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Why the Need for Speed Underground series needs a remaster

With the release of the remaster of Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit (2010), it’s time to look at remastering two of the series’ most well-received and best-selling games: Need for Speed Underground and Need for Speed Underground 2.

Need for Speed

The Need for Speed franchise is one of the most successful of all time, selling over 150 million copies and lasting for more than 25 years. 

That said, it’s been 17 and 16 years since Electronic Arts (EA) released Need for Speed Underground and Underground 2, arguably the franchises’ best-received series. In that time, there have been reboots, remakes, and even a movie. Overall, there have been 17 games that were released during that time, bringing the total to 25. 

However, none have been remakes or remasters of Underground or Underground 2. That needs to change.

The first game in the Underground series released in 2003 and came out at the perfect intersection for car enthusiasts and video gamers alike. The original Fast and the Furious movie released two years earlier and marked the first time cinemagoers had been exposed to the “import racing scene,” especially during the late 1990s and early 2000s.  

Early Fast and the Furious movies focused on street racing in highly-modified and tuned-out Japanese cars, which just so happened to be the focus of the Underground series. Because obtaining and tuning imported Japanese cars isn’t necessarily cheap, the public turned to video games to satiate their import tuning needs. Thus laid the groundwork for why the series was so successful. 

As such, when the first Underground came out, it was met with praise; critics lauded the game, and it ultimately garnered a score of 85 on Metacritic. Some critics docked points for Underground’s lack of free-roaming and innovation, but ultimately, the game was universally accepted in the zeitgeist. 

Underground went on to sell seven million copies by mid-2004, en route to 15 million total copies. By the end of its lifecycle, Underground was one of the PlayStation 2’s “Greatest Hits,” Xbox’s “Platinum Hits,” and GameCube’s “Player’s Choice.” 

With Underground’s massive success, the next logical move for EA was to make a sequel. And so, toward the end of 2004, the sequel – aptly named Underground 2 – released and was an improvement in almost every way. 

For instance, players could free-roam in “Bayview,” which was inspired by three real-world locations; there were more customization options for players, allowing them to upgrade almost any part of their car; SUVs were included as a new vehicle choice; and so, so much more.

The changes turned Underground 2 into another hit: the game sold more than 8.4 million units  by the end of 2004 and sold over 11 million copies to date. Additionally, like the original, Underground 2 was also added onto the PlayStation 2, Xbox and GameCube’s best-seller’s list soon after its release. 

Underground 2 wasn’t just a commercial hit; it was a hit among reviewers and gamers too. It has an average score of 82 on Metacritic, slightly lower than the original, among reviewers. Gamers rated Underground 2 highly as well, garnering an average user rating of 8.6, the same as the original. 

Considering how successful and well-received the Underground series was for both critics and players, it’s questionable why EA hasn’t remastered the series thus far – especially since a new generation of consoles are coming out and EA has a penchant for making money at any cost.

That said, now would be a good time to remaster the games. If not remaster, at least consider remastering or remaking the games, as any mention of an Underground remaster is quickly shot down.

By all accounts, apart from 2005’s Need for Speed Most Wanted, almost every installment in the series has not lived up to the scores or sales that Underground and Underground 2 had. If EA can remaster a 10-year old game, it’s entirely possible to entirely remaster or remake the Underground series. 

Not only will older fans of the Underground series get to relive playing a favorite, an upgraded version could also introduce new players to the series as well. It’s a win-win situation for both EA and gamers, provided there aren’t any microtransactions. 

The time is now for EA to remaster the Need for Speed Underground series, as Need for Speed needs a serious injection of nitrous to kickstart the franchise as a whole. Clearly, the series best-equipped to do that is hiding where EA can’t find it: Underground.

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