A complete reimagining of the series' formula, NFSU offered a career mode featuring a storyline, and a garage mode that allowed players to fully customize their cars with a large variety of brand-name performance and visual upgrades. All races take place in a generic city at night (though the city bears some resemblance to New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles). Instead of hundred-thousand dollar exotics, Underground featured vehicles associated with the Import Scene. This, plus the increasingly arcade-like controls, became points of controversy for Need for Speed fans. Despite this, Underground was commercially very successful, and inspired a sequel.
It is rumored that the car manufacturers were very strict in how their vehicles were to be portrayed in this game, especially considering the "illegal street racing" reputation of the tuner culture. EA took some effort in making the races appear as sanctioned racing events, and included a public service announcement in the game's introduction. In addition, vehicles do not have damage models.
The player starts straight into the action, at a circuit race driving a uniquely styled Honda Integra Type R with wide body kit, easily winning over his opponents...only to be woken up by Samantha from his daydreaming.
Samantha is the player's friend in the new environment; she shows the player how the console with the races works, who's who, and makes fun of the player's starter car. Eddie (and his orange-metallic Nissan Skyline), is the leader of the Eastsiders and current top racer of the streets, and Melissa is his girlfriend. The rules are simple: 'You win races, you get cool parts. You lose, and you're out'.
Time passes, races are won. The player meets other racers, and eventually gathers a small list of nemeses who continually challenge him and are defeated. He's introduced to TJ, who promises unique vehicle upgrades in exchange of beating time trial challenges; Samantha does the same from time to time, offering unique visual modifications instead.
The player's successive victories don't impress Eddie. First, he mocks the player's skill, saying he has a long way to go to 'roll his streets'. Later in the game, the player builds enough hype to be too hard to ignore, so Eddie challenges him to beat Samantha in a sprint race before coming after him; the player's willingness in going for it infuriates her. Samantha totals her Civic's engine trying to beat the player, unsuccessfully. TJ takes the junked car for himself after the event.
When the player comes close to reaching #1 in all kinds of races, Eddie tries to once again get rid of his rival. Around the same time, the Player sees TJ in Samantha's recovered car, now working again, but vandalized; at first, Samantha's car has a vinyl of Hello Kitty on it, but TJ spray painted over it to turn it into one of a dead kitty that looks somewhat evil. Both run a circuit race worth the other's vehicle, which the player wins. The player returns the car to Samantha to make amends, and she gives the player a choice of a wide body kit for his car.
Right after the touching moment, Eddie challenges the player and loses, like everyone else who ever challenged the player so far. Before any victory can be sung, a mysterious, legendary silver Nissan 350Z challenges the player for a last run through the Market Street circuit. A challenger who, after being beaten by the player, is revealed to be Eddie's girlfriend, Melissa.
That event solidifies the player's status as the new best underground racer in the city.
|Samantha||Honda Civic Coupe||Player's guide, and provider of unique visual parts.|
|Eddie||Nissan Skyline GT-R R34||Leader of the Eastsiders.|
|Melissa||Nissan Nismo 350Z|
(Mitsubishi Eclipse GSX in intro movie and promos)
|Jose||Volkswagen Golf GTi||One of the first rivals, specialized in circuit races.|
|TJ (AKA Junkman)||Honda Civic Coupe - 'modified' Samantha's car||Provider of unique performance parts.|
|One of the Eastsiders;|
Number 1 circuit racer.
|Chad||Toyota Celica GT-S|
|One of the Eastsiders;|
Number 1 sprint racer.
|Todd||Mitsubishi Eclipse GSX|
Mitsubishi Lancer ES
|One of the Eastsiders;|
Number 1 drag racer.
|Klutch||Dodge Neon||Number 15 drag racer.|
|Dirt||Nissan 240SX||Number 1 drift racer.|
Types of RacesEdit
Circuit is a standard race that involves racing with up to four opponents cars around a loop track for two laps or more, and is the main mode of the game. For about the last 4 races of underground mode, the number of players decreases to only 1 rival, and the number of laps reach up to seven (Endurance Race)
A variant of Circuit, Knockout Mode is similar to previous Need for Speed titles, involves "knocking out" the last racer who passes the starting line in each lap until the final leader of the race remains, and wins the race. In the case of Underground, Knockout sessions have a maximum of three laps for four racers.
