[Budget] Need for Speed: Undercover Review

The reason I've prefixed the title of this review with "[Budget]" is that I'm considering this game a budget game now as it was released about a year ago (in late 2008) and it's now cheaply priced, at least on Steam ($10 USD). This means, like when I review cheap, indie games, I'll give some consolation to the score because of its cut-throat price. Being a fan of Need for Speed: Underground 2 and Need for Speed: Carbon, I actually wanted to get this when it came out but poor reviews made me refrain (as it was more expensive when it initially came out). I decided to give it a chance now since it was more affordable. Read on to find out whether it was worth it.

Sound (2/5)
The sound effects for the game are okay but they sound quite generic and even tinny at times. Also the voice acting is borderline too, but then again, that was the case in previous Need for Speeds.

Music (3/5)
The music in the Need for Speed games are usually a hit-or-miss affair due to its eclectic nature. You've got a mixture of Punk Rock, Hard Rock, Dance, Hip-Hop and Pop. I ended up liking most of the tracks even the ones that aren't usually my musical preference as they fitted the game, sort of...

Graphics (2/5)
The graphics are what you'd expect for a 2008 game although sadly there are a lot of framerate spikes on my system - sometimes it lasts for several seconds where the game just freezes on one frame. I've read in other reviews that the game has framerate issues on the console and it seems they may translate to the PC too!

Need for Speed: Undercover - Racing Gameplay Video

Plot (2/5)
There is a plot in there but it's broken up into tiny fragments based on when you gain certain levels (yes, you get levels just like a Role-Playing Game in this) or when certain events are triggered. The problem is most of the cut-scenes don't really make any sense or they don't add much to the story (One of the characters called Carmen who pleads for help all the time, is such an example).

Need for Speed: Undercover follows similiar gameplay mechanics to the Need for Speed: Underground games, Need for Speed: Most Wanted and Need for Speed: Carbon - it's a free-form (more or less) arcade racing meets role-playing game that sees you competing in illegal street races. In Need for Speed: Undercover, you play as an undercover cop (hence the name) trying to infiltrate some street racing and grand theft auto gangs.

Compared to previous games, most features have remained intact. You still have your usual races (Circuit, Sprint and Checkpoint), you still have police chases (my favourite part of the game, I especially like the cutscene played when the FBI catches you ;)) and you can still modify your car's appearance and performance from the money you win from races. What has been taken out are the Drift events from previous games (which I don't miss that much so I'm not complaining there) but the game also seems less free-form - i.e. you can't just drive around and find someone to challenge for an on-the-spot race, nor can you visit the shops you unlocked. All events that progress the game are accessible through the map. This is only a minor criticism but it gives the game less

Also as mentioned earlier, there are certain role-playing elements to the game now. Not only do car parts improve the performance of your vehicle but "dominating" (i.e. doing extremely well) at certain events also boosts the performance of your vehicle through received bonuses via your "driving skills". While it's nice to see them add role-playing elements to the game, traditional racers or the less patient might find it annoying since it also introduces the bane of role-playing games, i.e. grinding. If you're a good enough racer you probably won't need to worry about this but for some (such as myself) you end up having to do these races or else key events become too hard to complete, which results in retrying and watching unskippable cutscenes every time (yes I know the FMV cutscenes are skippable but not the in-game ones).

Need for Speed: Undercover - Modification Video

Replayability (3/5)
The game is probably about as replayable as any other Need for Speed game. There are some opportunities to purchase different cars or mod them slightly differently, plus there's multiplayer. However, the main storyline itself for the single player, is linear.

Polish (2/5)
The interface seems okay albeit kind of clunky (it's obviously a console part). You also randomly see cars dropping out of the sky sometimes and civilian cars crashing into each other for no apparent reason (but I suppose this happens in real life to some degree). I also received a couple of Crashes-to-Desktop while playing so beware!

Need for Speed: Undercover - Police Chase Gameplay Video

Overall - 61%
Only as a budget price can Need for Speed: Undercover be considered passable as it is almost inferior in every regard to previous Need for Speed titles.

The game is currently available off Steam for $10USD.