I'm a huge fan of the Need for Speed series, and so playing Need For Speed - Undercover was a must. I haven't read any previous reviews so this is going to be my opinion, as un-bias as I can make it.
The first time you pop the Blu-Ray Disc into the PS3, the game loads data to the hard-drive to make load times quicker. I wouldn't mind this so much if it actually made an improvement over previous version of the game. I guess my expectations for load times are too high. After the loading is completed, you jump directly into a game. This I really appreciate. No messing around with menus and selecting different modes, get right down to the action.
Another things I really liked about this game is the way you can jump into races and missions. Whenever you are 'close enough' to a race location or mission, a pop-up at the bottom of the screen allows you to jump right in. You can also select other missions from the GPS (map) and start right away. No more driving to the location...which I always though was a waste of time.
A few other things I liked about the game are:
- The surround sound - you tell if someone is catching up, how close they are and what direction they are approaching from.
- Sounds Effects were decent. The car sounds are fairly realistic, but the game seems to skimp out on sound effects for the environment - dirt roads for example, it sounds like you're still on pavement.
- I've always preferred the rural settings for NFS rather than the urban. When you get through about 25% of the game an unlock the whole map you get to drive around on highways and canyon roads. Taking a wide sweeping turn at almost full throttle is a blast. You really get the sense of speed.
- Bugatti Veyron - You get to 'drive it' and feel what a beast it really is. When you get the chance (in the game), you'd be crazy to buy any other car. On one of the highways, you will be able to hit the magic 407km/hr. Acceleration is ridiculous, and it's shear weight will take out any cop car when you get into trouble. It's acceleration and top speed actually are annoying at times, because when you're chasing someone, you blow by them way too often - not a bad thing of course.
- The loading scenes are very neat. Love the blurred headlights effects, keep you occupied with something interesting to look at.
As it is the case with everything, you can always point out more negatives than positives, and it's not exception with this game.
- Video Settings - Brightness and contrast - I know my TV is calibrated properly, so when the scenes in the game were appearing really dark, I went looking for the video settings menu. Guess what, there isn't one. The game actually tells you to change your TV settings - this is absolutely absurd. It's a lot easier for the game to handle it's video settings rather than me having to adjust my TV for the game and then re-adjust it for normal viewing, then back again for the game.
- Because of the above video setting problem, there are times in the game when the scenes look either too bright, or too dark. Playing any of the maps that run through the canyons/mountains, where you go from bright sunlight to dark shadows, you can't see a thing. "Headlights" or more subtle shadows would be make this game a lot more fun. I can't count the number of times I've hit the middle barrier in a tunnel, because I had no idea it was there.
- The mini map (GPS) on the bottom left corner of your screen glows blue during a police chases. This makes it really hard to see the map, and plot your get away routes. I think that's a bit unfair...
- Cut scenes - What can I say. I've always hated them and I always will. I want to see it once, and from that time on, I should have the option to skip it.
- Car handling - It's very arcade, very very arcade. Most of the cars I tried stick to the road like glue. You can head into a corner flat out, barely lift the throttle, initiate the turn, and get back on the throttle and pull away. No over or under steer, no slide, just perfect traction...??
- Game physics - the Need For Speed franchise has never been known for it's game physics. An this version is no different. You can go from pavement to dirt, and still drive the car like hell and it won't spin out... again, perfect traction.
Although this time they evened the playing field by giving us and the AI the same handling characteristics. The AI no longer peals out of the corner, while you're left burning rubber and going no where.
- Not all the AI is perfect, and there are a few cheap tricks. The infamous 'catch-up' mode still exists. You will be on your perfect driving line, at full throttle, and out of no where, a few of the AI cars will catch up...??
- The Hero Driving rewards are great, you can have fun with that. Get your hero meter really high, and big rewards, but watch out, if you nick anything in the environment even slightly, that meter will drop down to zero. I stop focusing on part of the game after a few tries.
- Tuning - You can pull into one of the body shops, buy parts, and tune the car, but barely. You get the basic HP vs Torque, Nitrous duration, and a few other options, but nothing detailed. Applying any of the body kits or aerodynamic packages does nothing to increase performance.
- Difficulty level of the game - Not hard enough, If finished the game in under 18 hours.
- Frame rate - With the PS3 I was not expecting this to be an issue, but it is. When you're at the starting grid and jostling for position, you will notice a significant drop in the frame rate. Same thing while you're on a dirt road or police chase.
- Draw distance - Again, wasn't expecting this to be a problem for the PS3. Driving along a straight stretch of road, you will see the AI and environment rendering right in front of you.