Need For Speed Underground Rivals
Despite 'Need For Speed' focusing more on the player pitting their wits against a gang of street racers with turbo-charged motors, the game will always be compared with 'Ridge Racer' for the PSP. The games were released around the same time (in Europe, at least) and both constitute examples of how racing games work on handheld consoles with a lot of graphical power. Certain other review websites claim that the road and background both become blurred once the player's car reaches over one hundred miles per hour. Despite extensive play of the game, I have not found anything wrong with the graphics and the PSP's portable nature allows the player to feel as if they really are in the cockpit of a turbo-charged, modified motorcar.
The options are varied. You can take your car for a quick spin in a quick race and show all your friends what your wheels are really made of. Or you can enter into circuit races, drag races or time trials. The garage option allows you to make points gained into funds earned and you could literally spend all day buying new parts, tweaking engines and customising the paint job. EA have thrown in a car-themed music player that features some stunning visualisations and a few of the latest releases from rock music's finest.
Yes, this game is more of a variant than a graphical revolution and it certainly doesn't shove the PSP console platform into uncharted territory. It's a version of a title you can already purchase for the PS2 and other consoles. Does it work as a game on a console that has been designed to be played on the go? Yes. With the headphones in, you could be careering down floodlit streets with the engine and the rock music blurring while your Granny takes tea with the vicar in the front room. There are tonnes of cars, levels, engines and cheats to unlock and the more you progress through the game, the more you gain in terms of driving skill and adornments for your car.
The PSP is a portable media device. If you don't like a game, you can easily switch to music, photos of even films for your entertainment. The games have to be multi-layered and intriguing or the player will quickly depart for the distant shores of other forms of media. 'Need For Speed' understands this and combines listening to great music with the thrill of being able to race very powerful cars up and down the streets of cities without attracting the unwanted attention of the local constabulary.
With the PSP's powerful graphics processor, the images in the game look stunning throughout and playing with this gadget really does feel like taking your PS2 with you on the move. Perhaps EA haven't been all that bold and creative with one of their first ventures onto the new portable platform. But do they really need to be? There's a lot to be said for the tried and tested and there's really no excuse for meddling with a formula that has succeeded time after time. If you feel the need for speed, don't dig out that video of 'Top Gun'. It's not really that good a film. Instead, rev the engine and taste the adrenalin of the battle as you burn rubber.