Need For Speed: Undercover Review
Posted by Anthony Dickens
Need For Speed is back with its latest career adventure, it's time to go Undercover.
You play a wheel man, hired by Federal Agent Chase Linh (played by Maggie Q) who is sent out, undercover, into the world of illegal street racing and other criminal activities.
You'll need to progress through events and earn the respect of fellow criminals, getting invited deeper and deeper into the illegal underworld, seeking your prize.
The game starts out with one of the many live action cut scenes, EA cite Hollywood standard production values, aiming to give the game that "interactive" film style and professional polish.
After that your thrown straight into career mode, competing in numerous events that range from short sprint races, circuit races, timed races and other simple activities such as evading the police or setting a record on speed cameras.
Like most racing games on Wii you're given a vast array of different control techniques, because we're a bit old skool we elected for the Gamecube experience, Wavebird to be exact.
The controls are pretty standard, accelerate with (R), brake/reverse with (L), handbrake with , Nitrous/boost with and change view with (Y).
Surprisingly the arcade style controls are actually pretty good, okay it's not quite as responsive as some other racers on other platforms, but for Wii its almost a pleasure to drive.
During races and as your driving around you'll come across the local police department, you can knock them off the road, they'll chase you around, the standard kind of stuff you'd come to expect from a Need for Speed game.
As you complete events you'll earn both cash, for buying newer faster cars and parts, and points, for progressing your rank. As your rank increases you'll open up new cut scenes which tells more of the story whilst also opening up new tiers of events.
Between events you can either select your next event via the "World Map" or you can drive their using Undercover's free roaming mode. We get the impression they are trying to do something similar to Burnout Paradise, a truly free roaming racer, sadly it simply doesn't work in this game but thankfully its easily ignored.
It might be harsh, but Undercover is graphically very poor. The general feeling is closer to the PS2 side of things than even the Xbox. Not only do the car models look basic the extremely simplistic scenery with plain to non-existent textures and a massively over used reflection effect on the roads all make the game look very, very old.
One of the most annoying problems with the graphics is the draw distance of other traffic, because of the poor "pop up" cars, vans or even large lorries will suddenly appear on screen and only give you moments to react. It's clear that this isn't intentional, its a either a technical limitation or just lazy programming - sadly one that really hurts the game.
However we'll consider that this isn't the fault of the developers, perhaps Wii should take some of the blame with its smaller graphical power. We don't really have any successful racers to compare this to graphically. We've been led to believe that Wii is around as powerful as the original Xbox, which had some great looking racers on it.
Because of this poor show in the graphics department and the availability of this game on the "high definition" consoles it would be very hard to argue its case on Wii.
The idea of telling the story through live action is debatable, some people will like it and some won't. In this version it only highlights how poor the graphics are when you switch from film back into the game engine. The "star value" of the cut scenes isn't a bad idea, Maggie Q doing her part well, however the other actors aren't really up to the same levels that EA would of hoped for.
We're not sure why, but the video quality wasn't all that great, the contrast levels were completely wrong as if the videos had been overly compressed - we hope it doesn't look this bad on the Xbox and PS3 versions of the game.
It's a shame because Undercover does have some saving graces, the police chatter sound effects are excellent, the soundtrack is suitable, the controls are good and the variation of events is encouraging.
When compared to other racing games available in the highly competitive genre, Need For Speed: Undercover is way off the pace. The Wii version has a lack-luster presentation with tired graphics that really doesn't do the console justice. Whilst the controls, sound and handling are good its ultimately let down by the numerous other problems, most notably the traffic appearing out of thin air.