Need for Speed: Underground 2 (2004)
After being violently taken out after reaching the top in Olympic City, the player has to start from scratch in Bayview. Still, he’s got some help from Rachel Teller who would like to see an end to corruption in the street racing scene in Bayview and thinks you’re the guy to beat the current top driver, Caleb.
This is the best street racing game of the PS2 and, arguably, PS3 generation with perfect handling balanced between accessible, convincing and demanding. It’s demanding in that driving your car requires input and concentration; it’s not difficult but you do have to pay attention. It’s an involving driving experience. The decision to make you drive to each event also involves you more than simply choosing off a menu. Using a menu exclusively in an open-world game completely defeats the atmospheric point of the open-world. Another thing that is great is that you can go through the whole game using the same car (I used a Peugeot 206) and just keep refining, tuning and upgrading it. This involves you further in the game in a way that racing games have moved away from. Gran Turismo 3 started the trend toward endlessly buying new cars from the get go, Forza Motorsport copied and the Need for Speed series finally completely capitulated with Shift 2: Unleashed. None of these games have any sense of ownership toward vehicles which is a gigantic misunderstanding of how to reward the player. Giving us new cars as rewards means we feel nothing toward them; we didn’t pick them, choose the colour or install a wicked sound system. We want to develop a relationship with our steed. When thinking about the game, we want to know that it’s in our car that we are achieving victory; that makes the victory sweeter and the game better.