Need for Speed: Undercover PSP Review - January 14

The PSP isn't the dominant format for playing racing games and probably never will be, however for those that need a quick adrenaline rush on the go the yearly Need For Speed updates usually fit the bill.

Firstly if you are looking for the full blown Undercover experience, then the PSP version isn't what you want. Undercover on the PSP is a streamlined version of its larger brethren, with the free roaming city removed so that the map is the only way for you to access the next race. Apart from that, the experience is almost identical to that of the console incarnations.

Graphically the PSP can't really produce vivid looking cars but it does a good enough job in Undercover, showing just how far the graphics for the handheld have come since Need For Speed Underground Rivals. The city itself is fairly well rendered and makes for a better gameplay experience, helping to immerse the reader further into the game.

Suffice to say that these screenshots are not from the PSP version.

The tuning scene for Undercover on the PSP is again streamlined, with a limited amount of parts to apply to your cars and limited editing capabilities. Despite this, for a handheld game it does the job pretty well.

The police are back in force in Undercover to fans of the series' delight. However, in this incarnation they aren't involved as much as would have been liked as you rarely see them. When you do they can prove to be really ineffective as they are easily out manoeuvred and getting away from them is a piece of cake. The police chatter down the radio begins to annoy you after a while as the boys in blue seem to have a limited vocabulary and will spout the same line over and over.

Unfortunately no public screens are available for the handheld.

The PSP version retains the story mode of Undercover, showing you cutscenes at critical points in the game. There are less of them than in the console versions but they are welcome as the story entices you to play on. The story had been a heavily discussed area of the game pre-release but mainly people have slated it come release. Although the story is slightly weak and can be a little cheesy, I would say it's good for the game itself as it holds the racing together well.
The general outline is that you are a cop that goes undercover in the world of street racing to uncover a smuggler who is stealing cars from the port. Your co-ordinator is Chase Linh (Maggie Q) and throughout the game you interact with many other characters such as the bosses of the local street gangs, Hector and GMAC (both played by actors who appeared on the American series "The Shield"). The use of real actors to get the story across is a good choice as the player becomes more immersed in the game and can become attached to the characters.

The game progresses just like previous NFS games with you taking part in a number of races, ranging from the staple circuit and sprint to the newly added, highway battles (where you race against one opponent and have to stay ahead till the time runs down whilst weaving through traffic) and outrun (where you must take the lead and must be ahead when the time runs out. Although both these modes can be fun, highway battles providing the ultimate adrenaline rush as you attempt to weave through traffic and stay ahead of your opponent at high speeds, they are too similar and one could not help but think why old favourites, drift and drag, have been left out. The races are interspersed by other events where you have to escape from the cops, cause damage to the state in the allotted time period, or crash and total as many cop cars as you can before the timer runs down.

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