I'm starting this new series called "Personal Gems" to showcase games that I will always hold near and dear to my heart. Games that I will always enjoy no matter what anybody else says about them. So, first up, Need For Speed: Underground 2!
Need For Speed Underground 2 was released back in 2004 and is still the racing game I have spent the most time playing. I played it multiple times to completion on the PlayStation 2 and I still play it on PC from time to time. Out of all the Need For Speed Games ever released, I think this one had the most charm. I can't quite put my finger on it but there's just something about this game that makes it feel timeless - to me at least.
The city of Bayview, in my opinion, is beautifully designed. It isn't just a boring arrangement of random buildings and straight roads. Each section of the city has it's own look according to the type of district it represents. The city center, market place, docks, train tracks, hills and every other district looks and feels different. The motorway also circles the perimeter of the main city which provides a great stretch of road for high speed runs. It really is a pleasure driving through Bayview.
The game has included the usual race types such as circuit, sprint, drift and drag races along side Street X and the Underground Racing League (U.R.L). Street X is a very hectic type of race carried out on short circuits with a lot of sharp turns. The URL consists of multiple races around the airport circuit which awards points to the winners in each race. The overall winner is then decided based on the total points received after all the races have been completed. All the races in this game have been very well designed and I have enjoyed my time racing in each and every one of them multiple times.
I saved the best for last! The cars and modifications. While there weren't any exotics or supercars, the selection was quite good including hatchbacks, tuners and even SUVs. The thing I love most about this game is the absolutely ridiculous modification options available for every car. In most other games you could paint the car, change the bodykit and rims, put a spoiler on it and maybe tint the windows. This game allowed for a bit more than that. In this game, you could put spinners on, attach underglow neon, put LCD monitors and amplifiers in the boot, change the colour of the engine accents and even install a hydraulic suspension system! It's ridiculous, it's extreme and it's fun.
I know there have been many new installments to the Need For Speed franchise since Underground 2 and I've played them all, but this one still remains my favourite. I really hope that there will be an Underground 3 someday and that it'll be made by people who love Underground 2 as much as I do. Until then, I can always revisit Bayview in my Skyline R34.