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Video Game / Need for Speed: Underground

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The ones that became The Fast and the Furious.

Need for Speed: Underground is a sub-series of Electronic Arts's Need for Speed franchise developed by EA Black Box. Consisting of the titular first game in 2003, the open world Underground 2 in 2004, and the portable Underground Rivals in 2005, these games drastically changed the focus and identity of NFS from racing exotic cars in various scenic tracks while being chased by the cops to racing heavily-customized import tuners in urban environments at night when there are no cops around. In addition, Underground introduced an actual plot to the series for the first time.

In Underground, you are an unnamed racer in Olympic City with your friend, Samantha. After being awoken from a daydream by Samantha, she shows you the ropes around the city's underground street racing scene. You race around the city and beat competitors left and right until you could come up to Eddie. Eddie is the best racer in the city, and also is the leader of The Eastsiders who drives a customized orange Nissan Skyline GT-R R34 (the car seen on the game's cover). He also has a girlfriend named Melissa. Eddie will try to get rid of you to no avail, including forcing the player to take a drastic choice by picking a particular opponent for them, as the player has to contend with Eddie's crew and a foul-tempered mechanic, all while being watched by a mysterious silver Nissan 350Z.

In Underground 2, set not long after the first game, a mysterious bald man calls you to try to force you into joining his crew, but you hang up on him. En route to a celebratory party, you are rammed in your blue Skyline GT-R R34 by a black Hummer H2 driven by a man with a scythe tattoo on his hand, calling someone to say that he "took care of a problem." Six months later, you take a flight to Bayview with Samantha recommending in a note that you meet her friend, Rachel Teller. After arriving at the airport, you drive Rachel's green Nissan 350Z (the car on this game's cover) to get your first car from Bayview for free as insurance payment for the totaled Skyline (although you do have the option to race in three events in her car, though she won't like it). From there, you race around the city, winning events and collecting sponsorships. Eventually, you cross paths with The Wraiths, led by Caleb Reece, and as you win races against them, you hear more about their shady work in their attempt to control Bayview's racing scene, such as manipulating sponsorships against both you and Rachel. It's also revealed that he knows something about the accident you suffered in Olympic City. Later on, after you win a series of URL (Underground Racing League) races, a female Wraith member named Nikki Morris defects from them and joins your crew. Infuriated by your constant winning, Caleb eventually challenges you to one last race against him in his 2004 Pontiac GTO.

Underground Rivals has no plot, and thus does not connect to the above stories.

These Need for Speed games contain examples of the following tropes:

  • Always Night: Justified given that the street racing depicted in both games is entirely and explicitly illegal. Sometimes in Underground 2 it brightens up a bit and turns to dawn, but it quickly skips to dusk, then back to night again.
  • And Knowing Is Half the Battle: One of the intro videos for Underground 2 is from Brooke Burke (voice actor for Rachel Teller), saying that the racing is fun, but should only be done in the streets of Underground. The player should drive safely and responsibly, wear a seatbelt and obey the laws of the road.
  • Anti-Frustration Features: In Underground 2, if you missed any available and hidden races from previous stages, it'll showed up as "Not Completed" on the World Map in your Garage. You don't get rewards for clearing it however, but winning these races will unlock remaining aftermarket decals and tracks for quick race and multiplayer mode.
  • Art Shift: Underground 2 features retouched photos blended with comic book images for the cutscenes, which were dominated by still images and graphic novel shots with minimal movement.
  • Bag of Spilling: Justified in Underground 2: the player's car is totaled in the opening cutscene, forcing them to move to Bayview and start all over again.
  • Blamed for Being Railroaded: The first game makes you race Samantha midway through the game for her pink slip as Eddie requested, which ends up costing you your friendship with her. The other racers then proceed to call you out on this, despite the game requiring you to race her in order to finish the story.
  • Blatant Lies: Most of the excuses made by drivers when you beat them in Outrun races in Underground 2 fall squarely into this category, from blaming mechanical issues, to outright claiming "I Let You Win".
