Need for Speed Undercover Hands-On

The latest entry in EA's long-running racing series looks to the past while throwing in some interesting new features.

Only in the context of video games will you hear people clamor on about how they wish they were being chased by the cops, but that's just what many Need for Speed fans have been doing since 2005's Most Wanted. Well, the boys in blue are back for Need for Speed Undercover, and so is the open-world setting that last year's ProStreet sacrificed in favor of quartered-off racing courses. But it's not as though developer EA Black Box has gone into full-on time-travel mode for the latest entry in this long-running series. For every nod to the series' past, you'll find something new like Hollywood-style driving techniques designed to help you elude the police, new events and skill-building systems, and a step toward more mature, less hammy storytelling.

Need for Speed Undercover is swapping the professional racing circuits and nighttime neon lights of the past two games in favor of an open-world Gulf Coast locale. Known as Tri-City Bay, this collection of floating-bridge freeways, dirt roads, and industrial shipping yards is set in the postsunrise, presunset time of day when the sun sits low in the sky and covers everything in a golden light. There seems to be a lot of diversity, and the race events take good advantage of that. One of the Sprint Race events we took part in--a supercar showdown featuring the likes of the Carerra GT and Pagani Zonda--took us from the highway to a high school football field to a millionaire's marble driveway before arriving at the finish line in a freeway tunnel. It's definitely a big world, too. We're told you can drive the fastest car in the game and it would take you a solid eight minutes to circumnavigate the entire world at top speed.

If only the police knew your undercover cop driver was one of them.

One of the ways Black Box is looking to expand your driving abilities without necessarily changing the way cars handle is through what it's calling the Heroic Driving Engine, a system that allows you to achieve a new level of agility on the road. One of the ways it's done this is by removing the persistent relationship between a car's direction and the perspective of the camera. If you're flying down the road, you can jam on the brakes while jerking the control stick to the side and watch as your car does a 180 at speed while the camera remains firmly in place. It's not just for show; if you've thrown your car into reverse like this, you can double-tap the gas and your driver will come to a screeching halt and take off in the opposite direction. This entails the opposite scenario as before--your car will remain facing the same way while the camera turns around, saving you a good bit of time compared to the old-fashioned three-point turn. When you successfully engage in these types of moves, you'll be rewarded with RPG-style experience points that will upgrade your driving abilities.

As a way of maintaining balance with your newfound driving skills, EA Black Box is bringing back the police to keep you challenged as you wreak havoc on the roads of Tri-City Bay. Driver AI has been enhanced so that if you do something particularly stupid like nudge someone off the road at 90 miles per hour, you'll have the cops called on you. In other situations, you'll have them on your tail at the start of a mission, like in the Driver Job event we tried that had us stealing a police cruiser (a Nissan GT-R squad car, of all things) and bring it to a shop to sell it off. No matter the origins, getting rid of the cops is the same: You need to put some distance between you and the police cars, and if there's a helicopter, you need to find a tunnel or bridge to hide under.

As you progress through the game's story--a tale about a police officer so deep undercover that only a few people know who he is--the narration will unfold in the traditional cutscene format of the Need for Speed series. This time around, there's a new focus on taking these video sequences out of the stone age and into the modern era, where games don't need to remain stuck in the trappings of the mid-'90s. What this means is cutscenes shot on a live set rather than a green screen, real actors (well, at least the main characters--we're not sure if Jessica Alba's brother playing a side role counts as a real actor), and a director pulled from the show 24. Based on the three cutscenes we saw, these ingredients have come together to form a more mature look for the series. You'll have the chance to see how well the whole package comes together when Need for Speed Undercover is released on November 17.

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Discussion

510 comments
phantomscypher
phantomscypher

Sound awesome! Hope the controls are good and not just hyped-up and turn out like crap.

DavidRI
DavidRI

Haven't really cared for this series since Hot Pursuit 2. If the physics/handling is improved maybe worth a look. I've been getting my high speed fix with grid lately...

team-mazda3
team-mazda3

before wasting my money , i'll try it , if the handling is good , i'll buy it .

lucitribal
lucitribal

best games ever:1-under cover-maby 2-flat out 2-carnage with muscle-cars! 3-nfs underground 1-yes,1. 4-nfs mw-best pursuit game ever 5-flat-out 1-a game with grate damage but way 2 hard 2 play 6-nfs underground 2-ultimate tuning 50-pro street-if u like driving bricks u will love this...driving bricks on a track.... 99,9-carbon-bricks on the street....

lucitribal
lucitribal

is there better handling in the game??carbon and pro street have brick handling.and also is the damage real??(the nfs guys should take a look at Flat Out 2).also,r neons,engine cosmetics,etc on???i loved them in the underground series.what muscle-cars r in the game?i have a lot of questions.i hope the game is more dinamic than ps.

