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Video Game / Need for Speed: Undercover

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"...And remember, don't play it safe. We want them to see you."

"This place has changed. These guys in their cars — no regard for anyone... It's time to put a stop to what's going on around here."
Lt. Jack Keller

The one that became a police crime drama.

Need for Speed: Undercover is a 2008 racing game, and is the twelfth installment in the Need for Speed series. Developed by EA Black Box and published by Electronic Arts, it was released on November 18, 2008, for PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii, Microsoft Windows, PlayStation Portable, Nintendo DS, and a number of mobile phone platforms, with an edition for iOS later released on April 27, 2009.

In the game, the Player Character is an undercover police officer for the Tri-City Bay Police Department (TCBPD), who is informed by their superior, Lt. Jack Keller, that their current investigation into the region's underground street racing is to be joined by Chase Linh, a FBI federal agent looking to bring down an international criminal syndicate operating in the region that is involved in car smuggling. The player is instructed to pose as a new street racer and join in on major illegal street races in order to secure entry into the syndicate. The player achieves this by being recruited into a gang that works with the syndicate, run by the Maio brothers, Hector and Zack. At the same time, the player befriends Carmen Mendez, a member of the gang. The brothers quickly assign the player to steal cars for them during their racing activities. Upon completing the jobs, Chase instructs the player to arrest the gang, including the brothers.

With the Maio gang out of action, the player is then sent to get recruited by a crew operated by GMAC (a former TCBPD police officer), Rose Largo (an honor student who turned to crime), and Brad "Nickel" Rogers (a former boxer). Whilst conducting races along with jobs for the crew, the player is instructed by GMAC to steal a car from Chau Wu, the leader of the syndicate the player is investigating. When the player finds themselves confronted by Chau, he offers to overlook the theft in exchange for the player's help in recovering a car he lost that he needs back, believing it was stolen by GMAC's crew, but a meeting with Carmen suggests the theft was likely committed by someone else. Eventually, the player is instructed to arrest GMAC and his crew, though is unable to locate the stolen car in their possession. From then on, the player must solve the mystery of the stolen car, while being careful that the real mastermind behind the scenes might be a familiar face.

On May 31, 2021, EA announced that the game would no longer be available for purchase in any online stores.

Need for Speed: Undercover features examples of:

  • Anti-Frustration Features: In the PS2 and Wii versions, spike strips don't instantly slow you down and arrest you unlike previous 6th generation entries. Instead, they affect how your vehicle performs.
    • Also in those versions you can set the difficulty to Easy while PS3, Xbox 360 and PC lacked difficulty selection.
  • Actor Allusion: At the time of the game's release, Maggie Q (Chase Linh) was best known for her role as a henchwoman in Live Free or Die Hard, and the game seems to make intentional references to said film. Besides the fact that her character in that film was called Mai Linh, once she's revealed as the actual villain of the game, the player has to take her down via ramming her getaway car until it's totaled. In the film, her character was killed after being rammed by an SUV — except that time, she didn't have the benefit of being inside a car.
  • Adapted Out: Gold Coast Mountains, one of the 4 boroughs is absent in the maps of the PSP, PS2, Wii and iOS release. In fact the maps are just basically mirrored and modified versions of Rockport.
  • Ascended Extra:
    • The black/red Porsche 911 GT2 shown in the cover art gets this. In the PS3/Xbox 360/PC versions, it belongs to Rose Largo, one of the GMAC's crew members (thus making the car being in the cover art more of The Artifact). In PS2/Wii releases, this was used by Chase Linh, the Big Bad of the game.
    • More of averting Bland-Name Product, but the Police State Muscle Cruiser in the main versions are otherwise unlicensed Dodge Challenger expies. In PS2/Wii versions, the Ford Mustang GT was used in place, with actual licensing trademarks intact.
  • The Bus Came Back: The McLaren F1, last seen in Hot Pursuit 2, would fully return as a base car in this game.note 
  • Cowboy Cop: Per Hot Pursuit titles, albeit of undercover variety. The player character infiltrates the underground criminal organization and they do involve in recklessly chasing street racers or other criminals, but he is actually working for the law enforcement. The PS2/Wii versions also have Chasedown Mode which lets you drive cop cars, Hot Pursuit-style.
  • Cop Killer: More like Cop Wrecker. As Cop Takeout jobs enforce you to smash as many TCBPD units as possible to complete it. Pursuit Breakers are handy in racking up some takedowns.
  • Donut Mess with a Cop: One of the game's "Busted" cutscenes has the officers deciding that the moment they detained you is just the right time for a snack break, bring over a box of donuts, and one of the officers throws his donut at the player while handcuffed and prone on the floor.
  • Duel Boss:
    • Outruns and Highway Battles put you in a one-on-one battle against an opponent around the city streets and highways of Tri-City Bay respectively. Similar to Underground 2's Outrun battles, lead by a certain distance or hold the lead for a certain amount of time to win.
    • The "Versus" job has put you and Hector in a race to the lighthouse.
  • Epic Tracking Shot: The opening shot of the game takes the form of a forward traveling on the bay of Tri-City Bay, with the camera slowly rising to give a view of the city.
  • Floating Head Syndrome: The game's cover art features Chase Linh looking over. Turns out to be also an example of Evil Overlooker, after she's revealed to be the true villain of the game.
  • Hero Stole My Bike: Car Theft jobs are this in spades, as you try out a handful of powerful cars you stole before delivering it to the chop shop or a certain destination.
  • It's a Wonderful Failure: A rather mundane example: If you get all of your cars impounded, the Game Over screen will imply that it's "time to pack up shop and find a new city to save", although the PlayStation 2 and Wii versions of the game recycle the standard "game over" screen from Carbon instead.
  • Nintendo Hard: Especially in PS3, Xbox 360 and PC versions in where the A.I is incredibly prone to rubberband a lot than in the PS2 and Wii versions even if you're driving a Bugatti Veyron or McLaren F1 or even the game breaker Nissan 370Z. The sixth-generation consoles allow you to adjust the difficulty to Easy making the game not too much frustrating.
    • The pursuit milestones are aggravating. In occasions, the cops won't longer appear before you reach the milestone targets and escape without completing it. Otherwise, if you do so, the police won't let you to escape depending your driver level and worst of all, they're timed. The PS2 and Wii versions are not timed and you can't escape before reaching the milestone target save for one challenge series that you must escape in sixty seconds.
  • No-Damage Run: Some jobs feature car delivers without you severely damaging it.
  • Only in Miami: The entirety of Tri-City Bay is based on Miami, Florida. Not to mention the game's theme has the feel of CSI: Miami and Miami Vice.
  • Police Are Useless: Basically the whole premise of the game relies on this; the player being a Cowboy Cop who goes undercover into Tri-City Bay's criminal underworld, which goes from small-time car smugglers to The Triads and the Tongs because the conventional police can't handle them. This trope ultimately gets subverted in the final act where it's revealed that the officer who has been your handler through the game is actually a Dirty Cop, who kills the Triad leader for the deal, prompting the player to have clear their name by busting her in a police pursuit involving hundreds of cop cars.
  • Police Brutality: This game manages to both downplay and exaggerate this: On one hand, your Player Character is a Cowboy Cop, but an undercover cop who passes as a street racer, and as such any illegal activities can be written off as part of your cover. On the other hand, it has perhaps the most (hilariously) brutal "Busted" cutscenes in the franchise, including police officers descending from a helicopter SWAT-style just to detain you, and another that has the officers deciding that the moment they detained you is just the right time for a snack break, bring over a box of donuts, and one of the officers throws his donut at the player prone on the floor.
  • Shout-Out: During the takedowns, taking down your targets until their critical condition will prompt the game to tell you to "Finish Him/Her."
  • Status Buff: Raising your Wheelman Level permanently increases and boosts the performance of your cars, zone points and discounts for parts.
  • Toyota Tripwire: One of Undercover's fairly humorous "busted" sequences features the player character shoving cops out of his way, jumping over a roadblock before finally being hit with a police cruiser's door at a brisk speed.
  • Villain Protagonist: Averted for once here, which the protagonist is actually an undercover cop infiltrating the criminal underworld, making them more of a Cowboy Cop.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Chase Linh at the end, after being arrested by the police. The last scene of her in the game is her kicking and screaming as she is taken away by the cops.
    Chase: [to the player, while being escorted by police] This isn't over! You have no idea how high this goes!

♫ I'm on my own
But I know it won't be long
until you're home... ♫