Most Despicable Product Placement
Car games, especially ones about tuning and customizing your whip, need to have a lot of product placement for the sake of realism. That's not a big deal in Need for Speed Underground 2. Of course we want a real car, with Brembo brakes, and a fat Kenwood sticker on the windshield. That's a reflection of real life. But where the game takes it over the line is in its completely annoying and completely obvious name-dropping. The most blatant instance of all is the fact that a mobile-phone provider's logo is on the screen at all times. Constantly. Your voicemail/text message interface expands the logo into the full name of the company, ensuring that there's no mistaking what, exactly, the game is forcing upon you.Worst Use of Celebrity Voices >>
But wait, there's more! Act now, and see various commercial landmarks placed in the game at no extra cost to you! When you're trying to create a realistic city, inserting actual businesses can make an area feel a little truer to life. Need for Speed Underground 2 not only includes actual businesses, but it also makes sure you know where they are by putting things near them and then sending you messages that say things like, "The hidden parts shop is marked by a red light near the Burger King(TM)." Next time, work out your legalese ahead of time, instead of having to insert trademark symbols directly in the game. Wait--next time, remember that games already cost somewhere between $40 and $50, and inserting ads in them to collect even more money on top of what's already coming in (especially with this volume and frequency) is a dirty, dirty practice. Either pass the savings on to the consumer or reduce the number of ads. It's as simple as that.
With its cavalcade of blatant product placements, Need for Speed Underground 2 easily wins our award for Most Despicable Product Placement for 2004. Let's hope we don't need to have this category next year.