With dazzling visuals and an intense sense of speed, “Need
for Speed Underground” is one hell of a ride. Racers compete
against other opponents in competitions that range from a standard
circuit across a city, to a drag race through busy intersections,
to a slick and slippery run where points are accumulated for power
sliding and burning out.

Janna Hutz
The No. 1 Stunna. (Courtesy of Electronic Arts)

But here’s the catch: Winning isn’t everything.
Near-misses, insane jumps and drafting behind opposing cars will
earn racers “style points” that are accumulated to
promote vehicles in the rankings and get coverage in underground
magazines. Money is earned as a reward for winning races and can be
used to “trick out” one’s car visually, gaining
reputation in the process. Boosting a car’s performance takes
a back seat.

Though limited to just one city, “Underground” is a
great game visually; lighting blurs in and out, enhancing the
feeling of speed, and car models are incredibly detailed, casting
gorgeous reflections and a beautiful array of sparks and smoke
during impacts. In drag races, the camera itself becomes unstable
at top speeds, shaking violently and increasing tension during the
heart stopping ride. The music is well-suited to the gameplay and
ranges from hip-hop to heavy metal, seamlessly melding with the
squeal of burnt rubber and the sound of opposing cars hurtling
past.

Overall, “Underground” is a fine installment in the
“Need for Speed” series, one that will definitely set
new standards for future racing games in terms of speed, looks and
attitude.

Rating: 4 stars.

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