PS3 Reviews: Need for Speed: Undercover Review

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Need for Speed: Undercover Review

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Graphics:

 

8.4

Gameplay:

 

8.4

Sound:

 

8.8

Control:

 

8.7

Replay Value:

 

8.5

Online Gameplay:

 

8.0

Overall Rating:       8.5

 

 

Publisher:

EA

Developer:

Black Box Games

Number Of Players:

1 (2-8 Online)

Genre:

Genre

Release Date:

RETRACTION of Original Review: With this new age of downloadable updates that bring the act of game patching to the console horde, it is only fair that our reviews reflect the product at hand in its current light. NFS: Undercover launched with a problematic game engine that struggled to maintain a steady framerate, which hurt both gameplay and the visuals. The gaming press made it very clear to EA that the sloppiness of the framerate really hurt the game. Well, EA listened and last week they released a patch for Need for Speed: Undercover that cleared up the game's most crippling issue, and in turn fixing it. Read the bolded parts below for the new bits of the review...it's amazing what a 17MB patch can do.

Every year for the past six years, the fall lineup of games has graced me with a new Need for Speed title. Yes, that's six consecutive years that an NFS game has not failed to launch just around this very time. Need for Speed games hold a special place in my heart, you see; Need for Speed: SE was the very first racing game, that wasn't F-Zero or Mario Kart, that I ever got my hands on. Moreover, the very first game I installed for my brand new, top of the line, 155MHZ PC back in 1996. Oh, yes, those were good times. I've owned every single iteration thereafter, and enjoyed almost all of them. And now, it's time for me to tell you about the 12th entry...

The other reason I look forward to NFS games every year is also because they tend to have a pretty wide scope and generally feel epic in certain cases. Take for example the aftermarket component of the series for the past couple of years. It's always fun to have so many options to tailor your car specifically to your needs. I personally use NFS games as a shopping tool for when I'm looking to make a new wheels purchase. So where does NFS come in? Well, I'll fire up an NFS game and start slapping on a whole bunch of rims to my in-game car, just to get an idea of how the wheels will look like on my actual car. It may not sound important to you, but to me it's always been the little things in the franchise for the past six years that have kept me coming back to it.

For Undercover, gone is the ProStreet gameplay that pitted cars against each other on closed courses and back comes the open-ended world, albeit with some very user friendly features. Choosing a race is as simple as pressing down on the D-pad or manually selecting the event you want to participate in by opening the game's map. This takes away the headache of searching around the city just to find a race, allowing for a more streamlined experience.

No more is the setting limited to just a nocturnal atmosphere, as Undercover takes place during the daytime, but this time in a city that's reminiscent of Burnout. The world is enormous and very well done, boasting 80 miles worth of road, on top of having individual cities separated by highways. And these highways are home to the game's highway battles, a tribute to racing games such as Tokyo Xtreme Racer, and many others.

In addition to the excitement of highway battles will, obviously, be the return of cops, as the game's name indicates. With the return of cops comes a new game engine that EA has dubbed the Heroic Driving Engine, which allows the gamer to perform epic high-speed maneuvers while traveling at breakneck speeds approaching 200MPH. These high-speed maneuvers and the "Heroic Driving" aren't exactly the core of the game, more like an add-on. Basically, pulling off stunts, dodging cops, 180-degree turns, among other maneuvers earns you points which increase your in-game rep. It's nothing that's terribly complex, it's just sort of there.

Essentially, Undercover is Need for Speed: Most Wanted and that's not a bad thing, seeing as how Most Wanted remains the most adored open-ended NFS game to date. So yes, the cops are back and they're even more aggressive than ever before. Much of the game's race events revolve around cop chases and so you'd better get good at losing them, because you'll need to learn how to make the most out of every intersection by turning from one block into the next. Building speed won't help much here, you'll need to be cunning and quick with your reflexes.

Race events are made up of a variety of race types, both new and old. The old ones include Circuit, Checkpoint, and Sprint (point-to-point), but unfortunately dragging and drifting is completely gone, and that's a total shame. New modes include Highway Battles, Outrun, and Cost to State, which are fun, perhaps not as much as the modes they replace. Highway Battles are simple, there's a highway, an opponent, traffic, and a race - the person who is first when time runs out or gains 1000ft wins. Cost to State is a mode where the player has to destroy as much property as possible to rack up a certain amount of damage done before time runs out. Outrun requires you to put a distance on your opponent and hold it until time runs out; granted it doesn't take place on a highway, but it's essentially the same as a Highway Battle. Which leads me to ask, there really was no room for at least a proper drag race event? Shame.

