One of the few good Need for Speed games.
A successor to the last installment, Underground, the story continues off with the Player finishing a race, getting ambushed, totaling his car, and for some odd reason, moves to another city instead of staying in the same place. Overall, the game is light on story, and when it does try to showcase it, it just doesn't make sense. But, that's never been what a Need for Speed's about. It's about the high-octane racing that keeps you on your toes.
The gameplay itself is a step-up from Underground. You get this massive city to explore, although not particularly interesting. You don't get too many hidden collectibles to go searching for, and there's really no point in the free-roaming. Whereas Grand Theft Auto had a reason for exploring the city (hidden collectibles, stunt jumps, rampages, killing innocents, etc.) there was almost no incentive to roam the city. You got a few cash bonuses and tips here and there, but the vast majority of your time spent touring the city is to get from race to race. The only other reason I'd actually roam around is to find other racers to engage in possibly the most exciting race mode yet: Outrun. Basically, it's you against another racer. You need to try and take the lead and then extend it for 200 meters. It becomes tense as your next crash could mean a loss. And we all hate losing. However, it's only fun when going on the freeway at 180+ mph.
The racing AI itself is not very good. During Outrun races, they'll oftentimes "juke" you and then you end up taking the wrong turn. Other than that, however, they're not exactly challenging. On higher difficulties, you can see they take the suggested racing line, but they never have the same speed as you. You can draft a bit, and then pass the car and use your nitrous to boost past the rest. Or playing dirty and wiping out the competition. Either way, it's rather easy to get the lead. And since they rarely use nitrous out of the beginning of the race, it's rather easy to maintain the lead. I would've appreciated more aggressive driving, like attempting to spin me out, or pushing me into oncoming traffic. However, it becomes a challenge every once in a while when you enter an Outrun race and it transforms into this 7 minute challenge. You've spent all this time trying to lose this sucker and you're not going to take a loss. Every turn is a possible location for a crash, and one mistake equals a total loss. At which point I'd throw my controller at the TV, smash my PS2, throw it out, run it over, burn it, throw it into a meat grinder, and then feed them to a shark.
Which brings me to my next point. The overall layout of the city is rather good. It's not overly complicated, but you still get plenty of shortcuts and roads to take. It becomes easy to memorize once you take the time. But the real pleasure come from the turns. You can take the turns, but you need to be careful, especially late into the game when the cars are fast, because it's almost always a blind turn and without quick thinking, you can oftentimes end up in an accident and therefore lose massive ground between you and the competition.
Graphics are also good as well. The 30 or so cars are pretty detailed, and the game has an amazing draw distance. You can see the entire city from virtually anywhere. It's not exactly a massive improvement over what we saw in Underground. I'm actually glad they got rid of a lot of the blur, because it became really hard to drive in Underground, but it's there when you begin to reach the 200 mph mark or use nitrous.
But, the main draw of the Underground series is the customization. And oh boy does Underground 2 have plenty of that. You have the standard performance upgrades, which are split into different categories such as Engine, ECU, Transmission, Suspension, Turbo, Nitrous, Tires, Brakes, and Weight Reduction. You can choose to buy individual parts or buy packages. There's no reason to buy individual parts since you get a discount if you buy in packages, but I guess it's there to emphasize that it's an underground racing scene. You also get standard body customizations, such as front bumper, rear bumper, side skirts, spoilers, and rims, but additional options such as mirrors, wide body kits, roof scoops, hoods, head lights, tail lights, and carbon fiber parts. But it doesn't stop. You get to add in custom gauges, window tints, neon (underglow, trunk, and engine), hydraulics, spinners, doors, hoods, nitrous purge, and trunk contents. And then you've got the paint jobs, the vinyls, and decals, all to create a car that fits your personality. So, it's a pretty in-depth system. And it goes the extra mile for car enthusiasts so they can enter the Dyno Lab, test the performance of your car for a specific race type, and then tune the specific settings like the stiffness of your shocks, your brake bias, how much grip the front/rear tires have, steering response, as well as gauge how much torque is applied at which RPM, how much turbo is needed at which RPM, and whether or not you have more nitrous or more powerful nitrous. It's a very in-depth system that lets you tweak the settings and become unstoppable in most race types.
+ Great customization
+ Great race types
+ Lots of racing, 20 hours approx. to complete FULLY
- No cops, no fun
- Weak story
- No free-roaming incentive