Need for Speed: Undercover (Nintendo DS) - Review by Andrew



While there are few things certain in the modern world you can always rely on EA to roll out the latest installment of their Need for Speed franchise in an effort to claim the Christmas number one spot yet again. This year's outing goes all big budget Hollywood with a professionally scripted and shot storyline starring Maggie Q. It also re-introduces classic cop chases and some spectacular highway battles. Well, that's what the PR blurb says anyway but is it any good?


Undercover, unsurprisingly, has you playing an undercover cop attempting to infiltrate a group of illegal drivers and it's this storyline which allows you to play in the many gaming modes. To impress the underworld you'll need to prove your driving skills and you'll have to pass their various tests as they challenge you to Sprint Races and Circuits around the city streets. Once you've competed these they'll up the stakes and you'll be given the job of stealing 'hot' cars and delivering them to a safe house or perhaps causing as much destruction to city property as possible. Probably best of all are the Highway Races where you must weave in and out of the traffic in an attempt to catch up with the other racer. If things get out of control you'll also have to put on your cop's uniform chasing down criminals and delivering them to the city prison. All of these have a monetary value that you're awarded on completion and that can be used to purchase new cars and upgrades. EA have also included an on-line Multiplayer this time around although, at the time of writing, we had trouble actually connecting to a game of any description.


Early on in the game you'll find that the majority of your cars are responsive and easy to control even as you navigate some of the more difficult back-roads. The same is not true of the more powerful cars, which seem to have little in the way of road holding, they constantly bounce around and hit the safety barriers as soon as you engage the turbo. You can, of course, avoid all this by slowing down but this will mean all your competitors passing you and crossing the finish line first.


The DS has made leaps and bounds in terms of graphics over the past couple of years and Undercover is one of the better examples of a free roaming world although some of the textures aren't what they could be. Elsewhere the cars are suitably detailed and most pleasing of all there's no drop out on the frame-rate even when you are tearing around the tracks at great speed. What has been scaled back, for this DS release, is the Hollywood storyline so rather than featuring FMV (which we know the DS can handle) you are instead treated to a bunch of cut screens which do tell a story of sorts but not nearly as effectively as the console versions do.


EA, once again, roll out their huge library of music and while most of it is instrumental it's still very good and matches the on-screen action perfectly. The sound effects are also all present and correct but as with the visuals the voiceover has also been scaled back, in this case, to nothing at all.

Dual screen

Other than the rather useful map, absolutely nothing.

Final comments

There's no question that the Need for Speed series has varied in quality over the past few years especially on the DS. Refreshingly, Undercover is one of the more enjoyable titles in the series and arcade racer enthusiasts will be delighted with the number of mission based events included here. There are some downsides to all this though; not only are many of the tracks simply 'recycled' but the various upgrades have little effect on your performance. Also although your opponents start off positively dumb they will, later on in the game, race past you and you have little chance of catching them up. Overall though Underground is a very enjoyable little racer and while not the greatest example of the genre it's still one of the better ones available.

Pro: Loads of Tracks and Cars to Choose From
Con: Changeable Opponent AI, Lots of Repetition
Final score: 7.1


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Boxart of Need for Speed: Undercover (Nintendo DS)
Platform: Nintendo DS
Genre: Racing
Developer: Black Box
Publisher: Electronic Arts