Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: EA Black Box
Designer/Director: Oliver Mariott
Need For Speed Undercover was probably the most anticipated game of of 2008. I saw the HD trailers and, seriously, I was quite excited. I couldn’t get my hands on the game until this March. The controller was shaking with anxiety and excitement. The game I always wanted to play was here! A note here: Since this game is based on the MostWanted and Carbon formula, comparison to them and other EA titles is inevitable.
The game starts with a cutscene. Chase Linh (played by Maggie Q) is speaking with an oversized police officer about a “dangerous” mission. Then a chopper is shown – chasing down a car and BANG! you’re driving the car. The first mission is evading the cops, and I’m like “whoa! This is gonna be great!”. But even before you finish that thought, the pursuit is over. Sob. What started as an amazing aderalin rush turned out to be a crap race. What a waste. But hope is still there. After the ProStreet fiasco, Electronic Arts wanted to cover-up; and they returned to their original successful formula of illegal racing and high speed, engangin pursuits, from their Most Wanted and Carbon titles. Undercover is no big improvement. Its only mildly interesting.
You work undercover for the police and race (illegaly, of course), join other gangs with leaders having loony names such as G-Mac, and bust them by “taking them out”, which is nothing but ramming their cars real bad. As the story progresses, you begin to frame your “friends”. Mistakenly, you frame Chau Wu – a ruthless leader of the crime syndicate. To pay for your mistake, you must steal a Porsche 911 Turbo having some evidence which Chau Wu believes G-Mac stole it from the dockyards and is with this girl called Carmen, but is mistaken himself, as two other crackpots Hector and Zack stole it, and return it to Chau Wu. Since Carmen fears Chau Wu will kill her (as she has the car), she tells you to steal the car from her again, which Chau Wu thought G-Mac stole it from him but was actually stolen by Hector and Zack from Chau Wu. Anyway, you don’t care and simply steal the car and keep it with you, for no apparent reason. Chau Wu holds Chase Linh hostage and wants the car back. You get the Porsche to Chau Wu, and find Chase Linh has been involved with Chau Wu all the time. Chase kills Chau and escapes with the Porsche. You have to get her back. Its done it three minutes and twenty seconds flat. The police arrests Chase, and we find that the “evidence” in the Porsche was actually a PDA, containing the her criminal records. Thats it. No high-speed pursuits. Nothing.
The entire story is told in cutscenes, which is enacted by real people. The acting is atrociously pathetic. Even a star cast of Tusshar Kapoor, Koena Mitra and Dino Morea would have done a better job. In many of the cutscenes, which come after a couple of races, Chase Linh says “That’s enough. We have what we wanted.” after you do some job for her. But what did she want? You have no idea. You just get on with the game. During the cutscenes, the camera focuses on Maggie Q’s body, rather than her face, and the other people in the room. In every cutscene, you have her butt, her chest, her lips and her hand holding a mobile phone. End of cutscene. The dialogues have an amazingly low volume. I had all the volume settings maxed out in the game, and even though my PlayStation is wired to my home-theatre, even a reasonably high volume does not help you to understand the dialogue. There are no subtitles either. Its not because of the heavy American accent. I could easily understand what people said in other NFS titles.
The gameplay is actually good. Its entirely in daylight. The sky looks extremely realistic. Graphics are also good. There is enough detailing in the cars – even the traffic and cop cars. But strangely, the road has reflections of the buildings. The reflections look good and you feel “Wow. Thats good detail.” But the reason is: why? Does it rain everyday in the city? If so, why don’t we ever experience rain during races or free roam? It is as beautiful and as useless as Windows Vista’s Flip 3D.
The races are too easy. Even if you crash and your opponents are way ahead, you can easily beat them. Cases have arisen where I had a split time of nearly 43 seconds and still came first, that too in a sprint (an event with no laps). The game physics suck. If you crash into the wall, your car makes a full 360 turn. Damage is not at all visible, although the game does claim to have damage. You can get totalled in a highway battle (which is a new type of race event), but it never happened to me. I deliberatly crashed into walls, traffic, and huge eighteen-wheelers, and only then does my car get totalled. The damage is not distinctly noticable even now. You may claim that happens because of the low graphics engine of the PlayStation 2, but what about Burnout Dominator? The crashes are realistic here, and so is the damage within the races. What is even more maddening, is that when you take out a car by ramming into it, the damage cannot be seen. But when the cutscene is shown, scratches are seen all around the car. The pursuits are good, as the spike strips emerge quite quickly, and so do the helicopters. But again, its too easy. You get cornered by four cops against a wall with no pursuit breaker in sight and have all your tires spiked, and still you escape and successfully evade the pursuit.
The choice of cars is vast. There are many cars to choose from. But the real sh0w-stealer is the customisation. An immense choice of vinyls, colours, hoods, rims are there. Too many. You can actually spend three full hours deciding what’s good for your car. The right-analog stick rotates the camera, so that you can see how the car looks from every angle. This, is probably the best aspect of the game.
Besides the Career mode, there is the Challenger Series, with pre-customised cars given to you to complete races. Of course, its easy. You get the drill.
So to sum it up, Need For Speed Undercover is a mildly intersting game with an extremely easy difficulty. The customization part is good, but the races and the story aren’t. Buy it, if you want, for the customization, and only if you’re bored with MostWanted and Carbon, and have finished both of them five times each. Only than can you hope that something different will help you. Download a torrent, buy a pirated DVD, or borrow it from a friend, but do not buy the original. It is not worth spending money.
Detailed Ratings [Out of 10]