  • *Bleep*-dammit!:
    • The clean version of Lil Jon & The Eastside Boyz' "Get Low" used in the first Underground mutes "twerk" when the Ying Yang Twins say it, but allows Lil Jon to tell the females in the audience to "twerk a little harder".
    • In Underground 2, the word "police" is censored in Sly Boogy's "That'z My Name" (along with "popo"), but not in Snoop Dogg's "Riders on the Storm".
  • Bookends: Underground's story mode begins with Samantha waking the player from their daydream by telling them, "Is that your fantasy?", and ends with Samantha telling the player the exact same phrase after the mysterious racer the player defeats is revealed to be Melissa.
  • Bragging Rights Reward: Underground had the Bonus Cars, untuned cars with awesome vinyls.
  • Broken Bridge: In Underground 2, you have to win events to unlock access to various areas around Bayview, otherwise you'll have to deal with holographic barriers blocking access to the locked areas of the city.
  • The Bus Came Back: The Mazda RX-7 and the Toyota Supra appeared in 1994's The Need for Speed, then disappeared from the series until Underground.note 
  • Close-Contact Danger Benefit: In Underground 2, one of the stunts to refill your nitrous consists of driving in the opposite lane of traffic and nearly hitting oncoming cars.
  • Cool Car: These games were when Need for Speed switched from exotics to tuners, and thus had the coolest imports for the time, especially the Nissans on the two main games' covers.
  • Darker and Edgier: Downplayed; while the races are entirely (almost, in the case of Underground 2 where sometimes it looks like dawn or dusk) set at night in comparison to the daytime-dominated previous NFS titles, and Underground 2 begins with the attempted murder of the protagonist, both games still have a generally lighthearted tone (in contrast to Hot Pursuit games which are generally more serious), optimistic soundtracks, and end in complete victory for the protagonist.
  • Design-It-Yourself Equipment:
  • Dream Intro: Underground uses one to justify giving you A Taste of Power at the start. Once you're pulled out of your daydream by Samantha, you realise you have a long way to go before you can drive something as cool as what you just were.
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: Played painfully straight, especially in Underground 2; even if you've maxed out your car's performance and visual ratings, almost all race givers will treat your car as a wreck and expect you to be lapped five times by the end of the race.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Played with in Underground 2. Nikki initially refuses to play dirty against the player in the belief that she can beat him fair and square. When this proves not to be the case, however, she continues to refuse to cheat, insisting, "I race straight-up". The resulting argument between her and Caleb cements her Heel–Face Turn.
  • Excuse Plot: Both games' plots exist purely as an excuse for you to drive around really fast. The first is especially bad about this; Underground 2 has more cutscenes and more of a driving motivation for the protagonist, but it never quite manages to avert this.
  • Fame Gate: Underground 2 has a style gate for certain points in the campaign, where you customize your car to reach a set style rating. The first Underground only used it for optional sets of unlockables.
  • Failure Is the Only Option: Downplayed; no matter what car you choose as your starter car in Underground, Samantha will always react to it by saying, "Ouch! That is seriously weak, dude!"
  • Fighting Your Friend: Underground forces you to challenge Samantha, your Exposition Fairy, to a race, ending your friendship with her in the process. Not only that, but her car gets totaled in the process. Fortunately, TJ later repairs the car to use it himself and you eventually challenge him to a race to get the car back to Samantha and make amends with her.
  • Five-Second Foreshadowing: After defeating Eddie in Underground, one of the achievements obtained is a new magazine cover featuring Melissa, Eddie's girlfriend. (Complete with the model whose likeness Melissa is based on, Amy Walz, appearing in a live-action photo.) She ends up being the "mysterious" opponent for the next (and the absolute last) story event.
  • Guide Dang It!:
    • In Underground 2, while Rachel advised that you'll earn some reputation for winning a race based on your certain distance from the 2nd placer, however you'll need to win most races with average rep close to 300 to unlock a secret 5th sponsorship, otherwise it won't show up when you received an offer.
    • Two of Street X races in Stage 3 are completely hidden and cannot be participated via World Map in your Garage. If you didn't participate those races, the 100% Completion will be permanently missable.
