Need for Speed: Undercover review

EA bring their long awaited racer to the table. So is it the ace up their sleeve, or a joker in the pack?

As the name suggests you play as a cop who must infiltrate the criminal underworld through the use of your skilful driving abilities. On starting the game you are presented with a full film like cutscene featuring real actors (Maggie Q). This introduces you to the characters, sets the scene and puts you in your first mission behind the wheel. Here you must impress the street racing underworld and work your way through 24 racing missions to uncover a smuggling crime ring. During that time you’ll get to drive/unlock a variety of cars from the Mazda hot-hatch, Honda NSX and Porsche Carrera GT up to the ultimate – Stig favourite – supercar… the Pagini Zonda.

A pimped out Mazda from the beginning of the game

A pimped out Mazda from the beginning of the game

The good

The best thing about the game is the presentation throughout, unfortunately it is at the expense of the gameplay, but I’ll get to that later. The first thing that grabbed my attention was the car models, which are easily the best looking of any racing game thus far. They really look great, especially in the showroom style menu where you can spin them to your hearts content, and pimp them out with a re-spray, body art, and body kits, which are unlockable through cash received from successfully beating race missions.

The courses look good too with some great texture work and a variety of buildings, fencing and other objects lining the streets, giving a great sense of speed as you rush past. However, with all of the races limited to one route, who knows what lurks behind the building facades… not a lot I’d imagine! The roads have a pleasant sheen to them, and while not replicating true reflections; the effect does a good job.

PorscheThere are a good mix of race types such as 3 on 1 racing, and 1 on 1 battles (takedown style), but my favourite are the car jacking style missions where you must deliver a car as unscathed as possible, all the while avoiding being caught by a bevy of cops.

Aurally the game sounds pretty good, the music might not be to your liking, and unfortunately can’t be switched off, but it fits well with the tone of the game, as do the fender bending sound effects and cop sirens.

The bad

I was expecting more of a fleshed-out experience. While the game does deliver in the presentation stakes, the gameplay is not so hot. It’s fun to be sure, but something about it feels like you are more of an observer than actually in the hot seat. Not having control over acceleration is a big factor in this I think. I’ve never been a fan of this idea, and it seems like a gimmick to appeal to the casual iPhone users out there. There is a Nitro boost to get you out of scrapes with the law and catapult you to the front of the pack… but when I race, I want full control! The steering could also do with a little more customisation, it feels a bit stiff and it’s pretty hard to pull off a decent drift, resulting in you slowing to what feels like a crawl when taking tighter corners.


The story, while well presented is a little unoriginal, I won’t go into plot details but basically it’s a rip off of the The Fast and the Furious movie. With you playing the undercover Paul Walker role. Some of the actors selected for the roles are over the top in their delivery, like they’ve all graduated from the Steven Seagal School of acting. Especially the testosterone O.D’ing gang members, that seem to have more than one chip on their square shoulders.

The bottom line


If you are looking for an adrenalin style arcade racer then this is the game for you. The story, while not to my personal taste, is B-movie chic, and combined with the top-notch presentation you can’t argue that EA hasn’t put some effort in, which is good to see. While all these visual and aural bells and whistles demand it’s higher price of $9.99, I’m not sure as an overall experience it’s worth that price when there’s more fully featured racers out there for less.

Having said that it’s incredibly fun, and those happy for a less cerebral racer will have a blast.

Presentation and graphics
The game has very high production values. From the slick in-game menu system; the high quality car models and street environments; to the video cutscenes featuring real actors. EA have gone all out to push what the iPhone can do. I don’t think it quite beats out Ferrari GT from Gameloft, as that game runs a little smoother and features more varied environments.

Great sound throughout, featuring a rocking soundtrack and great car and environmental sound effects. The sound of the cops on your tail gets the heart pumping

Not quite what I was expecting. The missions range in difficulty and challenge, but many are short. There also seems to be an on-rails feel to the racing. It doesn’t do all the driving for you, but at the same time it doesn’t feel like you are in complete control. So anyone looking for a more fully featured racer may want to look at Ferrari GT or forward to Real Racing from Firemint. NFSU is pure arcade racing action.

Once you’ve beaten the main game, you can go back to completed missions to better your scores and receive more money and unlock more cars. There’s no online or youtube style replay function ala Fast and furious to keep you coming back beyond that though.

Final rating

Need for Speed: Undercover $9.99

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  • Alex

    I disagree with the fact of 4 stars for the sound. Gamelife is not so as you have mentioned. 3 stars for the game life? Suspisious….

  • iPGN-Nige

    I do say that the sound is not to everyone’s tastes. Gamelife gets a three for not quite delivering on extra features such as online multiplayer etc. 3 is ‘Performed well’ according to our ratings.

  • Jay

    Ahh. So it seems that Real Racing is still worth the wait

  • kistajk

    Firemint and Gameloft must’ve paid this site a lot of money.

  • Kevin

    Come on. Do you thin 4/5 is bad? A good review gives you all the info.

    Great review as always Nigel, I think you make valid points.

    Now the makers of GL Golf paid a pretty penny to IPGN.

  • Rock $ Rolla

    i will wait for the price to go down


    me too, btw the site does not take bribes!!! :)

  • Omar

    So far I am really enjoyşng this game as it delivered what every NFS game does :a game and NOT a simulation.

    No accelerating button is a plus for me as I will have less fingers on the screen.

    What didn’t like: HARD cop chase levels,the bullet time is cool feature but could have been incorporated in a better way in the game( single button would do great for this)

    At all cases would have given 4.5 for a very polished game that takes the iphone into a new stage of gaming.

  • Adrian

    I think the review is okay. I like the control, the music and the graphics (awesome graphics!), but i have finished the game in two days (i have played near 3 hours I think).
    There is not a quickrace mode, you can’t choose a track and race agaisnt 3 cars only for fun; thats a great problem.
    FerrariGT has more gamelife, much more!

    4 stars for me too.

  • kingsi7e

    4.5 is quite generous for this game. The author makes valid points, and while graphically NFS does go a step further the replayability value is close to nothing. As Adrian I beat the story in 2 evenings (thou more than 3 hours judging by the fact that I had to recharge my battery twice). Story sucked too.

  • iPGN-Nige, UK

    I didn’t give it 4.5, I gave it a 4 :)

  • Brian

    I’m thinking about picking this game up, but not at the premium $9.99 price-point. Come on EA, gimme a sale!