Need for Speed Underground Updated Impressions

We take an updated look at EA's slick entry in the Need for Speed franchise.

At a press event today EA showed off a more complete version of Need for Speed Underground on the GameCube, PlayStation 2, and Xbox. The emphasis of the day was on the drift racing mode, as several well-known drift racers were on hand to demo the technique in real life. We had a chance to try out the game across the various platforms and have been impressed by the progress that's been made.

The drift racing modes in Need for Speed Underground offer a very cool marriage of an excellent re-creation of the physics of the technique and a logical scoring system. Basically, you earn points based on three main factors: your speed, how long you hold your drift, and how sideways your car is during your skid. The amount of points you earn is boosted by skidding over parts of the track designated as bonus areas. These bonus areas yield some extra points as well as yielding a modifier that you'll build up during your skids. The catch to the modifier is that the amount of times it increases your score lowers if you reduce your speed too much.

The courses in the drift mode feature a polished learning curve, thanks to a series of tracks whose designs increase in difficulty as you clear them. The track designs start simply enough as they feature basic layouts that make use of reasonably sharp turns. These sharp turns are spread out to allow you ample time to recover from your skid. You do have the option of getting fancy and extending your first skid into the next one. Later tracks, however, have you gripping the controller--and sometimes cursing--due to wicked designs that feature extremely sharp turns in rapid succession. There are other evil twists in the tracks as well. The plus side to the harder tracks is that once you're in the zone, it's possible to whip through them and rack up an insane number of points, which unlocks some extras.

Once you perfect your skills in the offline PlayStation 2 drift modes, you can go online and test your skills against up to four other players to find out who can rack up the most points. In your online game you're able to race on any track opened in the single-player mode, and you can compete against PC players, which adds a new level of competition to the proceedings.

While we weren't able to properly dig in to the various builds at the EA event, we will be doing so shortly. Look for more impressions on the game soon. Need for Speed Underground is slated to ship in November for the GameCube, PC, PlayStation 2, Xbox, and Game Boy Advance.

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