Need for Speed Undercover drifts onto the iPhone

As a fan of iPhone games and racing sims, I'm pretty excited at the news that EA Mobile has finally released Need for Speed Undercover for the Apple iPhone and iPod Touch.

Need for Speed Undercover title screen
EA Mobile

As a fan of iPhone games and racing sims, I'm pretty excited at the news that EA Mobile has finally released Need for Speed Undercover for the Apple iPhone and iPod Touch.

The story of Need for Speed Undercover (NFSU) is told through live-action cutscenes interspersed among a series of races. The basic plot is pretty much the same as the rest of the Need for Speed series: There's some sort of underground smuggling ring connected to some gang of street racers, and you, the driver, must infiltrate their ranks. Come to think of it, that's also the plot to "The Fast and the Furious"! What a rip-off!

Mazdaspeed3 accelerating
Apparently in the world of Need for Speed, every vehicle is rear-wheel drive! EA Mobile/CNET

Rehashed plot aside, NFSU's gameplay is quite simple. There is no gas pedal, so when the race starts, the car begins to constantly accelerate (much like in the VW Polo game we looked at previously). Touching the screen activates the brakes and tilting the iPhone controls the steering. Swiping a single finger down the screen activates Speed Breaker (a sort of bullet time for precision maneuvers) and swiping up fires a nitrous boost for a quick burst of speed.

The controls are among the better of the iPhone racing sims, but the accelerometer-based steering is still floaty and difficult to control with much accuracy. Fortunately, the courses seem to be laid out with a pedal-to-the-metal driving style in mind, and the Speed Breaker mode is always there when you need to make the vehicle dance.

I counted 19 cars available in the game's menu, including vehicles from Ford, Nissan, Mazda, Porsche, BMW, Chrysler, Mercedes-Benz, Pagani, and Lamborghini. There's even a pair of Pontiacs to chose for those feeling nostalgic for the fallen brand.

Mazdaspeed3 with body kit
In typical NFS fashion, you can add a fugly body kit to any vehicle in the game. EA Mobile/CNET

Each vehicle can be customized in typical NFS fashion with performance upgrades to the handling and power, along with the requisite gaudy body kits and garish paint jobs we've come to expect from the street racer genre.

Race types include simple circuit races, sprints, and cop takeouts--where the player must disable a number of surprisingly fragile police cruisers before the clock runs out--along with a few other modes spread out across over two dozen races. Winning a race earns you cash prizes that can be used to upgrade your ride or unlock new ones.

At $9.99, Need for Speed Undercover is at the top end of what I feel is reasonable for an iPhone app, but the number of courses available combined with the number of vehicle to choose from and customize adds to the replay value of the game.

 

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