The once-revered Need for Speed racing franchise has been coasting downhill since the superlative NFS: Porsche Unleashed rolled off EA’s production line. With each subsequent chapter, EA has dumbed-down the driving physics to placate the gamepad-equipped console crowd. NFS: Underground takes the racing in a new direction: although the vehicle dynamics are still conspicuously slot car–like, the game itself is easily one of the finest of the series.
18Underground trades in the traditional Ferrari and Porsche racers for 20 licensed street exotics — tuner cars from such manufacturers as Honda, Mazda, and Mitsubishi. The racing action, rooted firmly in the street-racing culture depicted (a bit excessively) in The Fast and the Furious, delivers a high-octane blast of raw speed that’ll literally warp your vision as you struggle to match the pace of the AI competition. Stealing a page from EA’s defunct Motor City Online, Underground also features a massive customization component, from paint schemes to engine parts.