Need for Speed: Undercover

Need for Speed: Undercover Review for Xbox 360

On: Xbox 360PS3PCiPhoneWiiDSPS2PSP

Mission-based driving title compared to the action movie The Transporter.

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6Out of 10
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Need for Speed has never looked likely to win a game of the year award, but for a long time it's been a fairly dependable series. You could more or less bank on EA delivering a fun arcade racer that didn't take itself too seriously, and because of this it's won a huge number of fans. Need for Speed ProStreet threw a spanner into the works with its drastic change of style from open-world arcade racer to closed circuit sim, but we thought Undercover was going to set things right. Playing an undercover cop who has to infiltrate an illegal street racing gang sounds like the Need for Speed of old, but it seems EA let this one leave the work shop without passing its MOT.

Undercover is set in the fictional Tri-City Bay area, a virtual world that consists of over 80 miles of roads and highways. As a cop with a love for fast cars, you're asked to go undercover in an illegal street racing gang, with the goal of infiltrating the operation, stopping the sale of stolen vehicles and bringing down the leaders. With Hollywood actress Maggie Q playing your handler Chase Linh, who appears in a number of live action cut scenes throughout the story, and plenty of EA's expected flashy presentation, things sound like they've returned to the Need for Speed of old, but Undercover is plagued with problems.

The most jarring problem you'll face in Undercover is the terrible frame rate. Previous games in the series have had the odd patch of trouble here and there, but in Undercover the game rarely runs smooth and more often than not chugs along at an unacceptable level. It's detrimental to the gameplay too, with the choppy visuals making racing at high speeds far trickier than it was surely designed to be. At times the game almost stops for a fraction of a second, before continuing at a pace not too dissimilar to how we imagine a modern game would run on the original PlayStation. It seems as if engine optimisation simply hasn't been done.

It might seem unfair to slam the visuals before talking about the gameplay, but we've just never seen a big budget, high profile release like this ship with such glaring technical problems. To make matters worse the city is bathed in a fair amount of fog and parts of it will suddenly appear as if teleported in from the Enterprise's holodec. During one high speed pursuit we appeared to be heading towards the edge of the map and a large mass of water, only for what looked like a small town to suddenly pop into view. Visuals aren't everything, but here they cause problems and suggest the game wasn't close to being ready for retail.

The driving is often exhilarating, but the game engine can't keep up.

The driving is often exhilarating, but the game engine can't keep up.

It's a real shame, because the core gameplay is a strong return to what the Need for Speed games prior to ProStreet provided. Cars corner as if you're a Hollywood stunt driver, the sense of speed is incredible (especially from the bumper cam), police drivers are aggressive and smart, and the game world has a style that is pleasing on the eye. The main story to take down the illegal operation runs throughout, but you'll need to take part in various races, cop chases and damage runs (racking up damages that amount to a certain cost) in order to prove you can be trusted. With an open world to explore and the ability to instantly hop to an event you've effectively got the best of both words. As soon as you've finished a race you'll be shown the closest event and you're able to access it with a simple press on the d-pad.

If you've grown tired of the endless driving from point to point in order to start an event, you'll appreciate the more streamlined approach EA has taken here. It could be seen as hand holding, but you're always pushed along, moving from event to event and through the story, with very little down time. As you complete events you earn rep which goes towards your overall wheelman rank, driver skill points and cash - and the occasional keys to a new car. Cash can be used to upgrade the performance of your current cars (ranked in tiers from four to one) or to modify their appearance - the car sculpting seen in previous Need for Speeds returns and upgrading can be as simple as buying a package or as complex as tuning various aspects of your ride.

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User Comments

bloodking15's Avatar
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well i think it waz a pretti good game. ive beat it start 2 finish, n i still like it. tha karz r amazing, n tha graohikz r 2. but i still think it waz a little 2 short of a game. konsidering i beat it within a day.
Posted 20:45 on 19 February 2009
Glen's Avatar
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k, need for speed carbon, and most wanted were the ****ing sickest nfs out. now you have pro street, undercover.. just going down hill. this new game is ****ing boring, nothung much to do, u have barly any upragdes for aftermarket parts etc. i herd there will be a new nfs nitro or sotmhing like this and im hoping it wont turn out like this. nfs is comming out way to fast with new games and need to slow down and add more to them. since ive played undercover ive faded away from the series.. its gotten to the point that, and Juiced 2 is getting me more attracted towards that game.. im jsut hopeing that after this game the sh*ttyness stops and bring back the most wanted sh*t and extreme aftermarket parts!
Posted 02:06 on 03 February 2009


But they're very different games. Better to ask if Midnight Club or NFS is better, surely?
Posted 15:37 on 29 January 2009
xboxlive's Avatar

xboxlive@ woly

Originally Posted by woly
what is better GRid or Undercover?
Grid 100%
Posted 15:13 on 29 January 2009


Oh, and patches are coming at last to fix the last of the issues this game had.
Posted 14:52 on 29 January 2009

pblive@ xboxlive

Originally Posted by xboxlive
iam looking to get this game but iam not going to pay over £20 for it.
£15 second hand in Blockbuster's SH sale.
Posted 14:52 on 29 January 2009
Rogue_Soul's Avatar


GRID, by a large margin. ;)

Metacritic - NFS:Undercover / GRID
Posted 14:49 on 29 January 2009
woly's Avatar
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what is better GRid or Undercover?
Posted 14:03 on 29 January 2009
James's Avatar
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meeboot your right EA just fell down the hill and cracked his knee LOL
Posted 16:16 on 17 January 2009
xboxlive's Avatar


iam looking to get this game but iam not going to pay over £20 for it.
Posted 14:53 on 06 January 2009
noTtoSerious's Avatar
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errrr.... hello hy is every1 cussing this game off i think its alright and no way as bad as u monkey wanna be game reviewers say, someone said crap cars?? pahh r u mad the cars are wicked, graphics sharp stop ****ing moaning u old women.
Posted 14:27 on 06 January 2009
xboxlive's Avatar

xboxlive@ Anonymous

Originally Posted by Anonymous
nfs undercover sucks...go with midnight club LA
i got midnight club LA and thats the only thing thats stoping me buying this New need for speed.
Posted 12:59 on 01 January 2009
Anonymous's Avatar
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nfs undercover sucks...go with midnight club LA
Posted 17:35 on 31 December 2008
Muffinandahalf's Avatar
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this games sucks the other nfs are better and have better cars
Posted 07:30 on 29 December 2008
Des's Avatar
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does anyone know how to kill chase lihn when shes in her car at the very end when it says finish her?
Posted 06:04 on 29 December 2008

Game Stats

Need for Speed: Undercover
Out of 10
Need for Speed: Undercover
  • Driving model is fun
  • Online modes work
  • Some event types aren't great
  • Frame rate is terrible
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Release Date: 21/11/2008
Platforms: Xbox 360 , PS3 , PC , iPhone , Wii , DS , PS2 , PSP
Developer: Electronic Arts
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Genre: Racing
Rating: PEGI 12+
Site Rank: 4,223
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