DeathZone_xen
DeathZone_xen

at last, they get that the NFS Most Wanted is the most wanted racing game out there and released a new adventure.... Most wanted was a big big hit and still is as I find my self playing it again and again....

Juliandavidea86
Juliandavidea86

where I can download the demo , I will not buy a game that like carbon or pro-street

punkdsk8erdude
punkdsk8erdude

look at the screenshots number 4, 5, and 6. dont you guys think that the graphics on the next wave of systems should be at least that good? i think so. thats like the next step up from what weve got now. can't wait for that lol. anyway, as far as this game goes, definitely a must buy. love most wanted. carbon...eh. prostreet...nay. so prostreet graphics...better cops than in most wanted...hmm...great mix right there =] plus all the new stuff lik highway battles sound awesome. im getting this AND MC:LA. they will both be great. and for those of u who dont know, just compare MC3 to NFSMW, they play very very differently, although classified as the same genre. to me, its worth getting both, definitely.

Robairto7
Robairto7

i cant wait i loved most wanted and carbon was decently fun, i wasnt much for prostreet sadly but i loved barely getting away from the cops with tires popped (carbon) or just ploughing throw a roadblock at 300km in most wanted

Robairto7
Robairto7

i cant wait i loved most wanted and carbon was decently fun, i wasnt much for prostreet sadly but i loved barely getting away from the cops with tires popped (carbon) or just ploughing throw a roadblock at 300km in most wanted

marimai
marimai

oh my god!!! I play the DEMO and it's great

jps3
jps3

have to admit i never like need for speed games but i might just try this like i did with most wanted and carbon even though i ended up not liking those as much as i like midnight clubs or burnouts

remark666
remark666

hotrider12, if u hate nfs so much now then just stick with burnout or GT5, i dont know why ur getting so worked up over this... anyway, this game looks good but i totaly agree with s33k "...underground 2 idea( engine tuning..manually....and freeroam..and challenges and stuff...) ....most wanted world....and prostreet grapics"

bobgeoman
bobgeoman

As always,(except ProStreet), it looks like a very interesting NFS, but we'll have to wait and see...

jcbadboy
jcbadboy

In my opinion games are evoluting, and nfs series are not. Alway the same thing: drive, drive, drive, nothing diferent. We need to see another game with this version to dont to see the end of the series.

hotrider12
hotrider12

NFS DONT SEEM TO BE NEED FOR SPEED ANY MORE NOT EVEN A COPY OF FAST AND THE FERIOUS MORE LIKE THE MOVIE SPEED RACER AND THAT SUCKED!!!!!!

hotrider12
hotrider12

TO BOBAZZ GRAND TERISMO 5 WILL OWN THIS PIECE OF CRAP NFS I DONT HATE NFS MATTER OF FACT I LOVE NFS BUT SINCE UNDERGROUND ITS BEEN ALL DOWN HILL. ANY OLD SCHOOL GAMER CAN TELL YOU THAT. 2009 YOU BETTER HAVE AT LEASE HOTPURSUIT 3 SH'T!!!!!!!!

bobazz
bobazz

this game will probaly own

rickierox
rickierox

November seems to be holding a lot of Promising games... What with Warcraft & NFS UnderCover & GTA-IV & all that. I can't wait. Release them already :( GTA-IV for iPhone anybody? ;)

goldstarchilli
goldstarchilli

i am going to rent this game first i will not throw $63 away before trying it.....

tzamisce
tzamisce

@i _got_you60 I'd like to see a system that would make it less of an necessity. Perhaps having a number of different preset tunes that you can go in and modify if you want to customize performance to your specific driving style, rather than having to modify your style to match the performance capabilities of a car. Keep the heavy emphasis on tuning and customization, but design the game so that those who do not enjoy that aspect can play, and compete, without it.

Ahmid_milad
Ahmid_milad

cant wait but i hope EA live up to their name and have learned the lesson from pro-street

hotrider12
hotrider12

you say this game is a MUST BUY?? must buy my a$$

hotrider12
hotrider12

DID EA REALLY LEARNED THEIR LESSON???? FROM PROSTREETS??? WE'LL SEE IN NOV. KNOWING EA I WOULD NOT BET MY LIFE ON IT. THIS GAME GOING TO SUCK BUT NOT AS MUCH AS PROSTREETS, I'LL RENT IT FIRST.