As far as the extras go, the Autosculpt feature is still here, but it seems like the overall selection of parts has gone down. Additionally, the story's nothing too exciting, and I doubt people will care enough to concentrate on it. There are 55 cars to chose from, unfortunately my prized possession isn't one of them anymore, marking it and Most Wanted the only two of the past six NFS games to not feature a 350Z. On the other hand, NFS: Undercover is the very first game to feature a 370Z, the successor to the 350Z. Then there's the online component which boasts the standard set of race events, on top of the all new Cops and Robbers mode. Here, up to eight players can participate and play either sides of the fence. The goal is to stop the robbers from delivering a package to their destination, and vice versa if you're the robber. This is certainly the mode that'll end up the most played and with good reason, mark my words.

Retraction 1: When I first reviewed NFS: Undercover in November, I noted that "yet again (!), a crippling issue prevents Undercover from achieving great status." I then went on to rant about how it is unacceptable that after two PlayStation 3 iterations, EA still hasn't got the framerate right. Well, with this new patch, I'm very happy to report that the issue is a thing of the past. The 17MB patch fixes the framerate to a point where it seems to be locked to a very steady 30 frames per second. Where as I previously complained that the original framerate made it very hard to see where you were going, especially during tense moments, this patch clears all of that and improves gameplay in the process. In case you're wondering, the old gameplay score was a 7.9, which I've bumped up. And the old graphics score was a 7.8, again which I've bumped up.

Retraction 2: In the original review I noted that perhaps Black Box could've made a few visual sacrifices, particularly with the over saturated lighting and it's blinding sunburst yellow hue. It looks like that's been done, as well. The sunburst hue, while still present, has been toned down enough to allow me to see the upcoming turns during my races. Before, I had a hard time seeing the yellow turn indicators on the tracks, thanks to the equally yellow sunshine obscuring them, but now I don't have that problem anymore. Weirdly enough, in the original review I had actually written "get a patch out there or something, EA, [the lighting] and the framerate are extremely annoying." Thanks for listening EA.

Visually, the story unravels similar to that of past Need for Speed games, but this one is weighed much more heavily towards live-action than CG, utilizing computer generated lighting effects to dress the scenery up. A fantastic damage system also exists, allowing you to really demolish the look of your car. As far as other details go, the cars look very good, boasting nice texture work and accurate lines everywhere. Unfortunately, many will be disappointed to hear that there are no modeled interiors, so no in-dash camera option exists.

Because the game boasts an 80 mile city, there's a lot to see in Tri-City, with backgrounds ranging from a congested skyline full of buildings in Palm Harbor, to a more rural and open setting in Gold Coast Mountains. There are some draw-in and pop-up issues that can be noticed on a rare occasion, but nothing terrible. Lastly, the 720p image is largely free of any noticeable image defects, which is nice, but the framerate doesn't just hurt the visual integrity, but also the gameplay.

The audio is a mix of great and average. The roar of the engines, which has been one of the most prominent features of the last six NFS games, returns again to assault your speakers, and the boomy exhaust notes help. Tires screech and squeal, and crashes sound forceful. Unfortunately, there is no custom soundtrack option, so you're stuck with an unusual assortment of tracks to listen to...or you can just turn them off like I do and listen to the roar of your vehicle. Voice acting is decent throughout the story, but some parts bleed cheese and can be hard to stomach.

 

On the other hand, the audio presentation for the cops is absolutely incredible. Black Box has always done a great job with the cop banter in past NFS games, but this one takes the cake. For as long as I have played Undercover, I can't say that I've heard the cops repeat themselves very often. The banter is so diverse, that you often hear/intercept casual conversations between the police officers - a great touch. Moreover, their dialogue is extremely responsive to the action, as you'll hear an officer announce that he's been hit or taken out of action immediately after it happens.

