I never expected the first Need For Speed Underground to sell that much. Frankly, I thought it was going to have respectable numbers by EA standards but not more. But when I heard it was the best selling game last year worldwide, or at least that it was in the top 5, I was shocked!

I don’t own a car yet, and I don’t know when I will as it isn’t much of a priority to me, but racing games have always been some of my favorites. I am mostly an arcade racer fanatic and I like games that give you a good sense of speed, something which the Need For Speed games have always been known for. The underground racing part is just icing on the cake but it is what adds so much depth to this game. I always thought that people who kept turning their cars and all were kind of stupid as I thought it was pointless, but I have to admit I’ve spent hours on this game just doing that. There is something about it that makes you come back and just tune it more or change the look of the car; it kind of makes you feel proud about your ride. I know it’s just a virtual car made up of a few thousand polygons and textures, but it’s still nice to show it to your friends just to see who has the most beautiful car.

If you’ve played last year’s version though, you might be wondering what’s new in this version that would make you pick it up. Well, even though EA only had about a year or so to develop the game, it made huge improvements to the gameplay mechanics as well as the whole game in general, like the way you get to races and the story of it. This time around you get to drive in a huge city called Bayview which is separated in different areas that you need to unlock by completing levels, and each level is made up of various races. The more you advance in the game, the more cars and car parts you unlock and the more difficult it gets.

Car shops are hidden in the city and by finding them you unlock new stuff to upgrade you car. Most of them are easy to find as you are given hints on your cellphone to help you find them. Yeah, you heard me right! And not only do you have a cellphone, but you also have a full GPS system to help you find races as well as a city map. You can just select a race on the map and an arrow will appear at the top of the screen to show you the way which is kind of nice when you are lost.

So the goal of the game is mostly the same as it was in the first one, except that you have to go around the city and find the races yourself. Most are on the map but some are hidden. There are a few new things added to the game though as only adding a huge city around it wasn’t enough. You get 2 new kinds of races in races in this game and they are a welcome addition. First is outrun. If you’ve played Tokyo Extreme Racer than you already know what this one is all about. While driving around the city you meet other racers and you can flash your lights to race against them. The goal is to get a certain distance in front of them to win so it,s kind of like a chase and you have to get as far away from that racer as possible. The other new mode is Street X. It’s a race on a little circuit with lots of corners where you’ll really need to master every turn in order to win as it doesn’t last long. It’s kind of cool and the other racers really play it rough.

Drift races have also been upgraded and you are drifting against other opponent at the same time and as soon as one finishes the race you’ll have a certain amount of time to finish it too. Darg races also have a lot more obstacles and are more difficult, but it seems like there is a lot less traffic so it makes everything a lot less frustrating than it was last year. Sprint and Circuits are still here and there is also Underground League which is a mix of different races. You can also completely depleat your nitro and then perform dangerous things like avoiding traffic or drift in corners to refill your turbo meter, adding a little more startegy to races.

One thing I really liked this time around was that you can test your car and then adjust it for each type of race. That means that, for example, if you need more acceleration in one type of race than another like in Street X for example, then you can adjust your car for it and then save it and each and every time you’ll enter a Street X race it’ll load automatically. That means you can do the tuning once and then use it fort he rest of the game. This is one of the best things I’ve seen in a racing game yet and it’s easy to do and it works really well.

As you probably already know you get a variety of licensed cars from various manufacturers from Mitsubishi to Honda as well as lots of others, but what I found funny was that they added SUVs this year and other types of cars which don’t really have their place in this game. I mean, it can be really funny to tune a Hummer 2, but it doesn’t race really well and it controls really badly. I don’t know what was the reasoning behind this, but I would have preffered more cool cars than this. Maybe some people like it, I don’t know, but for me it was completely pointless.

Last year’s game looked great, and the sequel also looks good adding more effects, bigger environments, more particle effects and better lighting as well as coll reflections on the cars and different times of the day. When you brake or do spins there is lots of smoke coming out from behind your car and I thought it looked great, and the speed efefct when you use your nitro is still there and it looks amazing, making everything stretch and blur a little to make you feel like you are going at amazing speeds. The car models are well detailed compared to other GameCube racers and the textures in the game were nice, but some were still a little blurry from up close but since you are racing all of the time you won’t really notice it. Overall, it looks really great except for one thing: the framerate sucks! It doesn’t make the game unplayable, and those who are not game fanatics probably won’t care, but when you are racing at high speeds you really need a good framerate as it helps to really make you feel like you are there racing at over 150 miles per hour. Instead, the framerate will drop from time to time and it really gets frustrating. I think that if last year’s version was ok then tere’s no reason why EA couldn’t have made this game run at a smooth framerate, especially since other games on the cube look better and have a more stable framerate.

Sound is not disapointing though as, like last year, everything sounds really great in DPL2. If you have a good sound system then you should really be impressed with this game. The sounds of the cars are amazing and the more you tune them and buy new upgrades the sounds change and it really makes for a movie-like experience except it’s all happening in real time. Like I had said in my review for Need For Speed Underground, it really feels like watching the fast and the furious. I think they’ve done an amazing job yet again and it is one of the most enjoyable aspects of the game. The music is kind of cool, but I’m not really into rap and hip hop music, but I think there is a little something for everyone. You can also customize the tracklist so that you only listen to tracks you like.

So I thing that if you liked last year’s version and don’t really mind the unstable framerate then you will be fine with this one. If offers a lot of replay value and even more of what made the last game so great, while fixing every probelm it had to make everything as perfect as possible. The multiplayer is good but since the framerate is so bad it can become frustrating but at least it’s there. Still, I was really happy with this one and I think EA has set a new standard for arcade racers.