Need for Speed Underground Box Art


Need for Speed: Underground (NFSU) is a racing game, developed and published by Electronic Arts in 2003. It is part of the Need for Speed computer and video game series. It was created at the EA Black Box studios, located in Vancouver, BC.

Its premise (highly tuned, customised cars participating in illegal street races) was likely inspired by the Import Scene and the movies The Fast and the Furious and 2 Fast 2 Furious.

A complete reimagining of the series' formula, NFSU offered a career mode featuring a storyline, and a garage mode that allowed players to fully customize their cars with a large variety of brand-name performance and visual upgrades. All races take place in a city at night. Instead of hundred-thousand dollar exotics, Underground featured vehicles associated with the Import Scene. This, plus the increasingly arcade-like controls, became points of controversy for Need for Speed fans. Despite this, Underground was commercially very successful, and inspired a sequel.

It is rumoured that the car manufacturers were very strict in how their vehicles were to be portrayed in this game, especially considering the "illegal street racing" reputation of the tuner culture. EA took some effort in making the races appear as sanctioned racing events, and included a public service announcement in the game's introduction. In addition, vehicles do not have damage models.

Underground sold over 15 million copies worldwide.



The player starts straight into the action, at a circuit race driving a uniquely styled Acura Integra Type R with wide body kit, easily winning over his opponents...only to be woken up by Samantha from his daydreaming.

Samantha is the player's friend in the new country; she shows the player how the console with the races works, who's who, and makes fun of the player's car. Eddie (and his orange-metallic Nissan Skyline R34), is the leader of the Eastsiders and current top racer of the streets, and Melissa is his girlfriend.

Time passes, races are won. The player meets other racers, and eventually gathers a small list of nemeses that continually challenge him and are defeated. He's introduced to TJ, who promises unique vehicle upgrades in exchange of beating time trial challenges; Samantha does the same from time to time, offering unique visual modifications instead.

The player's successive victories don't impress Eddie. First, he mocks the player's skill, saying he has a long way to go to 'roll his streets'. Later in the game, the player builds enough hype to be too hard to ignore, so Eddie challenges him to beat Samantha in a sprint race before coming after him; the player's willingness in going for it infuriates her. Samantha totals her Civic's engine trying to beat the player, unsuccessfully. TJ takes the junked car for himself after the event.

When the player comes close to reaching #1 in all kinds of races, Eddie tries to once again get rid of his rival. Around the same time, the Player sees TJ in Samantha's recovered car, now working again, but has been vandalized. Both run a circuit race worth the other's vehicle, which the player wins. The player returns the car to Samantha to make amends, and she gives the player a choice of a wide body kit for his car.

Right after the touching moment, Eddie challenges the player and loses, like everyone else who ever challenged the player so far. Before any victory can be sung, a mysterious, legendary silver Nissan 350Z challenges the player for a last run through the Market Street circuit. A challenger who, after being beaten by the player, is revealed to be Eddie's girlfriend, Melissa.

That event solidifies the player's status as the new best underground racer in the city.

Car list

  • Acura Integra Type R (2000)
  • Acura RSX (2003)
  • Dodge Neon (1999)
  • Ford Focus ZX3 (2003)
  • Honda Civic Si Coupe (2000)
  • Honda S2000 (2003)
  • Hyundai Tiburon GT (2003)
  • Mazda Miata MX5 (1999)
  • Mazda RX-7 (1995)
  • Mitsubishi Eclipse GSX (1999)
  • Mitsubishi Lancer ES (2003)
  • Nissan 240sx (1994)
  • Nissan 350Z (2003)
  • Nissan Sentra SE-R Spec-V (2004)
  • Nissan Skyline GT-R (R34) (1999)
  • Peugeot 206 S16 (2003)
  • Subaru Impreza 2.5 RS (2003)
  • Toyota Celica (2002)
  • Toyota Supra (1998)
  • Volkswagen Golf GTi (2003)

Racing modes

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Circuit is a standard race that involves racing with up to four opponents cars around a loop track for two laps or more, and is the main mode of the game.

A variant of Circuit is Knockout, which, similar to previous Need for Speed titles, involves "knocking out" the last racer who passes the starting line in each lap until the final leader of the race remains, and wins the race. In the case of Underground, Knockout sessions have a maximum of three laps for four racers.


Sprint mode is a variation on the Circuit mode, where the contestants race in a point-to-point track instead of loop tracks. These races are typically shorter than "circuits" (with a maximum of 8 km in length), so players are required to be more cautious of any mistakes during racing.


Drifting is one of the most challenging and technical aspects of the game. Drift mode consists of one player in a short loop track, where the objective is to collect as many points as possible by drifting along the track. The player competes with three other contestants, who appear to accumulate scores along with the player during the drift session. The player would be required to beat these scores in order to obtain top positions.

Bonuses are awarded for players who drift in the other borders of the track, drift vertically, or perform chained-drifting (continuous drifting by constantly steering the vehicle during drifts to maintain speed); if the player succeeds in ending a drift without collisions onto the sides of the track, the collected points are added into the score, otherwise, the collected points are cancelled.

Drift mode is the only type of racing where time taken to complete the track does not matter, since players are given the freedom to complete the allocated number laps at their own pace. This may explain the absence of nitrous oxide in this mode, since it serves no suitable purpose in this situation.

Drag Racing

Drag racing is the second most technical form of race in the game. It involves racing against three cars on typically straight tracks, and attempting to obtain top positions to win. In order to master Drag mode, players must employ good timing and reflexes for gear shifting, redlining, overtaking, and the use of nitrous oxide boosts; the mode places particular emphasis in monitoring the tachometer during races, which is enlarged and situated on the leftmost portion of the screen. Steering in this mode is simplified to simply allow for lane changes, while the computer handles the steering along the lanes, and the player focuses more on maintaining an optimum speed for the car.

Two conditions will result to players being forfeited during a drag race: head-on collisions with a vehicle (traffic or opponent), barrier or divider>; or blown engines as a result from prolonged redlining and the subsequent overheating of the engine.


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