Need for Speed Undercover Updated Hands-On

We venture deep into the criminal underground to explore more of this open-world racer.

When we last had a look at Need for Speed Undercover, it was during a visit to the EA booth at last month's Tokyo Game Show. While the relative sanity of EA offered a nice, reassuring slice of home amid the Katamari-rolling cosplayers and broomstick-riding arcade machines, the demo we saw gave us only a quick peek at what this open-world racer will deliver when it's released on November 18. Recently, though, we've spent some time with the first several hours of Need for Speed Undercover to explore some of the things you can do once you go undercover in the Tri-City Bay with little more than a police badge and some sweet driving skills to your name.

Police are back, and more tenacious than ever.

One of the coolest things Undercover has going for it is a very thin, often nonexistent line between theatrics and gameplay, and that's evident from the very beginning. The intro cinematic shows a Nissan 370Z leading a frantic police chase. Quick and stylized camerawork shows the freeway chase from all angles, but suddenly the camera swings behind the car and you're thrust into the driver's seat when you were just about ready to grab another handful of popcorn. The only way to evade the police is to put enough distance between you and them so that you can lie low for a while and see your wanted level creep low enough for an escape. But it's not easy: The police in Undercover are a tough bunch who will create roadblocks, lay spike strips, and follow you headlong into oncoming traffic and the narrowest alleys if need be. But they also have a human side, and you can hear their excellent chatter through the radio that reacts contextually to the maneuvers and acts of destruction you pull off.

Once you complete this introductory chase scene, you're given your first taste of the game's video cutscenes. This intro sequence shows two police officers discussing an underground criminal racing club with possible links to an international smuggling ring. Actress Maggie Q plays a police inspector who has come up with the idea to plant an undercover cop deep into this group of thugs, which is where you come in. The rest of the game's cinematics--which are of the low-light, quick-cut style you'd find in a show like 24--tell the story of your progression through the ranks of this auto enthusiast club, and they tend to straddle the line between Hollywood cop films and the delightfully cheesy Need for Speed full-motion videos of old.

Making your way through the game's story missions requires you to build up your wheelman level, which can be done in a variety of ways. You can add points by just cruising around the open-world Tri-City Bay setting and performing heroic driving maneuvers, which is developer Black Box's term for driving on the distant edge of safety without quite falling off. Full-speed 180s, powerslides, nitrous drifts, and brakestands are a few of the heroic driving maneuvers that can be done to add wheelman rep points. This also has the side benefit of giving you driver skills, which increase your abilities with a car outside the usual garage modifications done to the cars themselves.

You can collect new cars by earning money through events or winning them in pink slip races.

Another important means of increasing your wheelman level is participating in the dozens of side missions scattered throughout the Tri-City Bay. Events include basic races like Sprint and Circuit, exercises in destruction like Cost to State and Cop Takeout, and one-on-one races like Outrun and Highway Battle. You can also do jobs for car thieves, which require you to take a hot car to a chop shop while outrunning a legion of angry cops, all while making sure you don't damage the car too much. Accessing these events is as simple as hitting up on the D pad to access your GPS map, or hitting down on the D pad to jump straight into the nearest available event. This system of accessing events means you can spend almost zero downtime between the events or take all the time in the world if you want to.

Pulling up the GPS map also gives you access to nearby auto shops--but only once you've befriended the criminal types necessary to gain access to these establishments. Once you get them on your map, you can pop in to customize your car in numerous ways. There's the layman's quick upgrade, where you can choose to upgrade power or handling, the more detailed upgrade packages that let you improve things like drivetrain and forced induction, and some tuning sliders that let you customize those parts you've already purchased. In addition to these options, you can add custom paint and vinyl jobs to your car, purchase aftermarket body mods, or just buy a new car altogether with the cash you've earned in events. Your options in the latter category include the modest Ford Focus ST all the way up to the slightly more upscale Bugatti Veyron 16.4 (zero to 60 in 2.46 seconds).

Anyone new to the world of racing games should find Need for Speed Undercover to be a relatively accessible experience. The handling of the cars is on the forgiving side, events never achieve frustrating status, and police chases are grueling but totally winnable with enough patience and clever route-taking. You can also tip the odds in your favor in both police chases and street races by using pursuit breakers, which are essentially booby traps you can trigger to sabotage competitors. For example, driving through a billboard stand might send the signage toppling onto those tailing you, while clipping a stand holding up concrete pipes could create a similar result.

