Nintendo Reviews Rating:
Age 8+
Posted: August 12th, 2005
By: Webmaster-Josh
The popular car racing series takes a new step-into the underground. The life of night street racing is yours to
behold, but is it worth exlporing?

This is one of the few video games that is THX certified, meaning that there's superior sound quality. That is combined
with Dolby Surround sound. The clarity is superb. Many games suffer from poor speech samples, but not one on this game
is phased out or sounds stuffy. The voice acting is pretty good, too, although this game doesn't have much of it. The music
is all lyrical, and there's a lot of it. There's 26 tracks, most from different artists. There are couple of repeat artists, but
the songs are overall well done. There's five or six that I don't like, but that's still 20 good songs. There's a little over an
hour of music here, which is pretty nice. There's an option to play the music randomly, as not to get repetitive.
There's also a myriad of sound effects. Most of the car models emit different engine noises, and there's tons of horn
honking, skidding and crashing that leaves tone of options for things to hear. The surround sound isn't used to its full
potential, as you don't hear much behind you often. However, that's usually due to the fact that when cars pass you, they
go by quickly. The sound side of the game is excellent; certifying with THX was a great move, and licensing all the artists
makes the audio well worth listening.

Controlling a car at high speeds never felt so easy. It's so easy, in fact, it makes one wonder if all the mechanics and
physics were accurate. It's something I don't want to delve into, but it does feel mostly accurate. I guess the only way to
test it would be to drive at 100 MPH and see how easy it is to turn. Well, I won't be doing that, but I will say that the game
has five different styles, so if you don't like holding R all the time, you can hold A instead. I prefer the default style, but
holding R can be difficult for long periods.
Executing everything is pretty simple. Y is to shift up, while X is to shift down. Good thing there's automatic transmission.
L or A is brake, but you have to hold L to reverse. You'll only be reversing about 1 out of every 10 races, but it can
become a sticky situation. If you get in a very bad situation, you can press Z to reset your car's position. You'll have to
rebuild the speed, though. B is for boosting, which tends to be easy to do.
There's something called a jump camera, which slows the game down while your in mid-air or making cool moves. It adds
style to the game, but can get annoying after a while. Fortunately, you can set the jump cameras to lower sensitivity. The
regular in-game camera is nicely set up, and no icons get in the way of races. Turning is also somewhat unresponsive, but
that could be because when it seems like that, one is driving at high speeds. Load times are kind of slow, as well as save
times, and getting through the menus could be easier, but overall, the control is still great.

The game has a way of creating a blur on the road that looks really
cool, and realistic. There are minimal lighting effects, but the cars'
headlights' effects are pretty accurate. Since every road is slightly
slick, there's also great reflections and shadows. Lots of reviewers,
however, seem to miss the other half of what makes graphics good,
and that's artwork.
Players won't be staring at the road; they're looking at the horizon.
There, players will see tons of buildings, and maybe other cars. The
artwork on these things lack in quality. It seems that the designers
got the major stuff down, but the minor stuff isn't covered. There's
some really bad looking stuff, but since you'll be going fast, you
may not notice it. Speaking of which, the game has a constant
framerate problem, but once again is hardly noticeable because of
speed. Overall, the graphics could have used some more detail, but
it works for this type of game.

The game sports a very long story mode, which is referred to as going underground. There are 111 missions, which vary on
the amount of time it takes. Some of them take only a couple of minutes, and one try, while others take ten minutes and
several tries. This adds to averages to about 7-8 minutes per mission. That means that the story mode is about 14 hours.
Players will also spend another hour customizing their car. It's not a hefty replay value, but it will last a long time.
There's extra modes, like just a quick race or spilt-screen races. Unfortunately, these modes have a lot to be desired. The
multiplayer modes is very boring; somehow, it's not much fun racing just one other person. That means that the
underground mode has to suffice. It starts off with several cutscenes in CG, but then the mode just drags on. Players end
up racing the same tracks over and over, and the same type of races. So some of the 15 hours seems more like filler than
genuine replay value. Overall, that minor setback doesn't interfere with the fact that this game takes a long time to beat.
There's also several unlockable cars and engine upgrades, so when the competition gets fierce, you're not left in the dust.
There's even magazine covers with your car on it, 24 in all. It's a neat package; not the best replay, but not bad either.

First, I'll start off with the bad, and it's very bad. The game literally just throws you in a race. How do I know how to play,
or do anything? The lack of training isn't so bad, but don't just throw me into a race. It's a huge mistake. After that, the
game is still somewhat challenging, and this can lead to frustration. The game tends to gradually get easier, instead of
harder, and there's no real difficulty curve. Easy difficulty is still fairly hard at times, except for Drift races which are easy.
The game rewards you with money, but its practically infinite. You never run out of stuff to buy, and how much you have.
That's because each race rewards you with way more than you can spend. It's easy to get stuff, so it's not really a problem.
This game lacks variety, as said before, because you end up doing the same old stuff over and over. Plus, fast racing isn't
so much fun when you don't know the city. The city is small, and a lot of the same turf is seen several times. A classic PC
game, called Midtown Madness, has more variety than this. That game also featured just one big city, but you could
actually cruise the city and fool around with different vehicles.
The only thing separating the two games is that you can design your own car, which is probably the selling point of the
game. It's not quite up to speed with customization modes that other games sport, but it fares well. There's tens of car
models, tens of paint styles, including sleek styles of gloss, metallic and pearlescent. There's lots of brand of decals, and
you can apply four layers of vinyls, for some really cool designs. Making my car look custom isn't exactly my cup of tea,
but it will keep players with many options. Overall, the game can get old, and it's not always fun, but it's an interesting
design that is addictive.





Final Words

This is a great game, but it just seems to 'drag' at times, without getting anywhere. The story mode is similar to Prince of
Persia, in the fact that it seems to go on a while. But that game was pure fun, with other problems that brought it down.
This game may be over twice as long, but it lacks in other aspects. This game could have been excellent, but there needed
to be more. It's still a great way to spend some time, and if you like what you play, it's worth more than a rental.