Need For Speed Undercover - Preview

It's that time of year again... time for another installment of the Need For Speed series. This year brings Need For Speed "Undercover".

Undercover is a far change from the last version, NFS Pro Street... and that is not a bad thing. As we have seen already, Undercover is, as EA puts it, "a rich, cinematic experience where players are an undercover cop taking jobs and competing in races to prove themselves as they infiltrate and takedown an international crime syndicate." But enough corporate speak, let's get into it.

During this year's Community Day, EA presented us with the following statement: Open world action driving adventure. Every word in that sentence means something specific to NFS Undercover. So let's break it down:

Open World

It's back. Open world racing makes it's return this year. The "Tri-City" area is made up of, you guessed it, 3 seperate sections: Sunset Hills, Palm Harbour and Port Crescent. As seen on the map to the left, all three areas are connected via a long highway. We're told, In a Porsche GT2 in light traffic, it should take about 8 minutes to complete the entire loop at full speed. Not too bad. Of course, it's not all highways, and there will be city streets to drive on once you get into an area. The entire game, including cut-scenes, is set during what Hollywood likes to call "The Magic Hour"; a time period roughly between 4am and 6am, when the natural lighting casts perfect shadows. Hollywood has been using this time period for years to shoot big budget films, and with Joseph Hodges coming on as director for NFS:UC, it's no surprise that they would use The Magic Hour for the game. Hodges isn't the only big name involved with Undercover. Action film star Maggie Q plays the lead role, while Christina Milian, Heather Fox and Daniel D. Lee will also make appearances.


Action Driving

My favourite part of the pre-alpha build we got to play was by far the new physics engine. Most of the engine was borrowed from Pro Street, but it was overhauled and tweaked to make each car handle differently, but all VERY well. If you've played any recent EA sports titles, you may be familiar with the various "skill moves" you can perform with your player. Along those same lines, the car controls in NFS Undercover act the same way. Hold the e-brake and tap the left stick slightly (on XBOX 360... not sure about other versions) and your car will do a slick looking 360. Tap the stick again, and you'll flip back around for a full 360 degree turn. Keep tapping and you can dance your car around any way you want, useful for evading cops, or just having fun. All these moves can be performed while going in reverse also. One thing to note... while performing a 180 or multiple 180's, the camera is not attached to the top of your car. It kind of "floats" around your car, letting you have a look at all angles. Try performing that same maneuver while lightly holding the steering control, and you'll pull of a nice drift. It all adds up for some very slick looking driving. However, the drift mode was taken out of this year's game, so you'll have to do that on your own. The big new mode this year is called "Highway Battle". It's basically what the name suggests. You and an AI opponent race down a highway during rush-hour like traffic. The traffic AI is also smarter this time around, and they will adapt and change lanes with their turn signals to avoid oncoming racers, or to obey police sirens.

Adventure

As previously mentioned, Maggie Q plays the lead character of the game. We didn't get too much info on exactly what role she will play, but expect to see her in lots of cut-scenes (which isn't a bad thing). You will progress through the game by completing various missions that open up as you complete them. In a Test Drive Unlimited like way, you can either jump out to the map and navigate to a mission, or you can drive there using GPS and directional arrows. But I think the following trailer will say it best:

NFS:UC Trailer:


Miscellaneous Information

Of course, this being Need For Speed, customization is still in the game. Autosculpt makes a return, as does the ability to add full body kits, or just specific body parts to the car. Performance tuning is also there, but the details haven't been released on how in-depth customization is. A couple more little details: There will be damage, but it will not affect the performance of the car. It's purely visual. Nothing is known about the online mode yet, like usual. Release date is set for November 18th on all the usual platforms (PC, PS2, PS3, XBOX360, Wii, DS, PSP)

That's about all, but I will update this if I remember any other features of the game worth-noting. Until then, check out the NFS:UC Screenshots section for plenty of eye-candy.

Post your thoughts/questions in this forum thread, and I'll do my best to answer what I can.

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