Unique NFS Port
's spectacular release to the GBA, gamers were impressed at the extent to which developers were able to harness the GBA's hardware for 3D graphics. Underground 2
(2004) is the sequel of that innovative leap, and it features many improvements to the first port.
But it's much more than that. Underground 2
is without a doubt the most unique of the NFS ports. The developers tested out different ideas, and most turned out to be wildly better than could have been predicted.
Without further ado, let's dive in.
Large Improvements, and Uniquely Well-Made - 9 / 10
The graphics showed a clear effort was made to improve upon Underground
. Not only were they more fine in detail, but they also had major gameplay improvements that rival the newest of the GBA Need for Speed ports.
One of the major problems in most Need For Speed games is predicting upcoming turns. However, the level of quality in the graphics for Underground 2
make this problem one that you don't have to worry about.
In my review of Underground
, I suggested that they adding minimap would have helped. There's still no mini-map in this one, but frankly, you don't need it. I find that pleasantly surprising, as even Need for Speed Carbon: Own the City
and Need for Speed - Most Wanted
had me utilizing the mini-maps. And they were released years after this one.
As for the design quality of the cars, they were slightly lower than what I expected, and they did contrast with the detailed surroundings. However, I want to note that they were
, in fact, better than those from Underground
. They simply didn't improve as much
as compared to other facets of the game, such as the race track surroundings, and visual clarity of the track itself.
As is the case with most NFS ports for the GBA, this one held to high quality graphics that take GBA racing to another level.
9 / 10.
Fantastic Music, but Mediocre Sound Effects - 8 / 10
I've played virtually all of the NFS GBA ports, and most had terrible music. Underground
(2003) and Own the City
(2006) are two of the more notorious ones I'll mention. It's rare that you would play for more than a few minutes on either of those without muting the sound.
On basically all of the others, they were mediocre, or you'd dislike them unless you had a taste for gangster music.
But Underground 2
doesn't fit the mould. The theme is fantastic, and I don't simply bear
it-I enjoy hearing it. Even though there are a wide variety of musical tastes, the theme legitimately works with the game and it was such a excellent component that I didn't mute the game at all after hearing it.
On the other hand, the sound effects aren't of good quality, but at least the engine no longer sounds like loud static, like it did in Underground
. It sounds more like an actual engine, but it's still moderately annoying to listen to. The screeching of the tires when turning does
set me on edge, and if I hadn't enjoyed theme so much, I would have muted the game right after the first time I heard this effect.
The other sound effects are decent, but not notable in any way. Overall, they're mediocre. But it's a consistent problem in all Need for Speed ports, and I don't feel like this game is deserving of a harsher penalty for it.
Despite the mediocre sound effects, the uniquely excellent music makes this category deserve a high rating.
8 / 10.
Somewhat Addictive - 4 / 10
You're able to get into the game easily. Too easily perhaps. The first challenge when you first start Underground mode lets to progress even with ridiculously slow times. It's because you're doing a time trial… with no time to beat.
But that's an extreme example. There is in fact a progression of difficulty. It's not like you're going to be stuck from the very beginning. This progression supplemented by the large amount of pure content this game has. I'll be getting into the specifics of that in a bit, but from what I know of the NFS GBA ports, it's highly likely that this one has the most content of them all.
There are some difficulty issues that also detract from the addictiveness, one of the most critical errors of the game being in the game's incorporation of drifting. There are some other difficulty issues as well that just detract from gameplay and addictiveness.
You can lose track of time while playing, but I don't think you'll be able to play all that much in a sitting. In this manner, it falls below average when compared to the other NFS GBA ports.
4 / 10.
Climb to the Top - 2 / 10
This one doesn't have a heavy plot emphasis.
It's a racing game, and there's only one NFS game with a true storyline, and the rest did just fine without one.
This is no different.
You practice different types of races, face opponent racers, and aspire to become the best.
2 / 10.
Decent Depth - 8 / 10
There's a LOT of content to play through. From the main menu, you have the options to do a quick race, dive into underground mode, or play racing mini-games.
The mini-games, while simple, are a refreshingly unique add to the game.
Within the underground mode you have various racing modes to choose from, and each of those have over a dozen events to play through. One mode in particular, "circuit", has three levels, meaning it has more than three dozen events. You're not about to finish the game in a ridiculously little amount of time, like was possible in Underground
. For this one you'll actually have to work for the win.
This game can keep you engaged for a long period of time, if you wanted it to. There's no doubt about that.
Because there's so much depth this category rates very highly.
8 / 10.
Difficulty Issues Arise from Gameplay - 7 / 10
There are gameplay issues, and it’s really the only true setback of this game. Of course I’m looking at this game with the hindsight bias of all the games that preceded it, so I won’t be unfairly harsh to the game’s faults at this early phase of development. However, there were critical errors that really hurt the gameplay experience.
One of those is driftings. There’s no particular control combination in order to drift, it’s merely hitting a turn button quickly while accelerating. The duration of time that you hit turn decides whether you actually "turn" or whether you drift. This was particularly annoying for me, as I like to make minor adjustments to the direction the racecar is going in on a second to second basis.
That was not possible here. With the way that drifting was set up, trying to make a minor adjustment made you drift, which consequentially results in a large turn and I’d end up hitting a wall or turning so much that I’d end up facing backwards and losing a lot of time.
Another problem is one that wasn’t fixed from Underground
, but does get remedied in future games. And that’s perpendicular collisions. Throughout the track, there are perpendicular roads that run right across the track, and across them AI cars sporadically drive. They’re so fast, and you’re so fast that avoiding them is more a matter of luck than practice.
You’ll also see civilian cars running on the track as well, so it’s a doubly dangerous.
The game could have done without those perpendicular roads. At least the developers realized that early on, and stopped including them in later NFS ports.
The AIs aren’t ridiculously difficult to start with, but as the game progresses they do become that way with the messy drifting controls.
As for natural difficulty, the game has a decent bit, but not all that much. Most of the difficulty comes from the gameplay issues discussed.
7 / 10. (Optimal for natural difficulty: 5/10)
Great For a Road Trip - Overall: 7.0 / 10
Graphics : 9 * 25% = 2.25
Sound / Music : 8 * 25% = 2.0
Addictiveness : 4 * 25% = 1.0
Story : 2 * 5% = 0.1
Depth : 8 * 10% = 0.8
Difficulty : 7 * 10% -- 0.8 (Optimal difficulty was 5/10)
Sum = Overall Score = 7.0 / 10.0
To sum up, Underground 2
is the perfect game for a road trip. There’s lots of content, it has a killer combination of quality graphics and nice music, and it’s not overly difficult. It fixed many of the issues of Underground
, but still has several issues that don’t get fixed until later games. But I would like to note that this game is the most unique of the series. It wasn’t at all what I expected it to be like, and in many categories, there’s a wild difference between what most of the other NFS ports received and what this one did.
The developers were clearly testing out some new ideas, and it’s unfortunate that they only ended up keeping a few of the good changes for later games.
If you plan on looking over the major NFS ports on the GBA, this is not one to skip over.
Check it out.