up, you will have to select a car. You can select from a Honda Civic, Mazda Miyata, Nissan 240SX, Ford Focus and couple more cars initially. However, the list of cars included in the game is pretty extensive. Playing through career mode will allow you to unlock a Skyline, RX-7, Eclipse and even a H2 Hummer. That’s right, Need for Speed Underground 2 contains large, top heavy SUVs to race. Since SUVs aren’t designed as street racing vehicles they handle poorly. Learning how to make tight turns with a Lincoln Navigator is a new challenge. If you decide on racing an SUV you’ll want to upgrade it with performance parts quickly. In fact no matter what care you drive, you will want to purchase new parts to mod it.
Need for Speed Underground 2 gives players extensive modification options. You can tweak your engine, adjust the suspension and add nitrous to your car. Upgrading your car’s performance will help you win races, but Need for Speed Underground is all about upgrading your car’s style. The original game allowed you to add all sorts of visual mods to your car like vinyl decals, rims, and custom hoods. All of the standard body mods are back with a bunch of new ones. You can give your car hydraulics, which are pretty cool. Or you can add a neon light underneath your car. There are also other customizations that let you alter the interior of the car and add in a sound system. Each car is rated on a visual scale of one to ten stars. You’ll want to get your visual meter up as quickly as possible so you can get your car on the front cover of a magazine. When you reach the photographer of Import Tuner or Street Car magazine you can take a photo of your car. All your hard work can finally be shown off, in a virtual magazine.
To get all these upgrades you will need to play through the game’s career mode and work your way up the street racing ranks. Most parts won’t be available to purchase at the start of the game. Even if you could purchase the best performance pack or a new spoiler, you will need cold hard cash. Scattered around the city of Bayview are green money icons that bestow you with some bank. The real money is in the racing scene. Need for Speed Underground 2 has a couple of different racing options. Of course the short circuit races, long sprint races and drag races are in the game. Street X is an interesting idea, where you race around a really small track. The tracks are made so small that you’re forced to be in contact with adjacent cars. Small tracks are present in drifting too, but you won’t be racing here. Each drift you make gets you points and adds to your drift multiplier. To win drifting you will need to have as many long drifts as possible to score the most points. Every once in awhile you will be contacted by the Underground Racing League. This group of street racers have connections to open up "real" race tracks that you can take your car on. If you win one of the Underground Races you could get sponsored and at the very least you’ll unlock more cars for purchase.
Winning races in the game isn’t too hard with the new race breaker system. The race breaker system takes a cue from EA’s Burnout series where driving with style gets you more NOS. NOS aka nitrous oxide can be used to give your car a fast boost of speed. Since you will always have the ability to refill your NOS level there is nothing that encourages players to save it for the end. This means players can really abuse the computer, which normally does save their speed boost for the last few seconds. Need for Speed Underground has another system set up that encourages players to leave the computer in the dust as quickly as possible. Winning the race isn’t everything, the game takes how much you win the race by into account. The further the distance between you and second place, the more points you get towards your reputation.
Need for Speed Underground 2 is really about the races, but between you and the next race is the large city of Bayview. At first exploring Bayview is a fun experience. EA designed the city with plenty of straight track, perfect for outrun races. There are plenty of land marks to see like the Golden Gate inspired bridge, the casino district and even your favorite electronics store that has a giant yellow sign. Later on the races are spread out far away from one another and when you really just want to race driving half way around the track is a chore. Besides extra cash, Electronic Arts hid some of the best shops to buy parts at in Bayview. Finding these shops can be another problem because they are illuminated by a dim neon light, that you can easily ignore when trying to avoid traffic. A compromise between the large city and no city at all would be to take the cell phone feature from SSX3 and let players teleport to specific areas.
If you do get tired of building up your street racing career you can choose to do a quick race. You can select from any of the cars you unlocked and any tracks you’ve completed when for a simple race. Playing with a friend is always another option. Need for Speed Underground 2 lets players do this in two ways. You can play with a friend at your house using the two player mode. Or if you have the Xbox or PS2 version of the game you can play online. If you have the Gamecube version, you’re out of luck for online play. Only get the Gamecube copy if that is the only one you can pick up because playing online really extends the life of this game.
Compared to the first Need for Speed Underground the graphics look better. You have smooth car models and lots of them. EA added so many visual mods, the sky is the limit. The city of Bayview is beautifully created with plenty of scenery and the occasionally batch of rain falling from the sky. One of the coolest eye candy features is the way EA uses the sky to change the look of the world. You’re always driving at night, but it’s not always pitch black. Sometimes it will be near dawn and the sky will have a reddish tint or it could be a cloudy night where the sky has a greenish hue. Some people won’t like the unrealistic crashes in the game and say that is a problem with the graphics. The cars don’t take any damage when they crash and the crashes don’t look nearly as good as Burnout 3’s. Yet overall, Need for Speed Underground 2 looks pretty good overall.
The soundtrack in the game has a bunch of different artists and genres. For hip hop aficionados you have "I do" from Chingy and Snoop Dogg’s Doors Remix "Riders on the Storm". EA also included rock into the mix with "In My Head" by Queens of the Stone Age and "Scavenger" performed by Killradio. On the electronic side of things there is "Nothing But You" from Paul Van Dyk and "Rush Hour" by Christopher Lawrence. It is nice to have a bunch of licensed artists in a soundtrack. On the other hand this soundtrack is going to have one or two tracks to please a gamer and a bunch of other’s that they will hate. On top of that, there are just too few tracks in the game because EA took the licensed artist approach.
Need for Speed Underground 2 gives gamers everything they liked about the first game with some new features. Although, Need for Speed Underground 2 still plays more like an arcade racing game than Gran Turismo 3. So, if you’re looking for a "realistic" game Need for Speed Underground 2 will disappoint. Even though the game may not be the most realistic game, Need for Speed Underground 2 gives gamers plenty of ways to get an idea about street racing culture.
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We covered the US version of the game, which is in English.
It was released in the US November 15, 2004. For more information on the US game check out Electronic Arts’ site.
+ Pros: A large selection of cars to play, everything from Skylines to SUVs.
– Cons: Driving around looking for the next race, "invincible" cars.
Overall: If you don’t mind searching the city for action, Need for Speed Underground 2 gives you a chance to become the best street racer out there.