Need for Speed Undercover has been released on practically every format you can think of, despite the fact that the Xbox 360 is leagues apart from the humble DS in terms of processing power. Undercover on the DS tries its best to be all it can be, offering a free-roaming city, illegal street racing, Maggie Q and plenty of high speed cars, but it doesn't manage to be any more entertaining than its next-gen bigger brothers.
In NFS: Undercover you play a cop who is asked to infiltrate a street racing crime syndicate. Your handler, Chase Linh, is played by Hollywood actress Maggie Q, dressed quite provocatively in various outfits that probably aren't standard issue for the police force. Unfortunately, the cut scenes here are still images and voice work is simply on-screen text. We probably shouldn't have expected much more from the DS, but it's fair to say that it doesn't feel like nearly enough of a spectacle.
On the road things are surprisingly decent. For one, you get an open city to drive around in, controlling your car with the d-pad only, with a few view options, but the trade off seems to be that the graphics are simpler than they might have been if the game had been a straight up racer. Still, this open city has allowed many of the game modes to be carried over from the 'next-gen' versions, including the cop chases that see you trying to outrun the Fuzz, the sprint events that see you racing from point to point and the more standard circuit races. The goal, other than to eventually bring down the crime lords, is to earn money in order to buy better cars and purchase performance upgrades.
Also carried over from the console versions are highway battles, which see you competing against another driver on a long stretch of road, travelling at high speed and trying to avoid other drivers. It's here that your speed breaker ability (essentially slowing down time) and your car's nitrous boost are most important, although considering there's not that much traffic on the road the sense of danger is never that great.
This is Undercover's biggest problem on the DS. For a DS game it's technically quite impressive, with the frame rate holding up well and the sense of speed being pretty good, but there simply isn't enough going on, with the roads feeling sparse from a distinct lack of traffic. You'll pass the occasional standard, non-racing vehicle, but they pop up so infrequently that they may as well not exist. It's a valiant attempt by EA to give DS owners a game that resembles the home console versions as closely as this, but it's probably come at a cost to the fun you're going to get out of it.
Various four-player multiplayer modes are also supported, either wirelessly using a single game card, with everyone using their own copy or even online. We found online performance to be pretty good, but the relatively few number of games resulted in some rather lengthy waits between each race.
Need for Speed: Undercover is a solid effort considering the limitations of the DS hardware, but it lacks the excitement required of a good arcade racer. The racing is competent, the game modes are plentiful and it's an impressive technical achievement, but that doesn't make it a fun game to play.