Retraction 3: In the original review I had stated that "my frustrations with the franchise and its never ending framerate troubles are getting on my last nerves." I'm happy to report that my nerves have been calmed and I can properly enjoy Need for Speed: Undercover. No longer should you have to opt for the Xbox 360 version for a slightly smoother framerate, both games have been patched and run nearly identical to one another. I applaud EA and Black Box for listening and having a team of people work on giving us this patch. It is a testament to how important framerates are, especially in this day and age. Need for Speed: Undercover went from being a game that only the devoted fans would enjoy, to being a solid game that everyone should enjoy. I'm bumping the original score of 8 to an 8.5. Bravo, EA.

2/18/2009 Arnold Katayev

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Comments (48 posts)

HUSO
Monday, November 17, 2008 @ 11:45:12 PM
Reply

damn, i really was looking forward to this title on the PS3. but the frame rate issues have put me off. gonna get it for the pc in 2009 now.

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Joe_III
Tuesday, November 18, 2008 @ 12:05:59 AM
Reply

bah, I'll probably get it but for the 360...NFSU and MW were my two favorite of the series...plus the online cops and robbers is gonna rock.

Last edited by Joe_III on 11/18/2008 12:06:46 AM

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hald
Tuesday, November 18, 2008 @ 12:07:05 AM
Reply

@ Arnold.

I don't remember if it was you or Ben doing the Midnight Club: L.A. review. But what is the difference between M.c: L.A. and Nfs Undercover?
Which one is better?

- And offtopic. How do i change my email adress to my new one?

,Thanks :)

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RebelExtrm02
Tuesday, November 18, 2008 @ 12:07:42 AM
Reply

I wasn't even aware this game was on the radar. Interesting. I wonder how the new Midnight Club compares.

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Dingodial
Thursday, February 19, 2009 @ 8:45:53 AM

The New Midnight Club L.A. is AWESOME! The only complaint that I have is that the is a flickering at the bottom-right of the screen when the game is displayed in 1080i/p although there may be a patch for that although I'm not sure (I can't access the playstation store with my AOL dial-up connection :). It also doesn't have as many cars as the previous Midnight Club (the new one has 45 cars while the old one had over 60). The map of L.A. is pretty accurate (according to my uncle which used to live in L.A.). It doesn't have multiplayer-split-screen though (NFS Undercover doesn't either).

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Deleted User
Tuesday, November 18, 2008 @ 12:16:23 AM
Reply

hate racing games. rental.

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Xanavi23
Tuesday, November 18, 2008 @ 2:23:24 PM

so why do you post here if you flat out hate them all and would have no constructive criticism at the least.

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bearbobby
Tuesday, November 18, 2008 @ 4:01:46 PM

You think that's something? You should see his addition to the MK vs DC post:

"superheros are flamboyamt homos. rental."

Very mature, is rusha getting on anyone else's nerves yet?

The best part is how he says "rental" at the end even though his tone suggests he's offended they made the games in the first place. lol

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Qubex
Wednesday, February 18, 2009 @ 5:43:23 PM

Pity, you will never play what I think is the best racing simulator out there, "Live For Speed"... unfortunately it is only on the PC!

Q!

"I aM hOme"

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orangpelupa
Tuesday, November 18, 2008 @ 12:48:14 AM
Reply

uh. so im forced to buy the PC version...
just like pro street, in console have unstable frame rate but run smoothly on my pc.

duh.. it will eat my precious hdd space..

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WorldEndsWithMe
Tuesday, November 18, 2008 @ 1:21:46 AM
Reply

Hmm, this must be devved pre-EA's attempt to fix their PS3 issues.

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ceedot
Tuesday, November 18, 2008 @ 4:19:35 AM

They are already working on 2 more already, so you would be correct.

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MetalHead09
Tuesday, November 18, 2008 @ 4:42:35 AM
Reply

sweet, cant wait to play it. i need a good racing fix. its a nice break from constantly shooting stuff.

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CH1N00K
Tuesday, November 18, 2008 @ 8:03:12 AM
Reply

That's dissapointing, I was looking forward to this one. I guess I'll rent it first and judge for myself. Ah, well I still have Burnout.

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John Shoemaker
Tuesday, November 18, 2008 @ 8:09:12 AM
Reply

The one thing that made me not get Pro Street was the thing that when the car started going fast it seemed the car actually got smaller on the screen.
It made it harder to control and was just annoying. Is this in this game?