The HUD will let you know precisely how much the cops want you dead.

Altogether, Need for Speed looks like a promising package. It's an open-world racer where you can keep the action going at all times, and its accessibility is complemented by a wide variety of maneuvers and plenty of real-life cars. You can look forward to seeing our final word when the review for Need for Speed Undercover hits right around the November 18 release.

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Discussion

341 comments
Et1Ghost
Et1Ghost

I have been a keen supporter of the NFS series from day one. It all started with the original NFS years ago and then shortly after that NFS SE1, NFS 2, NFS 3 etc and I was hooked but to be honest the last game I actually enjoyed was Underground 2. Don't get me wrong though EA succeeded to change little things in each new game to keep us interested but it is not good enough for me any more. I am a big car fanatic and I do racing in the real world as well and the whole reason I love games like the GTR 2, Live for Speed and the GT series on PS is because the driving dynamics are accurate (well as close as you'll probably get sitting on your sofa). After Underground 2 EA just stuffed the driving dynamics completely trying to cater for the greater public by going more arcade. That in my mind was the worst decision ever made... WHAT WHERE THEY THINKING??? The whole reason I loved NFS was exactly for the that reason, controlling the car's power and as a bonus pimping it to suite my taste. Oh, and one other thing, what happened to the Ferrari's?? Anyway, I can continue like this for a long, long time. The point is that Pro Street was the last straw... I have owned, played and completed ALL the NFS games but I will not buy this game. The irony is that EA probably look at these "negative" comments and think, "ah well, we'll get 300 other guys that will love the game". One thing is for certain though, EA has lost a religious follower of the NFS series in me.

derone
derone

really,you guys on gamespot are anti ps3.why all games for ps3 have like 6.5 and xbox360 version have 7.0?! all versions have bugs,i play them both and are the same....

raivioli94
raivioli94

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

javierkatana
javierkatana

Since its development cycle began before the NFS prostreet fiasco, they though a pimped out NFS hot pursuit with the Boliwood quality of NFS Most Wanted could make a great game, I agree on that formula, even the car rooster is great. But after 6 hours, I can say I feel in a 90s racing game, were cars feel like floating machines with industrial glue all over (touch a wall and youll learn about it). The cops A.I. its mediocre at best. The directX 9 effects work very well hiding the dumb gameplay, not easy just dumb. I like how EA beyond the hate it deserves, still tries to push Real acting and well written scripts in games, but, big shame that the dialogues and the acting from EA games, still make us miss poligonal characters that offer greater emotions even though most cant even lipsync. Again, this is due to the Jhon Cheapitello yearly launch strategy. About the graphics, youll see less poligon count than in gran turismo 2, but the Sun glow, nitro blur and shiny shaders will make hard to notice at first, 2 hours later, cop cars are box with hexagonal wheels, the has little traffic, the enviroments feel washed and empty. The courses have go cart complexity. Physics?, the "All new damage model" uses all of your cpu power to calculate 2 parts (hoods, bumpers) that have to modes of damage (loose and abit more loose). Buy Grid or even Midnight club and stay with them until EA looses a clas action suit for "Releasing Mediocre games just because they are big franchises and theyll still sale"

manofcars
manofcars

The games isn't that great. there is a lot of loading time between races and the driving just feels fake. i prefer driving like Burnout Paradise or Midnight Club La, but this just feels fake.

-Bebe
-Bebe

All the pictures looks awesome, all the talking makes you want to buy it so bad! lol... just got the game and to tell you the truth it sucks! I can't believe it... I'm glad I still got underground 2 lol

a7x-
a7x-

no way im gonna pay for such crap!.

truevar
truevar

do not buy this mediocore garbage they call NFS

pitzr
pitzr

i've played for about 2 hours and the game it's quite good... the answer for you ib_banging is: Minimum System Requirements: Windows XP (Service Pack 2 or greater): 3.0 GHz Intel Pentium 4 or equivalent 512 MB of RAM DirectX 9.0c Compatible 3D accelerated 128 MB Video card or equivalent

kojo31
kojo31

P.S...Put free roam in GRID, and I don`t have to hear about NFS ever again!!!

