Need For Speed: Undercover

September 22, 2009 by Colin Ward  
Filed under Nintendo Wii, Playstation 2, Playstation 3, Reviews, Xbox 360



Title: Need for Speed: Undercover

Release Date: Nov 18th 2008 (NA) Nov 20th 200 (AU) Nov 21st 200 (EU)

Developer/Publisher: EA Black Box & Firebrand Games (DS) / EA

Genre: Racing

Platform[s]: PC, Playstation 2/3, Playstation Portable, Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii, Nintendo DS


You star as a expert police driver, trying to infiltrate a gang of car smugglers, so your task is a simple one, go deep undercover using your skills on the road to convince them that you’re a street racer and gain their trust so you can gain information and stop the gang in their tracks. The action takes place in the 80 miles of road, highway and alley ways of the Tri-City Bay Area – a fictional city made for the game based on several American cities.

Your main tool to gain the gangs trust, is to take place in various street race events, wheel jobs and to avoid the police at all costs, since your fellow police officers will hunt you down as a common criminal, since you’re in so deep undercover.. Your only contact in the police is Chase Linh played by Maggie Q and she is one tough cookie.

So hit the open world and hit the highway at speeds close to and over 180 miles an hour, and bring that gang to its knees… featuring over 55 licensed cars, a brand new Heroic Driving engine, which for the first time puts your car under a new cutting edge physics driven control method, perform amazing driving actions at high speed, and battle improved AI and push yourself to the limit..

Start your engine, turn up the music, and hit the road..

Need for Speed Undercover


The game as a whole seems to be aimed at the more casual player, right from the get go, just after the title sequence starts to roll, your dumped behind the wheel of the starting car [you have no choice in the car or colour ] and let loose in the Tri-City Bay Area, a huge and expansive open world. Being the 12th game in the need for speed series, undercover really needed to deliver something fresh to the series, which is the new physics based driving, which sounds great on paper, but can be a little tricky to handle at excess speed, but the driving aspects are never less than fun.  The first chase in the game really gets the blood pumping, and is a great taster for the game to come.

Anyone who has played Most Wanted will be at home with the Police chases, however this time, they have supposedly better AI and also some more daring tactics to hunt you down, such as pike strips so your job of losing the police, who can start chasing you at any point, is made slightly harder – however the ‘Pursuit Breakers’ are also back, which are items on the map that if you collided with them in just the right way will force any pursuing police to stop and deal with the  problem, however other units will engage you until you can hide and wait out the alert status. Adding to the cars, are also helicopter units that also seem to have been upgraded, these now dart under bridges and are much harder to loose, so watch the skies as well as the road!.

The many races and events are littered across the large open world, but can only be accessed via the in game map or handy downward push on the d-pad, which instantly launches the next rate so unlike other open world racers, such as Burnout Paradise, you can’t drive around finding them – so this does seem a bit of a backwards step, and ultimately limit’s the amount of fun had exploring the world considering the whole open map approach.

Races and events range from simple point to point races, with plenty of time to show off to other gang members to full on highway battles with not only other cars to race, but road traffic and police – so there’s a nice mix of different events and styles of driving, some will require you to have pixel perfect driving so you will be happy to know that the ‘speed breaker’ – a quick button press will slow time down to a crawl for a limited period- returns and is as helpful as ever, for both making tricky turns and avoiding police road blocks and spike strips.

As you progress through the game, towards the ultimate goal of bring the gang down, you also ‘rank up’ and gain driver points which are tallied to your cars specs, at seemly random points, however as the game can be incredibly easy to handle, depending on the car used, you’re never in any real need of them. You will also be able to unlock upgrades and new cars, which will need to be brought, to use, but the performance tuning in the game, is very in depth – from simple paint jobs – to full body kits and transfers there’s enough to keep all but the hard core car tuners happy – with some really great looking cars being able to be made.


