The Need for Speed series of late has been a massive let down to say the least. Ever since the good old days of Need for Speed Underground, EA haven’t seemed to live up to it’s success. ProStreet and Carbon to name a few. Some may say that their first next-generation outing Most Wanted was great, but for me it was only “OK”. Well now in their 12th instalment of the Need for Speed series can EA and Black Box deliver what the fans of the series want?
It all starts off promising as you are greeted with a cinematic cut-scene. This is something that EA have put a lot of effort into, which I think pay-off. These FMV sequences include well known people such as actress Maggi Q (known for her part in Mission Impossible III) and the RnB singer Christina Milian. These scenes introduce the story and how the rest of the game is going to pan out. So what’s the story? Well, you are a cop who has a love for cars and street racing. You also have the skills that are required to go undercover in the street racing industry. You must infiltrate illegal activities from within the street racing crews of the open city – Tri-City Bay. Unfortunately it all drifts downhill from here.
First and foremost, and the biggest problem that I cannot believe wasn’t addressed during the game’s testing, which leads to assume the game was rushed in order to be released in time for Christmas. The problem im addressing is the massive issue with the game’s frame rate. It makes the game virtually unplayable. Almost every corner you turn feels like you are playing online against someone with a rubbish connection across the other side of the world. This is especially noticeable when you’re racing in the city and there’s lots going on. I can only hope that EA and Black Box have a patch ready to be released soon, because as of now, the game is infuriating at the best of times.
If you can overcome the dreadful frame rate then you might be able to experience the game that you all want to play. If you have ever played Need for Speed Most Wanted then Undercover will feel very similar. The term open free roam city should however be used loosely as EA have given you 2 different options for you to take part in the races. You can either use the down button on the d-pad which takes you to the closest race, or you can push up which allows you to pick and choose the race you want to take part in. This takes away the point of free-roaming around the city from race to race, but in the long term it saves you a great deal of time. The other good thing about the shortcut’s to races is that it saves you driving around the almost trafficless, certainly pedestrianless city which doesn’t really provide you with any great sense of satisfaction when you do decide to go for a drive anyway.
Fans of the Need for Speed series will again be sad to read the next sentence, so make sure you have a box of tissues at the ready. There are no Drag or Drift races throughout the whole game. Tell me about it, i’ve gone through a whole box of tissues at the thought of this disaster. All is not lost though as there are a host of other races for you to participate in. The usual Circuit, Sprint, Time Trial and Outrun races return along with my personal favourite mode, Cost to the State. Here you must cause as much damage as possible, then once you have reached your specified cost to the state you have to evade the police using any means possible.
The next problem I have with Undercover is the fact it seems to be far too easy. Practically in every race you can overtake all the cars on the first corner, even when you start at the back of the grid. There isn’t an option to change the difficulty setting either and when it does get a little difficult, you should have enough money to purchase a car that will again allow you to breeze through the races.
As the game is an arcade racer, and most of the races take place on wide open roads, the game’s gameplay is so forgiving. You can get to 100mph in 2-3 seconds and going at 230mph your car has amazing brakes which allow you to go fast right till that last second in order to brake. These physics do give you a sense of speed and it is fun at times, but yet again the frame rate just takes over and the fun is gone.
The fun is slightly regained when you get to customise you car. No new features from previous NFS games but it’s still fun to pimp out your car until you run out of money. It’s a shame that there isn’t any night time settings throughout the game as I would have loved to have seen the inclusion of neon lights. For me neon lights are the icing on the cake when you see a fully pimped out street racing car.
Single player aside, there isn’t many other options. The game features no offline multiplayer which is frustrating but understandable when the frame rate suffers playing with just one player. EA obviously didn’t want to torment the gamers any more than they had too. The online side of things aren’t great either. Online modes include Cops n’ Robbers, where you play the cop or the robber and you have to transport money around without the cops catching you, and the traditional Circuit and Sprint races. The games I played seemed to have similar problems to the single player – frame rate issues.
Graphically the cars and scenery look acceptable. Nothing spectacular and nothing new from the old NFS games. In this day and age I would have expected something better, especially when there are other great racing games out there, like GRID and Burnout Paradise. The sound is a different story. Everything from the soundtrack to the sirens from the police cars fits in perfectly. This is one thing that EA have exceeded in.
All in all I am really disappointed in Need for Speed Undercover. EA have focussed more on the cut-scenes and sound of the game and have forgotten about what actually made the Need for Speed series fun many years ago. The unforgivable frame rate issues, easy AI, no 2-player split-screen and online issues are just too much for the game to be enjoyable and end up just ruining the game. In no way does this title merit the £39.99 they are asking for. Worth a rent if you are a fan of the series but that’s all.