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Need for Speed: Underground 2 (GBA) (Game Boy Advance) Review

You know you’re moving up in the world when you are getting sent press release copies of games to review. When I received the package I was proud of myself upon entering the cadre of true reviewers on this site. I opened the packaging, put the game in my GBA and wasn’t sure whether this was a hazing ritual or me being stuck in the same social standing I was before.

To say I was disappointed with this title is a massive understatement. I’ve played the original Need for Speed Underground and Need for Speed Underground 2 on the PC extensively and I am a huge fan of the series. While there were better racers on the market like Burnout 1, 2 and 3, the NFS:U franchise had hit upon something that few other racers did, immersion. Everything about the game, the graphics, the cars, the music, the upgrades, it all fitted into place and created an experience not found in other racing games. Doing 140mph down an empty road save for your competition in a tricked out boy racer with only your neon and street lights to illuminate the night with Rob Zombie pumping out your speakers for me is one of the defining moments of the racing genre and sadly this is where NFS:U2 on the Gameboy Advance falls flat on its face.

Screenshot for Need for Speed: Underground 2 (GBA) on Game Boy Advance - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

To be fair to EA I’m not sure whether it’s a case of this game being bad or the GBA not being able to handle it, though the games case isn’t helped when on the back of the box, in big letters it says “Go anywhere. Fast”. Now if I’d paid for this game I’d take it back under the trade description act, for a start there is no freedom within the game. It plays out almost identically to the original Underground game in that you select a race type; circuit, drag or drift and you then chose a course to race on. It’s on the Circuit courses its most notable but there are invisible walls within the courses, so you are forced to either follow a pre-determined route or you use a pre-defined shortcut. So much for going anywhere. Secondly the game isn’t fast, there is no difference between doing 16mph and 160mph, the cars feel slow and awkward and the scenery moves at the same pace. The only exception to this is the drag courses where you do move faster, or more appropriately the scenery moves faster but it still gives the appearance that you car can be out done by Herbie the LoveBug.

Talking about certain aspects of this game is quite difficult, take the graphics for instance. The graphics do push to the GBA to its limit, the game tries to be 3D, the car models, the buildings, all of it but somewhere along the lines something’s failed, either the game or the GBA, and the graphical quality nosedives. Everything comes off as being jerky and poorly rendered many of the background images, especially the buildings are merely 2D images pasted onto a 3D wire frame and repeated far too many times, due to graphical limitations little things such as shadows, lighting effects and even shading just aren’t there. To top it off there are graphical glitches, clipping is a common issue especially on building corners and cars aren’t displayed properly, even in the non-graphic intensive areas such as the garage which just displays a single car, parts such as the spoiler do disappear while you are viewing the upgrade.

Screenshot for Need for Speed: Underground 2 (GBA) on Game Boy Advance - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Sound quality, one of the stands out features for the console versions is non-existent in the handheld title. The sound effects such as the screeching of tyres and the burst from the engines are painful to the ears and serve as a distraction from the Gameplay. The music, while far superior is overly repetitive and gets annoying very quickly, the best you can do is to turn the volume down and put something on in the background.

The thing with GBA games, especially those which use 3D images is that their presentation will never be any good, the unit just isn’t designed for game like that, so any good game really needs to rely upon its Gameplay, sadly that’s another area this game fails in. As I mentioned earlier, the game is slow, when you are racing it doesn’t feel like a race, the courses are sparse with little traffic but even then the cars seem to come out of nowhere and ram into you. Even at the beginning of the game, the opponent cars and handling will be superior to your own and will generally leave you standing so unless you learn where those shortcuts are you aren’t even going to compete, which is made harder by the exclusion of a map.

Screenshot for Need for Speed: Underground 2 (GBA) on Game Boy Advance - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

The graphic quality of the game doesn’t make finding shortcuts easy so you can easily do a few laps before even noticing one, there’s also nothing more disheartening than not being able to see your opponent, with a map you know how far behind and how much harder you need to work. If there is one good thing to be said about this it is huge, with fifty circuit courses, fifteen drag, fifteen drift and ten bonus tracks which all have to be unlocked it’ll take you a while to complete them all. Sadly they are highly repetitive and the rewards are negligible. You get points to spend on upgrades which don’t seem to actually affect you cars performance, you can unlock cars which perform worse than your starting car and you can unlock the ten bonus games which are all short-lived. The challenge isn’t in winning the races but having the patience and willpower to do so.

The Need For Speed: Underground franchise has always been about taking a pretty standard racer and polishing it up to make it a far superior and more enjoyable game. Take away that polish and the game itself collapses around you. The handheld title doesn’t have this level of polish and is a mundane and forgettable experience because of it. If you want to play this game you are better off either getting a console version or waiting for the PSP and DS releases.

Screenshot for Need for Speed: Underground 2 (GBA) on Game Boy Advance- on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review


Very little in the way of variation, poor handling, no adjustable difficulty level and the mini-games don’t do much to liven up this extremely bland and boring game.


EA did try to make a good-looking 3D game, but what we have is a poorly rendered, glitch ridden sub-standard looking game.


Overly repetitive and boring music sprinkled with teeth gratingly bad sound effects. Bad, really, really bad.


While this game is big, with highly repetitive tracks and no real incentives to complete each track it’s very unlikely that you’ll last it out.

Cubed3 Rating

This game just can’t recreate the atmosphere or any of the plus points from the console versions so all we are left with is the carcass of a good game. It’s like watching your friend having his car tricked out with neon lights, spoilers and vinyl’s so you take your car in and they give it back minus the radio, hubcaps and seats. This is definitely not a game suited for the GBA.

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C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  3/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  10/10 (1 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   

Reader comments - add yours today Comments on this Review

i've been having problems getting in since monday. tonight seems to be really bad for some reason, took me about 10mins and several hundred refreshs to get in.

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We'll be back and running full steam soon enough! :Smilie

Adam Riley < Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited >
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter

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