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Need For Speed Underground Rivals PSP

Published by EA Games
Developed by Electronic Arts
Release Date: Out Now
Price: £34.99

Need For Speed Underground Rivals, an introduction.

The Need For Speed series has always been popular but that popularity soared when the series went underground. Need For Speed Underground and its sequel have proved to be phenomenally popular and it's no surprise to see a Need For Speed Underground title for the launch of the PSP. What is surprising though is the amount of racing games to be available for the launch of the PSP here in the UK. There's little doubt that Need For Speed Underground Rivals is going to have to be good to compete against the stiff opposition of TOCA Race Driver 2, Ridge Racer and Wipeout Pure.

What's the game about?

Need For Speed Underground Rivals offers plenty of modes for you to get your teeth into. Race Now offers you the choice of racing in a 'tricked out car' as well as the option to have a custom race. Quick Play Battle offers a choice of Street Cross, Drift Attack, Nitrous Run and Drag races. Each of these race types has 10 different race events for you to take part in. Circuit Race is probably the main mode and offers a series of races that are categorised into Novice, Pro, Master and Car Spec groups. Pocket Garage allows you to upgrade your car by adding new parts. You can also add visual upgrades to make your car look more stylish. Multiplayer modes include Head to Head, for wireless play against a friend who owns both the PSP and a copy of the game, as well as EA's Party Play which enables you to play against each other (there's support for up to 4 players) on the same console by taking part in races one at a time.

What's good about the game?

EA have taken the sensible approach with Underground Rivals and have streamlined the game to make it appropriate for gaming on the move. There's no need to drive around a city looking for races as the races are all accessible from the menus. Some might think this detracts from the experience but I honestly enjoyed being able to get straight into the races. Winning races will earn you parts for your car as well as upgrade points that you can use to change both the look and performance of your car. You can purchase other cars too as well as unlock secret Boss cars by completing specific races. We've had 3 of EA's PSP launch titles in for review and it's great to see that all of them have the Party Play multiplayer modes included. Being able to challenge a relative or friend with just the one console (in a hotseat mode) and game is a great feature and it's something I hope I see a lot more of in future. It's also worth mentioning that the AI drivers seem to be more competitive than in NFS Underground 2 and the game seems to provide more of a challenge.

What's not so good about the game?

Yet again there's no support for online play which is disappointing but given that the game has the Party Play mode this isn't as big a disappointment as it could have been. Those who can make use of the wireless multiplayer gaming will be disappointed to learn that only 2 players (most other games appear to support 4 players) can take part. The frame rate in the game doesn't feel as impressive is in the other racing games on the PSP at the moment. It does suffer from slowdown a little too although thankfully this doesn't cause any problems.

How does it look?

The game actually looks pretty close to NFS Underground 2 on the PlayStation 2 which is good to see. The car textures do look a little bland but on the whole the car models are OK. I was surprised to see many of the lighting effects used in the NFS Underground series used in Underground Rivals. The trademark motion blur has also been included and looks just as impressive as it does on the other formats. The 20+ circuits in the game look mostly impressive too and some have a surprising amount of background detail. Some of the background items do suffer from pop-up but it's never anything that's particularly distracting.

How deaf gamer friendly is the game?

Deaf gamers will have no problems at all with NFS Underground Rivals. All information within the game is in text and you'll not miss out on anything. The instructions for each race type, and game controls, are displayed on the loading screens so you don't need to look through the manual if you don't want to. What I would suggest though is that you disable the music as this prevents the song title descriptions from covering the mini-map during a race.

Final thoughts.

It's all too easy to assume that games such as Need For Speed Underground Rivals will simply be stripped down versions of PlayStation 2 titles. Whilst Underground Rivals may have been streamlined in certain areas, such as you can't drive around the city anymore, it certainly doesn't feel like a cut-down version of NFS Underground 2. In fact EA have done a great job of making the game more appropriate for a handheld system. Yes it's not perfect and yes it's got a lot of driving games to compete against in this PSP launch period, but if you are a fan of the NFS Underground series it's almost a certainty you'll enjoy Need For Speed Underground Rivals.


Overall Game Rating: 8.0/10

Deaf Gamers Classification:

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Need For Speed Underground Rivals does a great job of tailoring the Need For Speed Underground experience to suit the PSP. Fans of the NFS Underground series should definitely consider this one.