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    Default Need for Speed Undercover | Game Review

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    latest in EAís undying street racing series teaches us that thereís nothing that canít be solved by high-speed racing. This is a crass game Ė which would be fine if it would admit it. It shares much with EAís other recent star-studded sequel, Red Alert 3, in that it stuffs HD FMV between missions in order to add a story to its formulaic challenges. But while RA3 is chuckling along with us, NFSU is deadly serious.

    Maggie Q headlines as the perma-sour superior officer, appearing in a sequence of lasciviously-filmed five-second cutscenes in which she drones at you to get deeper undercover. By racing, obviously. Itís trying to be The Fast and the Furious, but lacks the cheerfully mindless adrenaline of such cinematic horrors. Thereís zero sense of narrative progression or of what repeatedly earning the trust of various stereotyped neíer-do-wells is actually accomplishing Ė itís just a token attempt to add context to performing endless minute variations on the same half-dozen race types.
    The racing offers a far better time. Itís very much NFS sticking to its slowly drooping guns, but as a Ďplug yerself in and playí arcade racer, itís fine. Itís reasonably pretty, there are plenty of licensed cars (with damage modeling, a rarity for games featuring real-world cars) and braking is an option, not a necessity. This isnít a simulation Ė itís purely a brain-off muckabout.

    It stumbles by setting its fairly undemanding races within a free-roaming city, which places it uncomfortably close to Burnout Paradise, also from EA. Whether its devs are simply less ambitious or itís under a directive from on high not to stand on its cousinís toes, this element is entirely meaningless. There arenít many races to choose from, thereís no purpose to driving around beyond antagonizing the police Ė which is a necessary part of half the races anyway Ė and everything looks so similar. Like a Michael Bay film, itís constantly sunrise and sunset simultaneously. Youíll have a bit of a free-roaming prat about once, but from then on youíll just jump directly to whichever race most appeals, via the magic teleporting in-game map. After every few races, youíll Level Up, which activates a cutscene íní boss race to propel the paper-thin story onwards.
    Itís also really tight with the cash that youíll need to unlock new cars and upgrades, so youíll spend a tortuously long time grinding through events with the same boring car. This is another reflection of NFSUís most critical failing Ė itís just not exciting. We think it knows it, too. Thatís why it increasingly tries to throw more crap at you to create an artificial sense of adrenaline. The occasional stolen car delivery missions, for instance, escalate from having a timer hanging over you, to the timer and an order not to damage it too much, to the timer and an order not to damage it too much and cops on your tail, to the timer and an order not to damage it too much and cops on your tail and a helicopter hounding you... Itís always do-able, but it feels petty rather than exhilarating, simply making life difficult rather than really challenging you in a fun way.

    Really, Undercover is exactly what anyone whoís watched from afar would guess that a Need for Speed game is like. Itís repetitive, itís forgettable, itís cynical and sweet Jeebus itís dumb. Itís also kinda fun Ė but when GRIDís still flexing its manly muscles, thatís simply not enough.
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