Written by Sam Read @sreadology
I am the target market for the Need For Speed franchise. I love them all.
To prove the point, I’m happy to admit that the reason I recently chose to buy a rusty old Mercedes for £600 was partly due to the 7” monitors in the headrests and the PlayStation 2 mounted in the boot. It is simultaneously the best and the worst way to play games ever.
As I drove my new hooptie past Farnborough car boot sale last Sunday, I decided to stop off and try my luck hunting for some used PS2 games.
There it was, Need For Speed Underground 2.
I paid the £1 required and prepared myself for some incredibly good value 'mobile' gaming. I’m just about to finish playing through it again and I’m desperate for it to be fully remastered. I know I’m not alone. Let me explain why I think it deserves the HD treatment.
Modified car culture of the early 2000’s was fantastically over the top. I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that fibreglass body-kits, neon lights and boot builds were partly to blame for the 2008 financial crisis.
In what came to be known as the Max Power Era, named for the magazine that every show car aimed to grace the pages of, bolder was better.
It was common to see outrageous looking cars on the streets of every town in the UK at any given moment. These architectural nightmares were as loud and obnoxious as they were brilliant.
Guildford residents will remember it well because Guildford Cruise was one of the most notorious car events of the day. Watch this video to understand why.
"The best job to have in Guildford would be a double glazing salesman" - BBC Reporter
Seasons change and the sun has set on a questionable car scene that defined a generation. Modified cars today usually opt for much more subtle styling, more easily passable on the street.
Need For Speed Underground 2 didn’t get the memo.
If you’re feeling even slightly nostalgic, look no further than this game for a shot of the stuff more potent than a 2lb bottle of nitrous.
Besides the joy that comes from building and racing ridiculous cars at speeds the manufacturer never intended, the world of Underground 2 that EA created is a beautiful place that deserves to be brought up to speed.
Everything in Bayview shines with a neon glow suited to the cars it contains. The customisation options are extensive and rewarding. Even your Vauxhall Corsa can turn into a monster.
EA are great at making it feel like you’re going 180MPH in your living room. This was the first Need For Speed title with an open-world environment and it’s expertly done, especially when you consider the tech limitations of the time.
The fun lasts too, even the best Speedrunner takes 6 hours to finish career mode.
When EA first released the game in 2004 I was 12-years old. It went straight to the top of my Christmas list along with everyone else’s.
When my Dad observed his son still mastering the controls, he thought to ask:
“You realise road signs wouldn’t really fly into the air like that, don’t you?”
The thought had never occurred to me.
Street racing in real life is a bad idea. The game does a great job of communicating that message to players during its introductory video. EA may have saved lives by providing a safe virtual environment for people to scratch that dangerous itch.
Maybe a remaster could save some more… maybe I'm pushing the idea too hard.
Would I sit back and relax to the sounds of Chingy, Skindred and Rise Against in real life?
Yes I would, although I’d never think to put those artists in a playlist together.
Somehow this game gets away with combining a broad range of genres and tastes that end up appealing to everyone. There’s literally a track with The Doors and Snoop Dogg remixed together and yes, it is stuck in my head.
OK, so technically it is possible to own any car in real life, but sadly I’m nowhere near wealthy enough to own huge swathes of them. Underground 2 however, being old, contains a load of cars you might well have owned yourself at some point. Who knows, you might even find something you bought recently for less than £1000.
I personally found that my first car, my current car and my previous car were all available to play with in the game. I chose them and changed them to the colour of their real-life counterparts. It made me enjoy the game in a way that simply wasn’t possible for me in 2004.
Please EA, if you do ever decide to remaster this game, make sure that all these old cars are still in there. Maybe add a few more iconic yet regular cars for good measure.
The world was waiting for Underground 2. Let’s look at its achievements:
· Double Platinum sales award from the ELSPA
· 8.4 million copies sold in its first two months
· Greatest Hits status on PlayStation 2
· Platinum Hit status on Xbox
· Player’s Choice status on Gamecube
· 11 million copies sold over its lifetime
The games active modding community, alongside the resurgence of the Max Power Era in real life, makes me sure that it would be a hit all over again.
A quick dig through @maxpowerreunion on Instagram will help you see what I mean.
Searching “NFSU2 Remaster” on YouTube will further illustrate the demand.
Everything comes back around.
Underground 2 is 17 years old and so it comes with the frustrations of the day.
The regular save-game prompts get tiresome, the framerate struggles in tightly packed corners of U.R.L racing and the A.I. taxi drivers have a knack for wrecking you right at the end of a 6 minute stint in first place.
Full credit to EA for creating a great looking range of body-kits but these days the franchise is improved by featuring real-life parts from real-life companies like Rocket Bunny. I'd love to see the remaster of this game feature official parts from the era. I'm talking Veilside RX-7's, Top Secret Supra's and DIMMA 106's.
All of the game’s problems are easily overcome today. I would love to see EA apply everything they've learned over the years in a remaster.
Let’s re-think those magazine covers while we’re at it.
You might have noticed that Underground 2 doesn’t feature on
our games timeline...That’s because EA UK used to reside 12 miles out of
Today I call Guildford the home of the Need For Speed franchise. I point to evidence of Stellar Entertainment's work on Hot Pursuit: Remastered, Criterion's work on Heat, Rivals, Most Wanted, Hot Pursuit, Shift.... not to mention EA's UK HQ being here.
It wouldn’t surprise me to learn that the developers paid a visit or two to Guildford Cruise for inspiration. EA UK might have been based in Chertsey but I’m claiming this game as a sample of triple distilled Guildford youth culture.
I would love to be able to say that the remaster of Underground 2 was made here.
I’m off to unlock the wide body
kits for my MX-5 now... and maybe make an addition to our games timeline.
Tweet @GuGamesFest if you’d like to share your own memories of the game with us.
If you’d like to write a similar post about a Guildford-related game that you love, let us know and we’ll make it happen – firstname.lastname@example.org