GC 2008: Need For Speed Undercover Preview
Written Saturday, September 27, 2008 By Dan WebbView author's profile
Let’s face it... The Need For Speed series has been fading for some time now. A series that I personally once held in high regard has now become a distant memory for me and since Most Wanted, the series has become what can only be described as a directionless mess. I don’t necessarily mean the games were bad, but since Most Wanted, the series has taken another more, unpopular route. Naturally, when the Undercover announcement dropped and hinted at old skool ways, our ears pricked up and our attention was grabbed. Can Undercover really re-establish the series?
Need For Speed Undercover throws you in to the shoes of a hotshot street racer who is recruited to become an undercover agent with the primary goal of infiltrating an organised crime syndicate to take them down. Typical Hollywood movie stuff really and very reminiscent of the “plot” in The Fast and the Furious. In typical Hollywood movie style, EA have signed up the talented Maggie Q (Die Hard 4, Mission Impossible 3) to play your handler so expect to see LOTS of her.
The Undercover game world is broken up in to 4 sections (Palm Harbour, Port Crescent, Sunset Hills and an unpopulated canyon road area) and together, they make up the Tri-City Bay which contains about 135 kilometres of road. Each section is linked by a gigantic highway that circles the map which takes about 6 and a half minutes to complete a lap, best thing is though, that the entire city is open from the start so you’re free to take a look round.
The game runs on the “Heroic” driving engine and features an intuitive handling system. Undercover is an action-driving experience and rewards players on style, a bit like Project Gotham, so every time you perform a drift round the corner and the like, you’ll get points which go towards a levelling system. The game also features a damage system but only in a visual sense as EA didn’t want to hamper the action-driving experience and I must say, the car models look absolutely fantastic.
New to the series in Undercover is the “highway battle” which is a fast paced cat and mouse mode that will attempt to put the speed back in Need For Speed (Jeez! Did I really just say that!?). The highway battle takes place on the highways funnily enough and is more about tactics and collateral damage than just driving fast. It’s a straight A to B point race but you can use the cars around you on the highway to slow your opponent down, or similarly, they can use it to slow you down. A mode that will surely be popular amongst fans of the series.
The feel of the cars from a handling perspective differs from car to car. When we got the chance to get behind the wheel of an Audi RS4, it felt really clunky and heavy, but when we jumped behind the wheel of the Porsche Carrera, everything about the world felt so right. The car was quick, looked amazing and the handling was as you would expect from this lightweight sports car. The extensive customisation makes a welcome return to the series as well, so if you don’t like how your car looks, then give it a paint job and customise that to suit your needs.
The missions we managed to take a peek at were fairly basic in nature, take this car here for so and so, but they were early on in the game so we have a feeling that they will get more and more complex. The game features plenty of different race as well, from more straight up races, some strategic to some that are more aggressive in nature, over 200 in fact.
Although not much was unveiled as far as Undercover went at Leipzig this year and we still fear that the series hasn’t gone far enough back to its old skool roots. Sure, the highway races are a step in the right direction, but they still don’t seem to offer the pizzazz and intensity that the once series standard high speed cop chases could offer. However, there is a lot unannounced yet, so we’ll reserve our judgement till that time... Let’s hope we haven’t scratched the surface yet.
Need For Speed Undercover is available on Xbox 360, PS3 and PC on November 18th (North America) and November 21st (Europe).