DrBombay
DrBombay

Ok, EA learned the lesson of Pro Street - it's the "bad boy" fantasy that does it. This is fantasy, remember? But unlike most of you, I don't like the police aspect at all. We're invincible and own the streets. We rule. Not the cops, they're not fantasy. The game is about fantasy, remember?

Nc7
Nc7

mmm...still not sure about the final result,NFS series touched reached its climax with the 1st episode,then worth playing was just Porsche Unleashed and Hot Pursuit. The rest was just searching for graphics and poor phisics.stop.

hadi241
hadi241

after highstake - porsche unlished - u2 & most wanted i i i i just wait for shift upppppppp

NND1
NND1

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

NND1
NND1

Thank You EA Simulation is often boring and just plain sucks!@

s33k
s33k

i wish there was ...underground 2 idea( engine tuning..manually....and freeroam..and challenges and stuff...) ....most wanted world....and prostreet grapics.........it would kick ass x)))

y512516
y512516

I don't like this, each car should ha ve its own characteristics,not just the difference of RWD AWd ,etc,how t o car handle,luggish,agile,haeavy.... But this sort of upgarde thing thake the fun away

y512516
y512516

I don't like this, each car should ha ve its own characteristics,not just the difference of RWD AWd ,etc,how t o car handle,luggish,agile,haeavy.... But this sort of upgarde thing thake the fun away

aj7v
aj7v

bill86 test drive unlimited is an mmo

hotrider12
hotrider12

hotrider12 Posted Sep 29, 2008 3:25 pm GMT TO EVERYONE . IF YOU ANY OF YOU WANT EA TO MAKE HOTPURSUIT 3 AND HIGHSTAKES 2 HERE IS BLACKBOX ADDRESS EA CANADA/BLACKBOX STUDIO 4330 SANDERSON WAY BURNABY, BRITISH COLUMBIA CANADA ZIP CODE V7X1M6 ATTENTION: BILL HARRISON

kicinder
kicinder

Aaaaaaah, que buenos tiempos los del Most Wanted, espero con ansias este titulo, es un espectaculo. Por favor quiero Muscles!!! Please give me Muscle cars!!! Sorry for my English, jeje.

meta_foxx278
meta_foxx278

Still not impressed. NFS seriously needs to go back to it's roots, and stop with all this crap they're doing now. Go back to doing Hot Pursuit 2. That was fun. Underground and Underground 2 were kind of fun, but after that, it's all a boatload of crap.

hotrider12
hotrider12

i hope they cut the crap with this storyline an tuning bulls*** and focus more on racing rather then customising your ride and **** . i mean comeon man nfs hp and high stakes were like the best games ever.iam not saying that i didnot enjoy mw it was a great game just not as good as the past nfs games.ea should ditch this tuning crap and give us something now just like when they came up with underground i agree with 100% i _got_you60 I did not enjoy mostwanted either and why in hell EA added storyline in its games???

cf_Kage
cf_Kage

bill86, if you want that, buy Burnout Paradise :| Haha, its just that and more :p

dddddddo
dddddddo

I was dieing for "Porsche Unleashed", back old days.

i_got_you60
i_got_you60

i hope they cut the crap with this storyline an tuning bulls*** and focus more on racing rather then customising your ride and **** . i mean comeon man nfs hp and high stakes were like the best games ever.iam not saying that i didnot enjoy mw it was a great game just not as good as the past nfs games.ea should ditch this tuning crap and give us something now just like when they came up with undergroud

Lauda1
Lauda1

the only thing i missed in carbon was daylight, so hopefully in nfsu they got everything right.

IceQBkid
IceQBkid

@ bill86 there already is a racing mmo rpg its called Drift City but its quite s***

theunloved
theunloved

Well, I can say for one I'm happy they turned it back around. I didn't like Prostreet (in my view), but I loved Most Wanted. I'll be picking this one up for sure.

hotrider12
hotrider12

TO EVERYONE . IF YOU ANY OF YOU WANT EA TO MAKE HOTPURSUIT 3 AND HIGHSTAKES 2 HERE IS BLACKBOX ADDRESS EA CANADA/BLACKBOX STUDIO 4330 SANDERSON WAY BURNABY, BRITISH COLUMBIA CANADA ZIP CODE V7X1M6 ATTENTION: BILL HARRISON