Sprint mode is a variation on the Circuit mode, where the contestants race in a point-to-point track instead of loop tracks. These races are typically shorter than "circuits" (with a maximum of 8 km in length), so players are required to be more cautious of any mistakes during racing.
Drifting is the most challenging and technical aspect of the game. Drift mode consists of one player in a short loop track, where the objective is to collect as many points as possible by drifting along the track. The player competes with three other contestants, who appear to accumulate scores along with the player during the drift session. The player would be required to beat these scores in order to obtain top positions.
Bonuses are awarded for players who drift in the outer borders of the track, drift vertically, or perform chained-drifting (continuous drifting by constantly steering the vehicle during drifts to maintain speed); if the player succeeds in ending a drift without collisions onto the sides of the track, the collected points are added into the score, otherwise, the collected points are cancelled.
Drift mode is the only type of racing where time taken to complete the track does not matter, since players are given the freedom to complete the allocated number laps at their own pace. This may explain the absence of nitrous oxide in this mode, since it serves no apparent purpose in this situation.
Drag racing is the second most technical form of race in the game. It involves racing against one or three cars on typically straight tracks, and attempting to obtain top positions to win. In order to master Drag mode, players must employ good timing and reflexes for gear shifting, redlining, overtaking, and the use of nitrous oxide boosts;Because the player is going to put the engine to its limits the mode places particular emphasis in monitoring the tachometer during races, which is enlarged and situated on the leftmost portion of the screen. Steering in this mode is simplified to simply allow for lane changes, while the computer handles the steering along the lanes, and the player focuses more on maintaining an optimum speed for the car.
Two conditions will result in players being forfeited during a drag race: head-on collisions with an opponent, barriers or dividers (being 'Totaled'); or blown engines as a result from prolonged redlining and the subsequent overheating of the engine.
The name of the city that the game is set is given as "Olympic City" shown on many billboards across the city. It resembles both New York City and Los Angeles. Some of the landmarks seen here are later seen in Bayview, used in Need for Speed: Underground 2. It is also possible that the game takes place in Texas, as billboards depicting a picture of the shape of Texas are visible.
Real Life SimilaritiesEdit
- Empire State Building
- U.S. Bank Tower (The spoof on this was also seen on the cover art for 'Need for Speed: Rivals, but with a crown on top, much like on the Allure Las Vegas condominiums in Las Vegas, but Allure wasn't built at the time of the release, so this is highly unlikely.)
- Figuaroa Tower
- Central Park
- Forth Bridge
- Chinatown (Los Angeles)
- Chinatown (San Francisco)
- Sunset Blvd
- Los Angeles River
Most of the soundtracks are from the year 2003, when the game was developed.
- Overseer - Doomsday (3:13)*
- The Crystal Method - Born Too Slow (2:45)*
- Rancid - Out of Control (1:39)*
- Rob Zombie - Two-Lane Blacktop (2:54)*
- BT - Kimosabe (4:55)
- Static-X - The Only (2:51)*
- Element Eighty - Broken Promises (3:16)
- Asian Dub Foundation - Fortress Europe (3:51)
- Hotwire - Invisible (2:52)
- Story of the Year - And the Hero Will Drown (3:12)
- Andy Hunter - The Wonders of You (7:09)
- Junkie XL - Action Radius (3:54)
- Fuel - Quarter (3:39)
- Jerk - Sucked In (2:52)*
- Fluke - Snapshot (3:59)
- Lostprophets - To Hell We Ride (displayed as just "Ride") (3:40)
- Overseer - Supermoves (4:46)
- FC Kahuna - Glitterball (5:43)
- Blindside - Swallow (2:24)
- Lil Jon & the Eastside Boyz - Get Low (4:25)*
- Mystikal - Smashing the Gas (Get Faster) (3:09)
- Dilated Peoples - Who's Who (3:55)*
- Nate Dogg - Keep It Coming (4:18)
- X-ecutioners - Body Rock (3:36)
- Petey Pablo - Need For Speed (3:32)
- T.I. - 24's (4:06)*
Reception and salesEdit
Critics generally liked the game, despite primary complaints of repetitive tracks, unbalanced rubberband AI, excessive use of random traffic, and lack of an online feature in the GameCube and Xbox versions.
The game was one of the best-selling of all time, selling 15 million copies worldwide.