Need for Speed Undercover Hands-on Preview

Written by Joe Martin

October 15, 2008 | 07:44

Tags: #hands-on #need-for-speed #need-for-speed-undercover

Companies: #ea

Everything Changes

One of the most interesting things about the full-motion video sequences though, other than the chance to see some particularly lovely ladies talking about how they like fast cars, is how EA Black Box has worked with these scenes cinematographically.

‘The Hollywood Approach’ is something that we heard the Need for Speed: Undercover developers reference often, mostly in relation to the style and presentation of the game. It was clear to us that a huge amount of effort had been put into making the game look as cinematic and beautifully lit as possible.

The lighting and cinematography is the place where this approach is most visible and we spent a good amount of time chatting with the developers about how they had sought out the magic hour and sought to render as much of the game as possible in this visually distinctive way. As such, a large portion of the game itself and the full-motion videos are treated with a selection of special shader effects.

The plot itself however, as explained so sultrily by Maggie Q, is as predictable as you might think. Putting a story into a racing game is never all that easy when you draw a definite line in the ground which says that you’ll never get out of the car or see your character talk, but EA has done its best and the result is quite good – which is to say that it doesn’t get in the way of the gameplay, not that it's a truly engaging narrative.

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The basic premise is as indenti-kit as you could imagine, made distinctive only by the presentation and lighting. NFS: Undercover is set in the fictional, but clearly New York-inspired, area of Tri-City and players are cast as an undercover cop in that area.

Tri-City is, as you’d expect, actually made of up three cities each of which is as sprawling and massive as you’d hope and are linked by highways. The cities can be explored as you wish and thanks to the in-game map, which EA went to great lengths to explain is rendered in-game so that there’s no load or pausing, you’ll never get lost.

As an undercover agent, your true identity is known only by Maggie Q’s character (something that will inevitably provide a gameplay tragedy, we reckon) and the rest of the police are out to get you and you worm your way closer to the centre of a huge crime syndicate. It’s this fact that EA Black Box is hoping will make the game's chases and missions that much more interesting – on the one hand you’re a cop, but on the other you’re beyond the law.

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This three-way conflict of interests is something that the developers have really tried to build into the gameplay and the several dozen large-scale chases that are one of the game's central features. As you play you’ll be taking on missions from the crime syndicate on the one hand and taking orders from the narcs at the same time – and if either goes wrong then you’ll have a huge chase on your hands and will be forced into tackling the police one way or another.

EA is also boasting about the huge selection of gameplay modes too, which include the usual array of races and circuits from the previous games as well as a few ones. There’s the new Highway Battle mission type for example, where players are rewarded more for playing against the traffic, plus the new Cops and Robbers multiplayer mode.

Though we didn’t get a chance to play any of the multiplayer game unfortunately, Cops and Robbers is certainly looking to be our favourite game mode. It’s essentially a team-game where the Robbers are tasked with collecting and returning the loot, while the police have to delay and arrest them. What makes it look so much fun though is that the game is so quick to get playing and the pace is kept so fast – something which contrasts a little with the bits we actually got to play with...
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