The Need for Speed franchise has been all over the place in recent years. Until now. Undercover returns to familiar ground: a sprawling city ruled by street racers and enthusiastically policed by a whole lotta cops.
It's almost too familiar - Undercover tries too hard to mimic NFS: Most Wanted's successful formula - but it also comes up with a few surprises to keep devoted fans happy. Our favourite is a new Live multiplayer mode, Cops and Robbers.
In it, you divide into two teams, and the crooks drive around looking for the money. Once they find it, the cops launch an assault to prevent them from carrying the money to a drop-off point. Both sides rack up points in timed rounds, then you switch sides. The bumper-cars mayhem is great fun, and Black Box did a good job of crafting maps to accommodate the chaos.
The game's other highlight is the wild variety of events you tackle as an undercover cop, to infiltrate gangs by, well, racing. Yes, that means there's an overarching plot, and yes, stories and racing games never mix well. Undercover is no exception. The live-action scenes bury themselves in their own cheesiness. They might not have bombed if EA had stuck with CG, but on film, they come off as sketchy C-grade fodder.
Fortunately, you can skip right through these scenes and get down to the action, which is Undercover's finest hour. Its races aren't just sprints or circuits; you'll test your pedal mettle at everything from Outruns to Highway Battles to Cost to the State, where you have to damage a ton of public property and then evade cops that buzz after you like angry hornets.
The driving style is Need for Speed at its most arcade-esque. Fun for a time, but it ultimately drags, and no difficulty options means no changing it.
So Undercover is a bit off-balance. Its bright spots, like the anticipation it builds for unlocking all the ridiculously fun race types, are dragged down by the slow-paced progression. A good time can be had, but only if you're patient or a really big fan of Most Wanted.
Undeniably fun, but you need to be patient
- Slick Cops and Robbers mode
- Lots of interesting event types
- The action's superb
- Tries too hard to mimic Most Wanted
- No difficulty option at all!