What it was:
Need for Speed Underground was the series’ departure into the tuner world. Released during the Fast and the Furious craze, Underground aimed to give would-be tuners a way to deck out Civics, Supras and Integras without going out and blowing all their hard-earned money. Street racing was now more mainstream than ever, and Underground gave people a way to enjoy most of the perks in the comfort of their home. Decals, rims, performance parts, paint jobs and bodykits; these are the great things about Need for Speed Underground. The tight, arcade physics helped settle the game as firm fixture of my racing game collection.
When Need for Speed Underground 2 came out with even more customization options and allowing players to freely roam the city, the series grew in great ways. While sound systems and Escalades were far from what the street racing genre needed, just having the options was great. Sadly, the series kept cranking the dial towards “story-driven” instead of “customization”. Need for Speed Most Wanted dropped customization greatly, allowing five whole bodykits to be picked from. This was the great decline, and it never really picked back up.
What it could be:
Need for Speed Underground 3 would focus on customization, much like it’s two predecessors. The over-arching story would take a back seat, but be relevant in the scope of unlocking new areas. Multiple bodykit pieces would return and in grand fashion. Dozens upon dozens of pieces to pick from. Car selection would be vast and as per typical Need for Speed, you would start with bottom-tier cars; only instead of focusing on top-end cars, Underground 3 would focus on middle-class cars. Some high-class cars will be available, I assure you.
Physics will also return to form. Not to say new Need for Speed games are lacking in that department, but a slight arcade-bias would allow easier drifting for racers of all types. Drifting would also be a-focal point, with just as much drifting as racing. If you don’t like the open-city model, you could quickly start events from the menu. Why force players to play a particular way when they don’t like to, right? But those people would miss out on the highway races against random opponents.
One of the series’ greatest innovations is the Autolog. If you’re a competitive gamer and haven’t experience this feature yet, you’ll be glad to know Autolog brags for you and rubs it in when other people beat your times. It doesn’t get old and honestly keeps me playing old tracks just to stay on top. The XP boost for beating someone is a great resource, too, so a level up mechanic to unlock parts and cars would be in place.
Online racing would be an obvious feature, allowing people to race their tuned cars. The new hook to Underground 3’s online play would be “Car shows”. Daily and weekly shows with different guidelines will allow people to submit their tricked out rides and vote on other peoples’ cars. This would play into the focus on customization and cement the game as a true step forward for the series.
Why it should happen:
There has been a lack of customization in street racing games lately, and none of them compare to the Underground games from a car tuner’s perspective. If it offered a more robust selection of parts than even Underground 2, the third Underground game would certainly mean business. While the last Need for Speed game (The Run) really proved a story-driven racing game could work, returning to the street-racing days of Underground is what I hope Need for Speed does next.
“Bring It Back” is a semi-regular column where writer Don Parsons takes a look back at some of his favorite games throughout his extensive years as a gamer, and dreams of having a follow-up. New games, old games.. none are off-limits.