  • Graceful Loser: Zigzagged with the Outrun races in Underground 2. Some of the drivers you beat will actually be genuinely impressed with you and acknowledge your skill, and after winning a certain number in each stage, you unlock a scripted event in which your opponent is impressed enough to hook you up with a unique upgrade. Most opponents, however, are the exact opposite.
  • Hard Mode Perks: In Underground, playing on hard difficulty awards more money. Playing events on Hard in the Underground Mode is the only way to qualify for additional magazine covers awarded by beating the developers' best scores across the four game modes. Averted in Underground 2, as playing on Hard does nothing other than bragging rights.
  • High-Heel–Face Turn: In Underground 2, Nikki Morris, the sole female member of The Wraiths, defects to your side after you beat her in an URL race (plus some mistreatment from The Wraiths' leader Caleb Reece).
  • Hotter and Sexier: Every other game in the second era of the series features beautiful and attractive looking women especially in both Underground games when it comes to not only Mellisa, Samantha, Rachel and Nikki, but also the car magazines.
  • I Let You Win: When you beat someone in an Outrun race in Underground 2, one of their possible responses is "If I don't throw a race or two, how am I supposed to get people to race me?", implying they let you win just so people think they're beatable. Of course, they're probably lying out of their ass.
  • Informed Flaw: Bayview's residents act as if Olympic City is some rural backwater, and treat you like you're a hick. Likely some (very) rude teasing on their part.
  • It's a Wonderful Failure:
    • Underground features cutscenes in case you lose your races against Samantha and TJ; Samantha says that she will ignore you from now on, while TJ sarcastically blows you a kiss.
    • In Underground 2, there is a hidden cutscene if you lose the final race against Caleb, saying that he has proven the player that they are nothing to him.
      Caleb: That's what I'm talkin' about! I told ya! You're nothin'! YOU'RE NOTHIN'! [laughs]
  • Jerkass: A massive chunk of the racers you come across in Underground 2 are arrogant douchebags that belittle your car and see you as one of three things: A schmuck to steal money from, a delusional teenager driving his parents' car, or a yokel that's about to get lapped numerous times.
  • Last Lousy Point: Two of Street X races in Stage 3 are hidden with no way to participate via World Map in the Garage menu and completing that stage before completing those two remaining races, the 100% Completion will be permanently unobtainable.
  • Magikarp Power:
    • The Toyota Corolla GT-S (AE86) in Underground 2, which starts out as the slowest car in the game, but when it's fully upgraded it's easily the best car in the game, thanks to its insane handling. Street X and URL races, Drift events and pretty much every race in Jackson Heights in particular are an absolute cakewalk with the Corolla. To top it all off, it's one of the cars you can pick from right at the start of Career Mode. Some guy uses it to deliver tofu at 4 in the morning while navigating mountain passes, what do you expect?
    • The Mazda Miata/MX-5 (NB) in both games also counts. It's a starter car just like the aforementioned Corolla, but when fully upgraded it has the highest overall stats in both games, putting even Skylines, Mustangs and Supras to shame.
  • Marathon Level:
    • The final race in Underground 2, against Caleb, consists of five laps around one of the longer circuits in the game, and can take nearly ten minutes to complete. That's not to say that it's difficult. In Quick Race mode, you can set up races that last for up to ten laps, and on the longest circuit in the game - Bellavista - you'll be driving for well over twenty minutes, in a game where most events are between 3-5 minutes.
    • Ironically averted by the Sprint track literally named "Marathon" - by the time you unlock it, you'll already have a fully-upgraded car and can complete it in less than three minutes. It's not even the longest Sprint track in the game - "2nd & Bellevue" is just slightly longer.
  • Market-Based Title: The first game was called Need for Speed: Underground J-Tune in Japan, and the second game was Need For Speed: Underground 2 Sha-Do in Japan.
  • Mighty Glacier: The three SUVs in Underground 2 (Lincoln Navigator, Hummer H2, and Cadillac Escalade) play to this. Their top speed and handling are lower than the other cars in the game, but they shrug off traffic collisions much more easily.
  • Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal: In Underground 2, after the player defeats Nikki in an URL race, Caleb's Villainous Breakdown begins in earnest and he angrily chews her out. Nikki's response is to perform a Heel–Face Turn and join the player's side.
  • Mock Hollywood Sign: The second game has a Hollywood-inspired Bayview sign on Jackson Heights.
  • Mood Whiplash: In Underground, Samantha gives two messages before the race against Eddie. Her first message can have her talk about her race against the player in a pensive tone, only for her second message to excitedly tell the player about a magazine cover opportunity.
  • Ms. Fanservice:
    • In Underground, Melissa is clearly the main source of eye candy. At one point, the player looks at her while choir-like music plays, implying that the player became enthralled with her; Samantha catches on to this and snaps the player out of it, calling them a "loser". Speaking of which, this is actually averted with Samantha who, while very lovely, has no obvious moment of fanservice, with her relationship with the player being strictly platonic, as they remain just friends.note 
    • In Underground 2, the duties of giving eye candy are shared between Rachel Teller and Nikki Morris. The game finds many ways to show Rachel in figure-flattering outfits that highlight her buxom looks, while Nikki is introduced wearing a leather outfit, and after siding with the player, she takes a page from Rachel's style book, wearing similar figure-flattering outfits.
    • Car magazines in both games features attractive looking women.
  • Nitro Boost: These are the first NFS games to include this for the player as a racer.note  While the first Underground limited you to one tank with no way to refill it mid-race, Underground 2 introduced the "Racebreaker" system, which refilled your nitrous if you performed various stunts, like drifting, jumping, and narrowly avoiding traffic. Certain stunts had multipliers, increasing the amount of refilled nitrous for every consecutive time you can pull it off, meaning weaving through traffic with the maximum x5 multiplier can give you nitrous more quickly than you can spend it.
  • Nothing Is the Same Anymore: Underground radically changed the look and feel of Need for Speed by taking out the exotics, scenic environments, and police and replacing them with tuners, cities, and aftermarket customization.
  • Permanently Missable Content:
    • In Underground 2, unique upgrades (from winning Outrun races in Stages 2-5) can only be acquired in the stage in which they were unlocked. If you progress to the next stage without winning the unique upgrades, you won't get another chance to win them.
    • In the same game, two of Street X races in Stage 3 are hidden with no way to participate via World Map in the Garage menu. Completing that stage before those races makes 100% Completion unachievable.
  • Plot-Mandated Friendship Failure: In the first Underground, you are forced to race against Samantha, resulting in her terminating her friendship with you. Things get better eventually, though.
  • Post-Final Boss: Underground builds up to you facing Eddie, but after defeating him, the mysterious racer who watched the player after beating Samantha challenges them to a race, making them the actual last boss of the game. After the race, said racer later reveals themselves to be Melissa.
  • Product Placement: Along with the numerous sponsorships and part manufacturers in both games, in Underground 2 (2004 "winner" of GameSpot's "Most Despicable Product Placement"):
    • You have a Cingular Wirelessnote  phone with SMS capabilities with their logo prominently showing on your HUD all the time, and there are various Cingular stores strewn across Bayview.
    • There are several Best Buy stores in the City Core and Coal Harbor areas.
    • There are several Burger King franchises strewn across the city, with a prominent Burger King restaurant located in Beacon Hill West that has a drive-thru pathway that can be used as a shortcut.
  • Rainbow Pimp Gear: Underground 2 requires you to completely and utterly rice your cars out to proceed in the game. No matter how fast they may be, no matter how many races they may win, sleepers or JDM-style vehicles won't get you anywhere. It doesn't matter what you slap onto your rides as long as it's expensive. And the more expensive something is, the tackier it is.
  • Ramp Jump: Underground's maps had players jumping over rivers and canals using opened drawbridges.
