With new games comes the opportunity for new reviews – as such, next up to face the Ranting Review of Doom is a purchase I made just yesterday while in a very packed Blanchardstown Centre (fucking sales whores...) – Need for Speed Undercover (360 version).
Note, that although the cover art I borrowed from Wikipedia is the PC version, I’ve been playing the 360 version!
Recently, my driving skills were being both trained, and confused with all the multitudes of driving types I’ve been doing. Whether it’s Warthog escorting the flag carrier in Halo 3, scaring dates off by having huge head-on collisions with civilians that can’t learn to get out of the way of a car travelling very fast and honking its horn in Grand Theft Auto 4 (review of that to come), or racing professionally with realistic cars on mostly real tracks in Forza 2. Now I throw in the whole “glue the accelerator down and use nitrous as much as possible” style of driving. While it’s nowhere near realistic, it does tend to be fun
The obligatory new stuff to come with the latest instalment is a mixed bag. Highway Battles involve you racing another driver down one of the main highways in near rush hour traffic (thankfully in the same direction as them), with the aim of being in the lead after a set time, or being ahead by 300 metres. It’s not too bad, but the traffic can be downright rotten at times, and one major crash essentially means you’ll lose. Plus for some reason doing a flip totals your car, even though I could have landed it and continued on...
Also new is the Heroic Driving Engine thing. If you played Underground 2, you’ll remember that to replenish your nitrous, you had to perform fancy driving. Well this HDE is essentially the same, only in now fills your “In the Zone” meter, as well as earning you Wheelman points (mentioned later). Having a high Zone multiplier means your nitrous and Speedbreaker fill up quicker and last longer. But any collision with the walls knocks it down, a lot.
Outrun also makes a welcome comeback, although this is me thinking back to Underground 2 again. Instead of being a set distance ahead, you now just need to get in front and stay in front for a certain length of time. So, no matter if you’re 10 feet ahead, or 3 miles down the road, you just need to be ahead for that amount of time. It also means no more getting to 280m ahead, only for the game to suddenly massively increase the AI’s skill so you don’t end up winning. The AI doesn’t seem to adapt as much now, which is why I’ve won races by about 25 seconds or so...
So, the basic principle of Undercover is the same as most of the other NFS games – race illegally on the streets with other racers with pimped out cars that would usually stand out like a sore thumb in the real world and would have cops swarming all over them as soon as they turned on the engine. But that’s realistic, and nothing realistic ever makes it into these games – except for ProStreet, that is...
In the career, you play an undercover cop who has to try and arrest the leaders of the local street racing gangs, by pretending to be one of the gang members, advancing through their ranks until you get deep enough to be able to take out their leaders. To advance you need to win races, complete cop pursuits with set goals and drive fancily to earn Wheelman points and advance up Wheelman ranks. And “taking out” means driving behind them ramming them until you disable their car. Not quite as fun as it sounds. And that’s really all you do until you’ve taken everyone out as completed the career.
Career mode though, is insanely short. Or at least for me it was. I started playing the game at 11pm last night through to 8am this morning, went to bed, started again around half one in the afternoon and was finished the career mode just in time for The Simpsons at 7pm! So for me, it only took around 14 hours to dominate every race I came across, and complete all the cop pursuits and jobs needed to complete the career mode. Finishing it in one day is not really all that fun. Whoring 610 Gamerscore out of it in the process is, however
Speaking of achievements, there’s a good mix in Undercover. Single player gives you 825/42, while those requiring Xbox Live make up the remaining 175/8. However, of those multiplayer ones, I’m none to happy about Among the Best (Win 25 Ranked events – 25GS) or Notorious (Finish 119 events – 50GS). Need for Speed online is not the best of places, firstly with EA forcing you to tie your Gamertag to an EA account before you can play online at all, and even then the party system isn’t the best. So, when I do get to play online, they’re either going to be tough as hell to get, or if the other racers are like in ProStreet – piss easy. (I’ll go through that later)
In short, if you’ve played Most Wanted or Carbon, then essentially you’ve played this. It’s really only a rental.
Ranting Review Score
Gameplay: 6/10. A few new ways to do exactly what you’ve been doing for the past few instalments of the series (obviously excluding ProStreet), but other than that largely the same as before.
Replayability: 5/10. I’m not too sure whether it’s worth it replaying the career over and over, and EA’s usual online bullcrap means you might not want to dig it out again.
Engrossness: 7/10. The story was quite engaging and had me playing it non-stop, with the exception of sleep. But the short career knocked it out of my disc tray early...
Total: 18/30. Seriously, rent.