Need for Speed: Undercover
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this is a racing game that encourages risky driving behavior. Because you play as an undercover cop who is trying to gain credibility with a street gang, you must do things that are bad, like ramming into police cars and others. The game may annoy those gamers who care about graphics as much as gameplay. The jittery graphics at high speed can even make you lose a race. Music and dialog can be a bit naughty. Many models and makes of real cars are featured. If you don't have the patience to play through the game to unlock some of these new models of cars, you can purchase them online for between $2-10.
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What's it about?
The Need for Speed series, which has been around since 1994 and has seen 16 games so far, is a staple of the racing genre. Offering teeth-gritting action, high speed chases, and shiny, customizable cars, the game's popularity spans the ages from teen to parent. In NEED FOR SPEED: UNDERCOVER, you and a federal officer (played by actress Maggie Q) are sent into the seamy underbelly of the fictional Tri-City in order to break up a ring of race car thieves. There, you'll meet all manner of creeps and connivers as you speed through a faux San Francisco Bay Area with 80 miles of twisting, turning highways.
Interestingly, you don't choose from a myriad of customizable car to begin. You're thrown right into the story. A Nissan is your default drive, but play more and more, a dealership's worth of cars are unlocked. There are seven modes from which to choose in a fairly open world and a huge amount of mission. The big deal this year is something called the Heroic Driving Engine, which lets you pull of fantastic move like a 180 degree turn as you speed through the streets at up to a thrilling 180 miles per hour.
Is it any good?
Unfortunately, Undercover was shipped before it was finished. When you get into the Story Mode, you'll see it packs too much information into a poorly written first scene voiced by a middling actress. And you might even see the whole thing stop and the game start all over again. Once you get going, you'll notice frame rate problems in the graphics, especially when you race on a straightaway with a lot of cars around you. It jerks and jitters like an old jalopy that doesn't want to go.
All this is a shame because there are facets that work well. There are many modes of racing to choose from and tons of sleek cars. The online Cops and Robbers mode in which you'll play with pals packs excitement every second (although you'll see some frame rate jitters here, too). The background graphics are fine (though not completely realistic). And the AI makes the cop cars and racing opponents really smart. Still, while it impresses at some points, it disappoints in just as many others.
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.