Need For Speed: Underground
Publisher: Electronic Arts
latform: PS2, Xbox, PC, Gamecube, GBA
The definitive handheld racing experience is back better than ever. With more cars to choose from and more tracks to race on, GT Advance 3 shows that MTO still has the skills. The controls are largely the same and the interface received a nice facelift. Those of you who remember the first will also remember the two biggest detractors as well: how dark the game was and the crummy password system.
Thankfully, with GT Advance 2, that was all resolved and now we're left with one complaint-the vehicles' handling. Albeit far from realistic, the physics in the game are better than what you'd expect out of a handheld racer. Opponent AI could use some tweaking, as the game really only challenges you to make it through the track while maintaining a good racing line in order to beat the cars that are placed ahead of you at various intervals.
However, that does leave the skills department open for improvement on the player's behalf. If you really want to win, you've actually got to use your brakes and handbrake effectively if you want to make some good lap times. Additionally, perceived shortcuts will slow you down-sometimes a little bit, sometimes a lot. Nevertheless, you'll still need to master the controls and the physics in order to obtain that golden lap time.
Speaking of golden, there are now license tests you have to pass in order to gethrough each class. Another intriguing mode of game play is the "Drift Combo" mode, wherein you have to pull off a certain amount of drift maneuvers in order to unlock further cars within the game. This may seem easy, as you really only have to keep your thumb on the gas and nudge the brake in order to get into full drift, but it's actually quite challenging as you progress. It's always intriguing to see what MTO will come up with next (we just hope they actually decide to bring GTCube to the U.S.)...
No matter how you slice it though, GT Advance is a lasting series with some nice goods to offer. My only hope is that they'll start working on the physics a bit more and get some more licenses in as well (the usual requests of course: Lambo, Porsche, Ferrari, etc.). Anyway, if you've got a GBA and plenty of time on your hand, GT Advance 3 belongs in your collection. Besides, if you've got the first two, it's time you complete your collection.
Gt Advance 3
Platform: Gameboy Advance
So, Electronic Arts has decided to try its collective hand at an import racing game. Most import racing games have had mixed results in their execution and overall acceptance within the scene. Gran Turismo is by far the most popular, but what ever happened to Driving Emotion Type S? Going in with skepticism, NFS: Underground actually surprised me, and in a good way.
First of all, the build that EA showed us was not your average hackneyed 50 percent complete beta. It was polished, smooth as silk, and drop dead gorgeous. If what we saw was only halfway done, then all higher brain functions will cease and a waterfall of drool will cascade flowingly from your mouth when NFS: Underground hits the shelves.
One of the most amazing things about the game was the inclusion of subtle visual effects and sound effects. Where most games are content to simply play engine noise at various volumes, NFS: Underground actually recreates the sounds of each engine, specific to each car. Got an Eclipse with a huge turbo and a blow-off valve, then that's exactly what you're going to hear. The turbo spools as the revs build and when you hit your shift, the blow-off valve lets off a satisfying "chuff." However, you miss your shift and you just might blow your engine.
Of the visual effects that were on display, there was one thing that just exudes the essence of speed. Ever notice how most driving games are stable and silky smooth at top speed? Yeah, pretty unrealistic. Well, EA has tapped some major Hollywood talent to capture and re-create the essence and "feel" of 100+ mph speeds. As you pick up speed, the street lights start to blur, the car starts shaking, and it feels like all hell is breaking loose. Okay, maybe it doesn't literally feel like it, but you get a pretty good representation of it.
Need for Speed: Underground has what it takes to be the pimp of all racing games. With licensed cars, licensed parts, increased realism, and an all-around atmosphere that draws you into the game more than ever, it should be mandatory to buy this game. The other cool thing is that NFS: Underground is coming out for all the current platforms. Now, if you want to race someone online, you'll have to pick up the PC or PS2 version.