Review: EA's Need for Speed Undercover for the iPhone, iPod Touch

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For whatever reason, I can’t stop playing the iPhone version of EA’s Need for Speed Undercover, which is why it’s taken me this long to review it. I can’t say that I’ve ever been a big fan of the console series, but EA nailed it on the head with the handheld port. Everything about this game from the graphics to the cut scenes to the handling of cars is outstanding – but the game isn’t perfect. It’s fun, sure, but it has its hang ups.

The storyline seemed straight out of The Fast and The Furious. At least, I guess it was; I typically jumped ahead during the dialogue and video cut scenes, because that’s just what I do. However, I sat through enough of them to make sure I wasn’t missing anything. In short, you’re an undercover agent looking to infiltrate and bust a car-stealing ring in LA. Like I said, The Fast and The Furious.

Each of the 20 cars handles about the same. Of course, there’s only so much you can do with an accelerometer-based platform, so don’t expect Gran Turismo-like controls. Controls are simple and that’s a testament to how well EA built this game. To steer left or right, you need only tilt your iPhone/iPod Touch accordingly. For an extra bit of speed during a race simply swipe up with one finger for a boost of nitrous oxide.

In some of the races you’ll encounter busy intersections, so swiping down with two fingers brings everything to crawl to give you a chance to get through without crashing. Getting around corners is easy when you know how to drift your whip. A fast twitch to either side engages a drift and twitch to the opposite side will bring you out of it.

Any of the 20 cars that you manage to unlock and purchase can be customized for both show and go in the garage. Cash to hop-up your ride are earned in each race, and bonus points can be accrued by pulling off fancy maneuvers mid-race. Drifting, slipstreaming, nudges, and near misses will all up your point count and, in turn, your budget. I mainly worked under the hood on my Nissan 240SX and Mitsubishi Lancer Evo. Nothing too granular here: speed, acceleration, handling and nitrous can all be upgraded to help you win races. The exterior of your vehicle can be modified with body kits, paint jobs, suspension work, graphics and rims.

Need for Speed Underground is broken down into three zones with eight missions per zone. The missions can get repetitive, as the formula remains the same throughout each zone. For example, “Hot Car” missions require you to safely transport a stolen vehicle from one end of the city to the other without wrecking it or getting caught by the police. Other missions involve taking out police cruisers or rival cars, first to a checkpoint and so on.

With all of that being said, I’ve taken a few breaks in between this review to play a few missions. NFSU is an immersive game with an in-your-face rock soundtrack that lures me back in just to break records and wreak havoc in downtown Los Angeles. Is it worth $10? Absolutely.

Need For Speed Undercover [iTunes]

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