  • Rice Burner: Both games require and encourage you to rice out your car and raise your Style rating in order to progress. Your opponents' cars, for the most part, also get increasingly riced out as you progress. While in the first Underground it is only used for some optional unlockables and entering a few events (and after you're done with the event you're more than free to remove your customizations), in Underground 2, in order to advance past certain parts in Career Mode, you have to get your car published in a magazine, and said car needs to have a minimum Star Rating to be able to take it on. While forcing players to take on something that should not be mandatory in a game genre is already questionable by itself, it does not help that the late-game visual customization options, necessary for the later magazines, make the car look like a very blatant rice burner. Thankfully, subsequent games did away with the star rating, making customization completely optional.
  • Rubber-Band A.I.: Both games have this in the form of a feature called "Catch-Up" - AI drivers will slow down if they're in front of you, but speed up dramatically if they're behind you. Notably, Underground 2 allows you to switch Catch-Up off, at which point the AI can go from being right on your tail all race to finishing literal miles behind you.
  • Serious Business: Illegal street racing in both of the games' plots, to the point where in the first game, Samantha gets pissed at you upon accepting Eddie's challenge to race her.
  • Signpost Tutorial: Underground 2 has a series of info coronas laid around the Airport and City Center (the only two sections of town accessible at the start of the game). Driving through these gives you some information on the game and a small amount of cash.
  • Sinister Scythe: While nobody actually wields one, the members of the Reapers gang in Underground 2 all have black scythes tattooed on the back of their hands, as a visual shorthand for "these are people you don't want to mess with".
  • Sore Loser: Almost everyone you beat in an Outrun race in Underground 2 will either accuse you of getting lucky or come up with some blatantly false excuse as to why they lost.
  • Swallowed Whole: The fate of a particular silver and purple Nissan 350Z in the mindscrew that is the older intro movie for Underground 2.
  • A Taste of Power: Both games.
    • In Underground, the opening race is a Fantasy Sequence in which you drive a fully-modded car. After Samantha wakes you up from your daydream, you're invited to select your actual unmodded starter car.
    • In Underground 2, once you arrive in Bayview, Rachel lets you borrow her car (a fully-modded Nissan 350Z) so you can get from the airport over to your garage. You can drive straight there, or you can participate in a couple of races, which will prompt increasingly irate messages from Rachel.
  • Totally Radical: Both games' use of slang was considered bad when they came out; in Underground there's some of Samantha's dialogue ("That is seriously weak, dude!") , and in Underground 2, the in-game currency is called "Bank". A decade on and some of the dialogue just seems downright painful. Worse of all, the aforementioned "Bank" made its return in 2019's Need for Speed Heat.
  • Unexpectedly Realistic Gameplay: Happens in both games.
    • In the Drag mode, if you don't shift properly, your car's engine will explode, resulting in the player being disqualified.
    • Nitrous slowly gains your speed, despite having fire coming out of the exhausts from any car.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Caleb spends the final part of Underground 2 having one, as first Nikki, and then his sponsors turn against him. This culminates in him smashing his phone and angrily challenging the player to a final showdown, which he then loses.
  • The Voiceless: Your character doesn't speak at all in these games.
  • Wham Episode: Actually a Wham Race in the first Underground. The race named "Friends Are Easy To Make, And Easier To Lose" has you racing against Samantha, who's been your guide throughout the first two-thirds of the game, in order to get her pink slip and selling her car to The Junkman for engine upgrades. Later, the other racers will call you out on this.
  • What the Hell, Player?: At the beginning of Underground 2, Rachel lends you her ride and tells you to meet her at the Car Lot, but you can participate in a couple of races along the way. After the first one, she asks if you've gotten lost and reiterates that you need to meet her at the Car Lot ASAP. After the second one, she's utterly furious, and threatens to have you blacklisted unless you get to the Car Lot right now. If you choose to compete in a third, albeit hidden race in the alleyway, she will warn you that racing's now over (which is true, as that's all the races available while in Rachel's car, outside of Outruns), and that she isn't calling you again.
  • Wide-Open Sandbox: Underground 2 marked the debut of free-roaming environments in the Need for Speed franchise, with Bayview able to be explored more and more as you beat events.

Alternative Title(s): Need For Speed Underground 2