Speed, I, am SPEED! Need for Speed: Underground set a new bar for arcade racing games, and it knocked the fucking socks off of anything that tried to rival it. From the impeccable soundtrack to the revolutionary gameplay, this game has become a true classic.
I had multiple consoles growing up, and the only game I’ve had across all of them is Need for Speed: Underground. Whether it be PS2, Xbox, or GameCube, my friends would constantly come over to play this with me. It was essentially the go to title once we’ve gotten past the Halo craze. I begged my parents for years to get me that WaveBird GameCube controller just so I could play Underground in bed, yes, I was that addicted.
I’m not entirely sure my love for this game came from it being so good, I believe it’s because everything else at the time sucked ass. Project Gotham Racing, Grand Turismo, and Ridge Racer didn’t scratch the itch for me the same way this series did. Underground had the perfect blend of realism while being focused on arcade racing.
The types of races to select from isn’t a large list, but all of them are perfect in every way. I specifically love drift, as it lets me try and make the car go in the weirdest directions possible since I’m too lazy to slow down and not hit a wall. The thrill of it seemed so exciting as a kid. Knockout is probably my least favorite, since you have to speed around a map to not be kicked from the race if you’re too slow. Circuit is the same thing without the elimination, meaning if you mess up, you could have a chance.
Unlike its sequel, there’s no massive open world. You’re essentially restricted to the main menu to enter races but that isn’t a crazy deal to me. Grand Turismo Sport has the same method as mentioned before which doesn’t bother my nerves. Everything up to the actual tracks are linear, making the intensity even more gut wrenching because if you crash, you’re screwed unless you have an insanely overpowered ride.
Customization wasn’t that big of a focus for me. Generally I just changed the tires outside of the important parts like the engine and suspension, since things like stickers didn’t seem like a necessity for me. This is mostly because I don’t know jackshit about cars in the first place, I’m not much of a fanatic. So I couldn’t really comment on the amount you could change, but I know the things that were changeable like tires had a lot of options to pick from. It’s great if you want your car to look really street centric or a more relaxed, basic car. Also, I know it’s a brutal car to drive in a racing environment, but the Mazda MX-5 is my shit, I literally love it and don’t know why.
It’s not even a joke when I say this game’s soundtrack is the best of all time. Just, wow. Lil Jon’s Get Low, T.I.’s 24’s, Rob Zombie’s Two-Lane Blacktop, and Story of the Year’s And the Hero Will Drown… those alone just wrap everything up perfectly. Some hip hop and some rock makes a stellar combo for racing titles. Riding down the street in my newly unlocked car beating the competition listening to music that fuels your soul is an unmatched experience.
Realistically speaking, Need for Speed: Underground was the start of the golden age of EA’s speedy IP. It spawned the somehow even better sequel Underground 2, the impeccable Most Wanted (2005), and the end of the era, Carbon. Capturing that magic is something that’s unparalleled in this industry, and Underground seals the deal as a game that’ll go down in history.