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snglbck26
Tuesday, November 18, 2008 @ 9:04:50 AM
Reply

When I opened the link to this article and immediately saw a score of 8 I thought....ouch!! I really had high hopes for this one as I am a big fan of Most Wanted. At this point it will just be a rental to see if it's worth it.

I wondered about the visual quality of the game. The gameplay videos don't make it appealing for what you'd expect in a PS3 game. This is a definite disapointment to hear.

Last edited by snglbck26 on 11/18/2008 9:05:20 AM

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ArnoldK PSXE [Administrator]
Tuesday, November 18, 2008 @ 10:07:14 AM
Reply

The only reason the game didn't score below an 8 is because it's other traits helped it out.

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snglbck26
Tuesday, November 18, 2008 @ 10:18:08 AM

Apparently other reviews around the net gave this game a much lower score than yours. Not that I look anywhere except PSXextreme....cough, cough. I value your opinion and are the most reliable of course.

The framerate issue does appear to be a common theme and is very disappointing. If this was Most Wanted souped up for the PS3 with on-line gameplay added I would probably buy it. Now it's just questionable as a rental the more I read about it.

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camaro300zx
Tuesday, November 18, 2008 @ 10:10:50 AM
Reply

Hey Arnold theres a handful a NFS games that didn't feature the 350Z, unless your counting the games that came out in 2003 to present.

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ArnoldK PSXE [Administrator]
Tuesday, November 18, 2008 @ 12:46:18 PM
Reply

Woops, I meant the only two of the last six. Sorry.

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Xanavi23
Tuesday, November 18, 2008 @ 2:33:04 PM
Reply

Arnold thats a hell of a review. Very Objective. It sounds like a great game and while im a GT fanatic ive always played NFS for a more "street feel" even though i would drive, brake the same was as GT lol.
So ive always liked them, but like you say one long standing problem is back it seems, the frame rate issue, i remember it distinctly, and my memory isn't great. EA said they've gotten much better with Sony Soft/Hardware but it seems like a crock when their core racing game has a basic, some may deem critical flaw.

Aside from the flaws it sounds like a very good game, Most Wanteds time was shared with GT4 but i played alot of both, so i should like this game. Its very tempting. I only have a PS3, does it qualify as a buy ?

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ArnoldK PSXE [Administrator]
Wednesday, November 19, 2008 @ 10:54:10 AM
Reply

1Up just put together their review, it got a B. Like I said, it's a fun game. Far from perfect, but certainly not as dreadful as some have made it out to be.

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Xanavi23
Sunday, November 23, 2008 @ 7:43:09 PM

Thanks Arnie(no disrespect), just wanted a clear verdict.

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IonHawk
Wednesday, November 19, 2008 @ 1:54:48 PM
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Wow - thanks for that review Arnold! Seeing the 4 and 5/10 scores on other sites had me really worried about this game. After reading your review, I think I'll definitely give it a try and see how it goes.

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bamf
Wednesday, November 19, 2008 @ 5:45:50 PM
Reply

Theres mixed reviews for this game, IGN gave it a 4/10. Some say its good and some say its bad but who's right.

I like the customization aspect of the need 4 speed games, and probably the only reason i get the games.

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Xplicit
Wednesday, November 19, 2008 @ 5:59:49 PM
Reply

i have this game on PC and PSP and i have to say its really poor, NFS is officially dead!!!

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Qubex
Wednesday, February 18, 2009 @ 5:45:09 PM

Have to admit; the franchise is very tired!

Q!

"i aM hOMe"

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Zorigo
Thursday, November 20, 2008 @ 2:02:17 AM
Reply

i was thinking of getting it, but i've got more to be doing. MGO, uncharted again, codwaw, mtrstrm2, MirrorE rent, and fallout 3, and GT5p.

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somethingrandom
Thursday, November 20, 2008 @ 9:35:34 PM
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My favorite NFS's = Hot Pursuit II and Carbon

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IonHawk
Sunday, November 23, 2008 @ 1:40:12 PM
Reply

I played this a few, and first impressions were - doesn't look as pretty as Most Wanted somehow
- major framerate issues
- races aren't challenging at all, you can hardly lose!
- Maggie Q seems majorly unused! ;-)
I'm still gonna play it through - it's still fun to get into cop chases and run into a few pursuit breakers to disable the cop cars. :)

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dewey-82
Wednesday, December 24, 2008 @ 6:43:41 AM
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i just bought need for speed for xmas what a let down the frames per second are so low my atari can conpete with the laggy crap this game produces .What a let down :(

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VinTheDean
Wednesday, February 18, 2009 @ 2:45:08 PM
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Thank you EA. Let's just hope that this new patch is applied to ALL and I mean

AAAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLLLL

EA Games in the future.

