Need for Speed Undercover

You know what you're getting with a Need for Speed game. Never would they win an award for originality, but they don't cut corners on the visual polish or the vehicle handling.

Last year's mobile instalment, Need for Speed ProStreet, however did scrimp on the content a bit. Fortunately, that little drawback has been obliterated in Undercover.

Seven cars, 22 courses and eight different events have seen to that. At last, here's a Need for Speed game that really does have it all - looks, control and loads to do.

Starting with the straightforward Circuit race, Undercover pits you against three rival cars in a hard fought sprint to the finishing line. Trailing in the exhaust fumes of a car in front of you allows you to slipstream for an extra burst of speed while hitting '5' when you're on a straight slows everything down for a few seconds, allowing for some seriously cool nipping in and out of traffic.

There are other ways to gain speed and advantage, too. First there's the staple of any street racing game worth its spoilers - nitro, which can be activated whenever you like but also needs to refill before you can use it again.

Then there's drifting around corners, which builds speed and rewards you with cash. Pressing '5' on a corner activates it and triggers a Tony Hawk balance bar style meter which needs to be kept in the green to pull off the slide (letting it go into the red throws your car into a spin).

All of these controls work superbly. Acceleration is done automatically and there's rarely a point where it feels anything other than realistic (except in the Speed Camera event when nitro-ing past the camera doesn't reward you with a higher number on the speedometer than if you'd cruised past it normally).

The sense of speed is immense - the tarmac beneath your tyres whips by - and collisions are jarring. You can leave the road, smash into other cars and even take down road signs and traffic cones.

Speaking of wanton destruction, there's even a specific Bounty mode for those who feel more comfortable smashing stuff up than winning races in which you have to cause a specified amount of damage in the space of one lap.

It's a carnage-filled break from the normal races, as is the Speed Camera mode, Cop Take Out (smash a cop car off the road before the end of the lap) and the Boss races, where you race one super-tough AI opponent around one lap.

Interspersed with all the on-track action is the garage, where you can buy new cars and also upgrade the ones you've got. The upgrade system is pretty in-depth, with five different parts of the car to upgrade by several levels, which - performance-wise - affect acceleration, handling, nitro and top speed.

You can even buy body kits for your cars, which turn them from your standard VW or Nissan to super souped up, spoiler-laden chick magnets. That is, if the chicks you're after are about 15 years old and enjoy hanging around outside the local Co-op.

There's very little to fault Undercover on. It's got everything you could want in a street racing game. Your driving game pros will probably still zip through it without too many difficulties - in the first half of the game in particular it's easy to win most races first time.

But there's money to win, cars to unlock and race times to beat for added replayability. It might not contain too many surprises but it's got gallons of speed and style.

Need for Speed Undercover

A superb instalment to the Need for Speed series. It's speedy with slick visuals and eight different events that'll have you ramming cars off the road, destroying cities and racing some tough AI opposition. Pole position stuff
Kath Brice
Kath Brice
Kath gave up a job working with animals five years ago to join the world of video game journalism, which now sees her running our DS section. With so many male work colleagues, many have asked if she notices any difference.