kojo31
kojo31

I`m sorry to say that Undercover is a box full of promises that just fails to deliver...This style of nfs is getting old. It just isn`t a thrill anymore...I`ve played it for about an hour and I have to say that so far...it just doesn`t deliver. Not much has changed since carbon, so when playing Undercover, it looks like a Carbon sequel. I hoped of a more thrilling expereince, that gets harder as you advance, but that doesn`t seem to be the case. The only bright spot that I see in Undercover is the carlist, which is amazing!!! But the rest....I think it`s time that EA stopped with this series and tries to make a racing game with more action and less repetition...which the NFS series has become!

ib_banging
ib_banging

Any idea what the required specs are for this game?

jamey5
jamey5

omg i just soiled myself this looks amazing

jokes-solidkill
jokes-solidkill

same game new story new cars they they just make something new and interesting

ArtemioZ17
ArtemioZ17

4 days left WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! cant wait until friday!!!!!!!!!!!

why9090909090
why9090909090

I'm getting this game no matter what. It comes with most of my favorite cars Audi Rs4 Audi R8 Chevrolet Chevelle and of course, The GT-R

pitzr
pitzr

EXCELLENT! but i'll have to wait till it comes to argentina :(

Grey_Man
Grey_Man

I can't say whether it will be good or bad but I'm going to wait till it comes out.

R-i-c-h-a-r-d
R-i-c-h-a-r-d

Does anyone else find this "The Fast and The Furious" storyline a bit old? Bring back the good old days of NFS: Hot Pursuit 2 when the music was great and the standard cars were brilliant. Less of this "Pimp My Ride" crap!

czar357
czar357

Game will be better than all the previous NFS except the underground series. Thumbs up if you want to see them make UNDERGROUND 3!

Baramos6
Baramos6

damn this game looks good, screw that early review, this game is going to be great

odisho68
odisho68

still miss NFS Hot Pursuit

ads182
ads182

does anyone know how the customization options are like for the cars?

Anteraan
Anteraan

I could spend some time around T-giving checking this out....

sp33dyknight03
sp33dyknight03

ounce undercover comes out i'm going right to gamestop and its only about 3 miles away from my house!

manikrrish
manikrrish

this should have a final race like most wanted had..

Paddi70
Paddi70

As stated earlier, those who want real racing, get a license and an Impreza, or GRID. For those who want just driving chaos and fun, I think this is going to be it. I love Most wanted. Pro street and Carbon were not a match on it. I hope EA recover and give us all something fun. But so far it does look good:)

ArtemioZ17
ArtemioZ17

I agree it looks like a mix of underground 2 and most wanted WHICH IS AWESOME BECAUSE THEY ARE THE 2 BEST Need For Speed GAMES!!!!!!!!! ps: ONLY 9 DAYS TO GO UNTIL ITS OUT IN BRITAIN

masamune8
masamune8

No matter what happens it's always going to be better than prostreet.

sp33dyknight03
sp33dyknight03

i'm thinking that this is going to be a nice game!!

gutino5
gutino5

underground 2 + most wanted = Undercover.

manshoma
manshoma

If we could just play as cops in single player ....

cru3
cru3

NFS is arcade racing. If you want stupid real world (ie, annoying) driving physics, go play GRID or something.

yatatabien
yatatabien

YESSSSSSSSSSS Any NFS ala Most wanted is an epic win!

dobeslao
dobeslao

fantastic, bad boyz, bad boyz, what you gonna du?

J2C3K
J2C3K

thank god the cops are back. the last nfs was terrible...

arvinth1
arvinth1

so r we goin to be to undercover cop when were playing?

ecw1983
ecw1983

UH oh, Guys look at the console wars going on in the L4D hand on comments

wesle
wesle

underground 2 + most wanted + hollywood = Undercover. nuf said

fasist
fasist

looks good bot i think it will not be like privios parts :(

ArtemioZ17
ArtemioZ17

only 10 days to go until its out WOW!!!!

kiko_lazevski
kiko_lazevski

If this game is even close to Most Wanted it should be awesome

imomody
imomody

احلى حاجة انهم رجعوا سباق الشوارع هايرجعونا تانى نلعب موست وانتيد بس بعربيات اجدد وجرافيك زي الفل قشطة عليكوا

DeadlySpartanII
DeadlySpartanII

i hope they keep the handling of the car like carbon, unlike Most wanted, i had to slow time to make turns

alastair1978
alastair1978

"The handling of the cars is on the forgiving side"... FAIL... Again