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iPhone Game Review: Need for Speed Undercover
      01/04/10 02:31 AM

Need For Speed Undercover

Developed and Published by Electronic Arts (
Release Date: 4/27/09
Content Rating: 4+
Genre: Racing
Price: $4.99
Download Size: 94.2 MB
App Store Link: Click Here

Have you ever wanted to infiltrate the world of illegal street racing, pushing your car to the limit while running your enemies off the road? Well, there is, indeed, an app for that. In fact, Need For Speed: Undercover is actually the 12th Need For Speed game overall, although it is the first to be available on the App Store. NFSU makes it easy to see why the NFS series has become so popular on so many platforms. Thanks to its stellar graphics and varied challenges, Need For Speed: Undercover is a thrilling racing game for iPhone and iPod touch.

(Fiberglass) Spoiler Alert

NFSU features 20 (real) car models, including high-end performance machines like the Porsche Carrera GT and the Lamborghini Gaillardo. However, it starts you out with a more basic Nissan model, and if you want a fancier car, you?ll have to win races to unlock purchasable items and also earn enough cash to pay for them. You can also purchase upgrades for a car to improve its acceleration, handling, top speed, and nitro, and options to customize your vehicle?s looks are also available.

The game?s world map is divided into three boroughs, each of which contains eight events. You?ll need to complete all eight events in a borough in order to unlock the next one. In addition to the cash prizes available for winning races, you can also win additional points and money by pulling off certain stunts during a race, such as a near miss, slipstreaming, or drifting. The events include traditional Circuit and Sprint (one-on-one) races, but that?s only the beginning: event types also include Highway Battle (get a big lead over your opponent as quickly as possible), Chasedown (ram an opponent off the road), Cop Take-Out (ram cops off the road), and Hot Car (deliver a stolen car without it getting destroyed). The wide variety of game modes helps make the game more challenging while avoiding the sense of monotony that has sometimes plagued other racing games. All of the modes are distinct and fun, and they also make the game feel much more original than some racing game that only has the standard modes you?ve seen a million times before.

The game?s controls are primarily accelerometer-based; simply tilt your iPod or iPhone to steer the vehicle you are driving. The accelerator is always ?on? by default, but you can also hit the brakes by pressing and holding on the screen. For the most part, the steering is smooth and comfortable, making it easy to retain control of your car, although it sometimes seems like the your car just wants to go into ?drift? mode no matter what you do, which will earn you bonus points but also slow you down greatly (although this sometimes just means your car needs some upgrades). You?ll need to make sure you take full advantage of the tight controls though, because if you drive off the road even a little bit, it slows you down by a large margin, and the cars seem a little slow to accelerate back up to speed even when you?ve upgraded their acceleration capability. This means that a single mistake can sometimes be very costly, which can be a bit frustrating, but nonetheless EA has done a good job of fine-tuning the difficulty levels so that you?re unlikely to find yourself in a race that is mind-numbingly easy or iPod-stompingly difficult.

NFSU?s graphics are one of its biggest strengths. The game cranks out slick 3D effects with highly detailed objects and an impressively high frame rate, more so than any previous App Store game I?ve seen, and in spite of this the game is very stable and almost never crashes. If you were to take a video of NFSU?s gameplay, show it to some gamers, and ask them what system they thought it was running on, they would probably guess either a PC or something like a PS2 or PSP, since the graphics are literally beyond what you may have believed the iPhone was capable of.

The game also features cut scenes with actors explaining parts of the storyline to you, and while these are a nice touch, I have to wonder: Does a racing game really need any more of a storyline than just ?GO??

The game?s audio also represents a first-rate effort. Besides the basic sound effects like cars colliding and tires screeching, Undercover also features a complete soundtrack of hard rock tunes featuring real instruments and vocals. Personally, I don?t find the songs to be particularly infectious, but even if hard rock isn?t your style either, the high-energy music makes a perfect background for high-energy, high-speed racing.

Strangely, when characters appear on-screen to give you instructions at the beginning of a race, their dialog is simply displayed as words on the screen with no actual audio, even though the same characters appear in full-motion cut scenes with video and audio between races.

Flash Drive
If you?re looking for a high-speed, action-packed game for your iPhone or iPod touch, you simply cannot go wrong with Need For Speed: Undercover. This game raises the bar for all racing on the App Store. Featuring stunning visuals and creative gameplay along with smooth controls, you?re bound to be addicted to it for hours on end - just make sure you stop in time for work so you don?t have to find a way to explain to your boss why you were too busy ramming police cars to get your project done (we?re not sure if there?s an app for that).

Dragon Ratings
Graphics: The graphics are amazing, pushing the limits of what an iPhone is capable of. 5.0/5.0
Sound: The hard rock soundtrack may not be everyone?s cup of tea, but it?s a great effort nonetheless and fits the mood of the game. 4.0/5.0
Addictivity: Thanks to the wide variety of game modes, you may never want to stop playing! 5.0/5.0
Fun Meter: Despite a few infrequent frustrations, Need For Speed: Undercover is one of the all-time greats of the App Store. 4.5/5.0

Hints & Tips
-In Cop Take-Out races, the most effective way to damage the police cars is to ram their sides at high speed, especially during a turn, and try to push them in the opposite direction of whichever way they are steering.
-In Cop Take-Out races, don?t slow down to try to attack cops you have passed - they will almost certainly catch up with you soon enough on their own.
-If you?re in a Chasedown, getting too far ahead of your target, and the brakes aren?t slowing you down enough, try to find some oncoming traffic to crash into intentionally.
-Completing stunts successfully (like drifting) will make your nitro recharge faster.

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