Another handy show off feature, is photo mode – your able to take a ‘photo’ of the car in action at any point in the game, simply hit pause, select ‘photo mode’ and line you your shot – the simple controls can produce some interesting shots, which are in turn uploaded to the NFS website, for viewing and sharing with your friends – a small addition to the game, but one that will be well used by car fans, since the game contains over 55 unlock able fully licensed cars, ranging from the Mercedes CL55 to the Audi R8 – there’s sure to be something to suit both your style of driving and also your look.

Up to 8 players can complete online, in either Sprint – simple point to point races, circuit races or the much more exciting new Cops N’ Robbers mode, where two teams of four take turns being either the Cops or the Robbers. During this new mode, the Robbers have to collect money and drop it off at a certain point on the map, while the Cops pursuit and try to take them down at any cost. This game mode can be very heated with the teams fighting it down to the last, and is a great bonus and building on the single player campaign by giving you a chance to play the ‘good guys’


As soon as the games starts your treated to full screen video that sets the scene nicely, with some great acting as well as some really bad acting later in the game, but as a whole – it provides just the right feel.

When you hit the roads however, you may be slightly disappointed by the lack of detail on the streets of the Tri-City Bay Area, there is a total lack of people and any sense of ‘life’ in this sprawling city, and traffic even on the highways is a little thin on the ground, and lacking detail close up. You may also notice on coming cars fade into view, which can be a little off putting at 180 miles an hour.

The sense of speed is good, with blur effects and wind streams when you hit the 100’s – however there are some problems with the frame rate at times, more often than not with a strange stutter that happens every so often, much like in Most Wanted – where you could be tearing down a road at a rate of noughts only to seem a split second pause in the action. There’s also some nasty pop up on buildings etc and installing the game to the Hard drive did not seem to make this issue disappear – but did help slightly in the loading times of events – and being about 4.8gb it’s a fairly small amount of space to loose.

The cars are all nicely detailed and deformable, which you will notice after a few minutes of driving on the highway – with trucks that seemingly like to pull into your lane at the last second, but unlike Burnout, the crashes seem a little tied to the ground, so no exploding cars to be seen here.



Over all the sound is well mixed and very realistic, from the growls of the higher performance cars to the clunk of the gear changers – if you like your racing games loud and proud – this game is for you.

Music in the game is also very fitting, ranging from some quite slow tracks to pumping techno tracks that add to the sense of speed on the road – one thing you may miss is the ability to choose the EA Trax, since in this game – you have no choice over it.

Police CB chatter is also very clear and also well voice acted along with being extremely handy – since not only do you know when they are looking for you, but you can also hear just where and when they want to set up a road block or a spike strip, so keep a ear out for important messages coming over the air waves.

The whole sound track mixes in to an exciting experience one which should be played LOUD.

Overall Score & Replayability

Even if the game seems to be aimed at the more casual racer – from the handling of the cars down to the easy race starts, the game is still a worthwhile play. The only downsides to it are the few graphical issues, such as the frame rate, pop up and lack of street detail which if your not that fussy is not a major factor, since some the police chases are some of the best seen.

I say ‘some’ since some of the police chases especially later in the game, are very, very basic with the Police fully intent on ramming you off the road, and that’s what they will try and do, some of the later missions are really a test of your stamina to put up with the crashing and bashing, and looking out for the pursuit breakers – which sometimes are very fair and few between.

It’s a shame that there is not more to do in the open map, with races just appearing on the map and selectable by clicking on them, or pressing down on the d-pad, there’s no real need to explore the city, unlike Burnout paradise – which expected you to find events. Not to say you cannot have fun just driving around, since many a time the police will lock on to you, and a great five or six minute pursuit can ensue.

Another slight letdown is the Heroic Driving – when you are racing or being pursued there’s not really enough time to pull any fancy moves – so even though the game will reward you if you’re able, many people with just forget about it, and put their foot down.

If you can handle that lack of a real need to explore, and are looking for a fun racer, then Undercover is a good choice, however with the likes of Burnout paradise and Midnight Club  LA already released, it has some strong competition.