Game Reviews

Need for Speed: Undercover (iPhone)

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Need for Speed: Undercover (iPhone)

It's not about the decals or neon lighting or the long legs and miniskirt sitting on the passenger seat. Any serious racer knows it's what's under your hood that counts. You can wet your lips at the flashy graphics and enjoy the fine-tuned ride, though Need for Speed: Undercover needs a lube job in order for the action to really get going.

Half-weight hottie Maggie Q guides you through the street racing underworld with the hope of cracking a smuggling operation. As an undercover agent behind the wheel, you tackle racing events across the Tri-City Bay Area gaining favour among the three syndicates in each district. Like any racer, the chatter and live-action videos are just filler between sessions burning rubber.

No multiplayer here - it's all about cracking down on crime in the single player story. Events include various street races, head-to-head sprints, take-downs, and escape runs that task you with minimising damage to your car as you speed to the finish line. There are some lame sequences, such as earning street cred by driving through crates and cones, but most of the activities shift into a higher gear.

It's the escapes that pose the biggest challenge, police aggressively swiping your car as you struggle to hold out to the end of the event. The concept itself is pretty cool, but cop cars have entirely too much horsepower. They're always right on your tail, even after crashing into another car. Intended as a way of keeping you in the action, it's just too obvious for it to feel fair.

Fortunately, the other events should get your engines going. Races are always a blast, though it's the one-on-one sprints and take-downs that test your skill. Speeding past the competition demands good handling. Finely tuned use of the accelerometer makes it a breeze to control your car, though the lack of a calibration option is an oversight.

Weaving through traffic with tips of your handset isn't enough, though. Mastering the game's flick drift mechanic and slip-streaming are essential for dominating your opponents. Both moves require tight steering: flicks of your handset instigating velocity-preserving drifts and tiny tilts keeping you within an opponent's draft cone.

You acquire points for pulling off these stylish manoeuvres, so it's worth the effort anyway. Style points open up new vehicles for purchase in the garage, which you can grab with your event earnings.

Additionally, basic enhancements are available for speed, acceleration, handling, and nitrous. For a nominal fee, visual touches like a new coat of paint or decal can be plastered on your ride. It would have been great to see utilisation of the camera for custom decals, but it's inconsequential.

The decisions to forego multiplayer and omit a calibration option, however, are not insignificant. These prevent Need for Speed: Undercover, among other minor hitches like an absolutely awful soundtrack, from being the perfect ride. Looks and charm it's got, just not enough oomph under the hood to get totally revved up.

Need for Speed: Undercover (iPhone)

Need for Speed: Undercover revs up an impressive graphics engine and some fun driving, though the lack of multiplayer has it sputtering out on the side of the road while other racers zoom by
Tracy Erickson
Tracy Erickson
Manning our editorial outpost in America, Tracy comes with years of expertise at mashing a keyboard. When he's not out painting the town red, he jets across the home of the brave, covering press events under the Pocket Gamer banner.