We store cookies, you can get more info from our privacy policy.

North America

Need for Speed Underground 2 GBA

by Steven Rodriguez - December 15, 2004, 10:56 pm EST


If you can't fit a bottle of nitrous in your pocket, then EA's got the next best thing in this awesome pocket racer.

One of the big draws to the console version of Need For Speed Underground 2 is the fact that you can customize your car to your liking, with tons of options for paint schemes, window tints, rims, aerodynamic accessories, etc. You would think that because of hardware limitations, you can't do that very well on the GBA. Well, you would've thought wrong, because you can do all that fancy car customization in the GBA version too, and the racing action is quite good too, just like it is on the GameCube.

NFSU2 for the handheld comes with 16 real-life licensed cars, about a dozen different Circuit, Drag, and Drift tracks, and a whole lot of car customization options, especially for a handheld. The cars are in 3D, and you can rotate the camera around a car while in the garage. While the cars themselves aren't ultra-detailed, they're sure detailed enough to tell them all apart, so when that Lexus IS300 screams past you on the track, you'll know it.

The tracks themselves look pretty good for the GBA. Everything is in 3D, and the game runs smoothly and quickly, especially in first-person mode. The tracks aren't flat, either, as just about all of them have elevation changes, ramps, and even portions of tracks where you jump over another section of track below. There aren't too many circuit tracks, but the variety is okay, and the backwards variations mix it up as well. The three main race types should be familiar to any NFSU veteran: Circuit, Drag, and Drift.

Circuit lets you race around tracks against up to three other cars, or against the clock, depending on the circuit race selected. There are three difficulty levels, and while all three are available to you at the start, the only way you'll have any chance to win the races in the higher levels is to win the races in the lower levels to earn points to upgrade your car's performance. You can buy things like engine tuning, car handling, bottles of nitrous, suspension, and just about anything else you'd need to soup up your ride. You'll need all of them, because as you get into the higher levels, the racing starts to get pretty fierce. Not only can you not make any mistakes, you're going to need to drive a very fast car to win toward the end. The racing action is very good because of this difficulty curve, so expect to be tested if you want to clean this game out.

Drag mode makes you get down the track as fast as possible. You must shift gears in this mode, and even though there isn't any analog control for the accelerator, you can actually time the start pretty well. Just gun it at the right moment and shift into first gear, that's all there is to it. Drift mode has you sliding around drift tracks, racking up big points before time is up. If you can get a good score without hitting anything, you win. Compared to Circuit, Drift and Drag are pretty easy to beat, and after you beat all the tracks on these two modes, there really isn't any reason to go back to them, other than to perhaps take your new, customized ride for a spin.

The most fun you'll get out of NFS Underground 2 is with all of the car customization options. There are actually a lot more than you might expect in a pocket title. You'll start with the basic car models, but as you win races, more visual car upgrades will be made available for you to equip. You can change your car's body color, window tint color, front and rear bumper, side skirts, hood and roof scoops, spoiler, rims, and yes, you can even add neon lighting to your car's underskirt. There's nothing cooler than seeing your little car with neon lights under it. And oh, did I mention vinyls? The GBA version has got them too, with more than 40 to choose from. Making your car the way look you want it here is just as fun as it is on the consoles, and that's pretty impressive.

Another great thing about the game is how easy it is to race your car around. Turning with an analog stick would have been nice, but for the GBA, a stiff D-Pad will have to do. Surprisingly, the game's controls are solid, and accurately mimic those of an actual car. For instance, you'll more easily spin out or slow way down if you attempt to take a hard turn at top speed, but if you slow down enough and take the turn nice and wide, easing in with some gentle taps on the pad, you'll roll through the turn perfectly. You'll actually have to drive your car around the track, and not just hold down the A button and bounce off the walls.

Just like in real street racing (or at least the Hollywood perception of it), there will be the occasional brush with traffic. Well, in NFSU2, it's not so occasional. Or a brush. Every so often, you'll be met with an unavoidable accident, such as one where you're between two cars, racing for position, as an intersection comes up. If any car gets tangled up in it, you will too. There's also the homing bus torpedo that locks in on you as you turn around a blind corner. A lot of times, these incidents will cost you a race, but it's no biggie, you can just restart it and smoke that dude the second time. Also annoying is the screeching sound your tires make while drifting. While it's not bad during a race or drag event, you'll want to turn down the sound effects or the volume knob on your system all the way down during drift sessions, since it's quite bad to hear that "fingernails-on-chalkboard" sound for minutes at a time. The rest of the game makes these few downers tolerable, so all is forgiven.

If you want a great racing game for your pocket, give Need For Speed Underground 2 a try. Not only do you have some intense action on the track, you've got some hot action in the garage, where you can customize your cars just the way you like them. If you like the console versions, and want to take a NFS ride (like the souped-up Nissan 240SX) with you in your own ride (such as the high-performance 1987 Acura Integra), then the Game Boy Advance version is for you.


Graphics Sound Control Gameplay Lastability Final
8.5 7 8 8.5 7.5 8.5

For a GBA game, it looks pretty nice. The cars and tracks are all in 3D, and the game runs pretty fast, even if you prefer a third-person perspective. It's also impressive that you can visually customize your car in pretty much the same way as the console version, with rims, bumpers, side trimmings, scoops and spoilers. Making your car look the way you want it to is just as fun as racing it.


You can hear your car's gearbox and the (satisfying) woosh sound the nitrous makes. It would be nice if you could hear these detailed sound effects over the loud and annoying screech that drifting makes. It gets so bad during the drift events that you'll turn the sound down all the way. It's not too much of a hassle, though, since everything else sounds fine.


In a racing game of this type, you wish that you had analog control to get the exact acceleration or turn amount you need for the given situation. You can't have that on the GBA, so you're going to have to get by with rapidly pressing the accelerator or tapping left or right to turn the way you want. It works so well in this case because the game realizes this is what you need to do to get by, so it gives you enough leeway to get away with the occasional goof, but not enough to where you can just drive wildly.


The racing action is very good. Like with any good game, the further along you get, the harder and more challenging the competition is. Likewise, your cars will become faster and faster through upgrades, and as you get toward the end of everything, you're going to be in some fierce races. The drift mode is way too easy, however, as you can usually get the required points for an event on the first lap. Aside from that, the game is solid, and you'll have very few complaints. Just watch out for that traffic.


While there really isn't that much variety in the amount of race tracks available, the racing action is really good, and most of the fun of the game is customizing your ride. It takes a while to beat all the circuit tracks, but once you do, you'll find you will still have loads of fun trying to get the rest of the visual upgrades for your car and tweaking its appearance to just the way you want it. There are only 16 cars to acquire, however, so your ricing spree will be short-lived.


NFSU2 for the GBA lives up to the name that the console versions bring to the table. You can customize your car, race, drag, and drift around in it, then get a new car and do the same. The racing action is very solid, the controls are not a hindrance, and the game looks fantastic. This is definitely one of the best GBA racing titles you'll find around, so if you like racing and you like your Game Boy, it's a must-have.


  • Challenging races toward the end
  • Customize your cars just like the console versions
  • Nice graphics and solid control
  • Drag and Drift modes a bit too easy
  • Horribly loud and annoying tire screeching during Drift mode
  • Traffic seems to collide with you at bad times
Review Page 2: Conclusion

Share + Bookmark

Genre Racing
Developer Pocketeers

Worldwide Releases

na: Need for Speed Underground 2 GBA
Release Nov 17, 2004
PublisherElectronic Arts
Got a news tip? Send it in!