Need for Speed Underground
The Fast and the Furious: The Game
- I'm only up to about 35/112 races, so I might not have gotten to the Really Cool Bits, but I read drinkpoo's write-up and, well I just disagree, so I had to give my opinion.
- Its quite possible that this game was simply aimed at a completely different audience.
- I'm going to occasionally reference Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit 2 (NFS:HP2) and Need For Speed: Porsche Unlimited (NFS:PU) to give better insight into Need For Speed: Underground (NFSU). It might be useless to people who haven't played Need For Speed games, but good for those who have.
I was impressed with the inbetween animation. In between various tracks, they have little movies explaining what you do. While the characters are visibly CG, the movement looked realistic. Its nothing major, but it was neat seeing how CG in general is improving. There's no real depth or anything to the characters, but hey, this is a game, right? I won't penalise them for that. No one penalised doom2.
I quite like this new game mode. Essentially, you have to try and slide around as much as possible, earning points for each good drift. See drinkypoo's detailed writeup. Its not real racing, but its a nice new feature (I haven't seen it anywhere else).
The extra points:
As drinkypoo mentioned, you can get points for doing things like powersliding, near misses, shortcuts, clean runs and things. It means there's a little more incentive to think about how you drive. I was most amused with "Style Points" simply because in NFS:HP2, I was joking around with friends that I should get style points for jumping over the top of cars and stuff, so actually seeing it materialize was fun. Anyway, I'll move along.
I don't care much for this feature (weren't we all trying to perfect our shifting anyway ... ?) but some people will like it. Things to note: you can blow your engine and the races are rarely over 30 seconds.
Damn the tracks are bad. In NFS:HP2, the tracks were repetitive. There were a handful of tracks and then various sections of each track were merged together to create more tracks. Can't help feel ripped off, but in NFSU, they have one track with various sections closed off. Its exceptionally boring. And its all at night. Okay maybe that's supposed to go along with the idea of illegal underground racing, but honestly--its a game, bend the rules a bit if it'll make it more fun. Excitebike has more variation (different tracks and day/evening races). Excitebike was released in 1984.
drinkypoo is very diplomatic. If you pick any random car, all upgrades being equal, the cars will perform quite similarily. What incentive is there to understand the different acceleration, handling and top end speed differences and how they apply to the specific track? Maybe its because there's only really one track?
Normally I don't care much for the upgrade-slow-car-to-fast-car approach to racing games. I figure if I wanted to drive a shit car, I'd go drive my real-life 1985 Holden Astra of Doom Hatchback. I'm not a fan of upgrades, but I do know that upgrade paths can be implemented better than how its done in NFSU. Example, when you get a turbo upgrade or something, it won't say something along the lines of 'Your acceleration is improved by 15%' or something like that. Its Just An Upgrade. It doesn't give any real expectation of how much better you car performs. Just to compare, NFS:PU gave some idea of what each upgrade kit did. It would say something like 'this part can give you an additional 10-15 hp'. Now I have no real freaking clue whether 10-15 horsepower is something to get excited about, but it gives you a comparison point. 'Kit A gives me more acceleration than Kit B', or something like that. That way you could really focus on the important stuff.
If you read drinkypoo's writeup s/he explains what each part is supposed to do, and its supposed effects, but its hard to see if a particular upgrade is going to give you a Whoa! or just a Huh, what'd that do? I'm not expecting full specifications or anything, but maybe just an idea of what the upgrade really does and by how much it does it. In addition, I personally couldn't care less about visual upgrades like neon lights and stuff. Does putting a jagged line on the side door really make the game fun? Maybe. But not for me.
First thing I should mention is that I have a NVIDIA Geforce4Mx with 64mb of graphics card ram. If you don't know, thats on the pretty-shit end of the spectrum. It plays most games well enough, but its definitely not taking any speed crowns. That said, NFSU feels like a visual downgrade since the previous NFS:HP2 game looked far better. (I'm not sure whether this is simply a Your Computer Is Too Slow, Get Lost thing, or just poor graphics). The cars for instance look like simple flat-shaded cars, from like, Need For Speed 2, which was like what, 1997? I know that if you bump up the detail a bit the road looks wet/reflective and what not, which I thought was cool, but the cars look crap. Especially when you compare it against NFS:HP2, where the cars looked really neat (on same and even lower end hardware). They were reflective and shiny and just generally what sports cars are supposed to look like.
Also, because in NFSU the tracks seem to all be at night, half the time you're looking at a mostly black screen. Take a look at NFS:PU and you'll see that its not because night driving is inheriantly dull. Its just that the scenery, just doesn't stand out. You don't want to look at the track at all. EA has somehow botched night driving in NFSU.
I'm not a fan of the physics because braking seems almost instantaneous (its a bit like Midnight Club II). While driving on the edge/recklessly is fun, I think its good to balance things out and reward careful/thoughtful driving. If at any time you take a curve too quickly, hit the brakes and you'll stop really really quickly. The only way you can crash is if you hit oncoming traffic. In otherwords, bad driving isn't a problem anymore--just try to avoid head-on collisions. Oh, and I'll give up my handbrake when you pry it from my cold dead hands. I think I saw an "E brake" somewhere in there, which seems binded to the Shift keys and seems to reduce the revs down to their lowest level, but nah, give me back my hand brake. Only Mario Kart can get away with this sort of game physics.
The sound is good, but most games have good sound these days. You can hear echos under bridges and in tunnels; that's good, and the squeels of tyres are nice enough. I'm not an audiophile. Just as long as it sounds reasonable, and I can hear the difference between the engine at high revs and low revs, I'm pretty happy. Although it would have been nice to have a horn.
drinkypoo's writeup describes the music quite well. I ended up muting the music, but music is always subjective so I'm not going to rag on the game simply because I didn't like it.
The previous Need for Speed games were in my opinion much better. Its not that this is the worst game of all-time history, its just that it feels that they've taken the racing out of the game. There's no real reward for practicing the tracks, other than to get through the game. I suppose some people like the idea of customizing their cars with logos and racing stripes and whatnot, but I don't.
I suspect that the game would be better if I was part of the game's target audience. I want a Ferrari F50 damn it, not a Honda Civic. If you liked Midnight Club II, then you'll like this game. If you preferred NFS:PU or NFS:HP2, then you probably won't like Need For Speed Underground.