Need for Speed Undercover Review

I feel the need for speed.

Review by Darren Cartledge
Published 12th January 2009

Need for Speed Undercover

  • Developer: Black Box
  • Publisher: EA Games
  • Release Date: 21st November 2008

The Need for Speed games have changed a lot in the series history, going from arcade style road racers to story driven street racing and even legal tuner shows. However, with Need for Speed: Undercover the series goes back to its routes offering action orientated driving with high octane police chases.

Unlike many of the series more recent games Need for Speed isn’t as story focused instead placing you in the role of an undercover agent trying to infiltrate a gang of car thieves with the help of an FBI fixer and that’s about if for the story.

The game itself is based in an open world environment like EA’s Burnout Paradise, you drive around and activate events and so on when the prompt appears at the bottom of the screen. Events are quite varied having you take part in point to point races, circuit races and one on one races. You will also have to take part in some events that are a little more fun then simply driving around the city streets at full throttle. For instance there are events in which you have to cause as much damage as possible within a set time, whilst others will have you trying to escape the games very enthusiastic police.

Apart from the events in which the cities finest are supposed to chase you, you will also encounter pulsating police chases if they see you doing something you shouldn’t be, such as speed, hitting other cars and so on. Police will also chase you on sight once your heat level increases, the higher the level the more police units will be dispatched, and should they catch you there’ll be a big bill to get your car back from the impound! However, if you don’t have the cash or it’s the third time you’ve been busted expect to say goodbye to your car. Potentially losing your car in this manner gives police chases an extra edge as you really do have something to lose should you be caught. Getting away from the police can also be quite problematic as the AI is pretty tough especially when more and more police join the chase and set up road blocks, deploy helicopters and spike strips in order to stop you.

As with previous Need for Speed games Undercover allows you to buy new cars, the game hasn’t got the biggest selection to choose from but there are some pretty impressive machines to get your hands on. The game also employs an upgrade and customisation system just as in previous games, however it’s not the most extensive ever seen in a videogame.

The games online element is largely disappointing featuring sprint and circuit races and a Cops and Robbers mode which is kind of like capture the flag. One team has to play as the robbers whilst the other the cops. The robbers have to find the money then drop it off at a safe house while the cops do anything they can to stop them, it sounds pretty good fun and is at first, however it does quickly become boring. The games online performance is solid with no noticeable lag or drop in frame rates.

Visually Need for Speed Undercover looks ok, the cars look fantastic when out on the street with some excellent lighting effects, however strangely they look a little out of proportion when browsing through your garage. The game environments are large, however they are fairly bland with only a few areas that stand out from the rest.

Audio in the game is good, with authentic car sounds, police sirens and so on. The games soundtrack is a pretty upbeat techno mix that fits in well with the onscreen action although many will struggle to recognise any of the songs included in the game. The games story is progressed through live action cut-scenes which are fairly well acted out.

After the disappointing Need for Speed: Pro Street EA had to re-think their plans for this once much loved franchise and with Undercover they have certainly done that taking the series back to the days of Hot Pursuit, however for fans who had become accustomed to the playing style of Most Wanted and Carbon this may be a step too far back for their liking.

Review Score: 6.8/10

Please note, this review was scored using our old system. For more information please see our review policy.

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