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www
Wednesday, February 18, 2009 @ 2:53:23 PM
Reply

Let me get this straight.
Which is better,Paradise or Undercover?

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city96
Wednesday, February 18, 2009 @ 3:23:56 PM

I'd Paradise because it has a better bigger city, more free DLC
The online is awesome

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Robochic
Wednesday, February 18, 2009 @ 2:57:43 PM
Reply

Not sure about this one.
Question what would anyone here recommend
Burnout Paradise or NF underground, i've played Burnout 3 loved it but didn't love dominator at all. NFS underground on ps2 loved it but haven't played one since. Hmm so many decisions.

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Naga
Wednesday, February 18, 2009 @ 3:03:50 PM
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I've played every NFS after Underground so maybe an purchase of Undercover is possible since EA patched the game

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Victor321
Wednesday, February 18, 2009 @ 3:08:24 PM
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nicely done, arnold thank you for providing me the latest stuff about the game. it really showed that this site is literally 101% reliable.

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blitz30952
Wednesday, February 18, 2009 @ 5:13:36 PM

Yeah, thanks AK :D

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Redx17
Wednesday, February 18, 2009 @ 4:21:27 PM
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thanks for "re-reviewing" the game i was gonna buy this game b4 but reading reviews and talking to friends with the game kinda put me down but since the patch set everything good looks like im getting this with burnout :)

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fundando
Wednesday, February 18, 2009 @ 7:18:51 PM
Reply

Whatever, a developer shouldn't release a game in that state in the first place. I mean not everyone(I'm sure we all do) has their ps3 online

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CH1N00K
Wednesday, February 18, 2009 @ 8:33:04 PM
Reply

So between Burnout:PC, Midnight Club, and NFS:Undercover, which is the game to get?

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Aftab
Wednesday, February 18, 2009 @ 11:01:58 PM

Wipeout HD ;)

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jlch777
Thursday, February 19, 2009 @ 12:02:08 AM
Reply

its good to see EA making good use of updates for games.

One thing i always said is that now days every racing game should run at a steady 60fps. it adds an incredibly sensation of speed and fluidity.

Last edited by jlch777 on 2/19/2009 12:04:35 AM

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FoReVeR_0515
Thursday, February 19, 2009 @ 2:14:12 AM
Reply

It's great that y'all care enough to go back and change a review after a patch releases. Because of things like this, I think this site is the best source of Playstation news, reviews, info, articles, and editorials, hands down.

Awesome job Ben and Arnold. And thanks for making this my #1 source for everything Playstation.

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Driven2Decay
Friday, February 20, 2009 @ 9:58:06 AM

No doubt! That means alot to see someone take the time to go back take another look at it. I can honestly say I dont even look at other sites now, seems like a waste of time compared to what you guys have to offer. Because of your revision, I'll definately be re-renting this game. I loved the series.

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ArnoldK PSXE [Administrator]
Thursday, February 19, 2009 @ 2:31:00 AM
Reply

Thanks, guys. =)

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whooka
Thursday, February 19, 2009 @ 6:06:37 AM
Reply

I like the idea of a post-patch, re-review as well. Since EA apparently spent some time addressing problems and sorting things out they almost deserve new press about the game if it merits such and it could potentially change my mind on games that i held off on purchasing due to some game affecting flaws.

It seems like they may have made Skate 2 run a bit better as well with the 1.01 update as while I can't find any actual info on that patch I'd swear the game is less jaggy now.

Good on ya, EA (and psxextreme). now EA just has to stop porting everything from XBox and they may get some respect from PS3 peeps again.

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Beebs
Thursday, February 19, 2009 @ 3:52:39 PM
Reply

Good on ya revamping the score!

I fell in love with "NFS: Hot Pursuit" back in the day, but I drifted from that genre to PC FPS and PS2/3 action titles. I've recently been wanting to get back into driving games and I think I'll give NFS some much-needed make up sex followed by several booty calls.

Cheers!

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