Discover why EA’s latest racers may fall short of capturing the captivating experience of Need for Speed Underground 2. Our analysis delves into the key elements that made Underground 2 a fan-favourite and why the new games may not quite replicate its magic.
Modern gaming is a radically different hobby in comparison to the games we loved two decades ago. The prevalence of “downloadable content” brought a new generation of so-called “games as a service”, which have transformed the creative process as a whole. Perhaps the best example of this is EA’s Need for Speed series – which happens to be nearly unrecognizable these days.
If you ask any fan, they’ll most likely tell you that the series peaked in 2004, with the release of Need for Speed Underground 2. This entry epitomized the rebellious teen spirit of the early 2000s. It resonated with players through a carefree attitude, hip-hop soundtrack, and arcane customization systems that allowed for endless tweaking of import tuner cars. It became a mainstream hit that still maintains a dedicated cult following today due to its anti-authority ethos and nostalgic style.
However, the modern triple-A game industry is dominated by massive budgets, franchises, and safe creative bets. Developing a $60 game now costs $100 million or more, requiring huge publishing investments and return on investment. Original ideas are rare, as most games seek to milk existing IP for continued franchise revenue.
Creativity is stifled by focus on monetization, predatory microtransactions, wide commercial appeal, and maximizing gameplay hours, rather than heart or personality. That’s one of the main reasons why the Need for Speed series has kind of lost its edge. By comparison, take the original Need for Speed: Most Wanted from 2005 and contrast it with its 2012 counterpart. The difference is night and day.
Something similar happened recently with the release of Need for Speed Unbound. Though the title aimed to recapture the rebellious attitude of Underground 2, the truth is that it felt forced, and downright artificial in doing so.
It’s also worth mentioning that it would simply be impossible to capture Underground 2‘s lightning in a bottle. The times were different back then. With the massive popularity of the Fast and the Furious series, tuning import cars were considered the ultimate symbol of rebellious status. A game like Underground 2, with its nearly limitless customization, was just the kind of thing players wanted to see in a video game.
Today, tuning cars like they used to do in Pimp My Ride is a relic of the past. It would be hard to sell a racing game simply on its customization quality alone. If sales titans like Forza and Gran Turismo are struggling in today’s market, imagine what’s left for something like Need for Speed. Arcade racers have gone nearly extinct in this gaming generation – save for some Italian plumber and his go-karting antics.
Still, even if we might never get a game with such undeniable high quality as Need for Speed Underground 2, we might have the next best thing coming our way. Recently, EA released its Dead Space remake – and it’s absolutely perfect. If they can keep up this trend, and remake Underground 2 on a modern engine – capitalizing on its nostalgia factor – EA might at least find a way to pay tribute to what is undisputably the best Need for Speed ever made.
Tell us, would you like to see Need For Speed Underground 2 remastered on the PS5 and Xbox Series X?