Need for Speed Underground 2 review

Improved driving and a huge city take a back seat to superb customisation

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Fast. Furious. Two words that have seen an awful lot of use lately. It's hard to believe Vin Diesel's movie, much less the sequel he ignored, kicked off a fashion that's spread so far so quickly.

No. The whole tuner culture thing was coming to a head on its own, waiting to explode like a badly fitted alloy rubbing on the wheel arch of mainstream consciousness.

Or perhaps waiting to pull out in front of mainstream culture from the local estate, forcing it to brake wildly and drop its phone. Clearly, a massive wave was already rising, and Need For Speed Underground just rode it to shore. Well, just behind Burnout 2: Point Of Impact, anyway.

NFSU2's big novelty is a huge city to free-roam in, a sprawling metropolis of glitzy-to-gritty urban zones and endless blacktop. A lot of games are building cities now. This, Burnout, Midnight Club, GTA, that's some serious competition.

So how does it shape up?

Bayview looks superb, and perhaps more importantly, it's huge. You can drive for what seems like forever without seeing anything familiar, and certainly at first that's exactly what you'll do.

You can get straight into a pile of races but with a standard car rewards are thin. It's best to get something large, bright and incredibly crass bolted on to your wheezing mumsy mobile as soon as possible. Not even the stupidest bystander could love a bog-standard Corsa.

Those vital tuning shops are tucked away in alleys, with only the coloured glow of a lamp giving them away from the street. And parts are spread between dealers, so it's imperative you track them all down.

EA claims twice the number of visual upgrades are available, and some fanciful number in the billions for unique combinations.

Certainly you can do some stunning things, such as putting spinners the size of Venus on a Hummer, painting it pink, flooding the engine bay with neon, fitting scissor doors, adding a bonnet that opens like a storm cellar and loading the boot with enough ICE to melt bystanders from the ears down.

And then taking it online. It's another of NFSU2's big selling points, and this one actually counts, the chance to show off your customisations to the world.

So, can it compete this time around? If street racing is all you care about and you've been playing Burnout 3, online or off, we have to say you'll be a little disappointed.

But if you live for 20-inch rims, flame decals and picking just the right door mirrors to accent your neon, you need this. The racing might not be quite the best available, but it's not that far behind. Certainly way good enough for you to enjoy your crazy ride. And what a very crazy ride it will be...

More info

Platform"PC","PS2","GameCube","DS","Xbox","Game Boy"
US censor rating"","","","","",""
UK censor rating"3+","3+","3+","3+","3+","3+"
Release date1 January 1970 (US), 1 January 1970 (UK)