EA's Need for Speed series has come in several different shapes and sizes over the years. More recently, the series has taken to the late-night city streets with the import tuner-focused Need for Speed Underground games. The popular subseries now comes to the Nintendo DS with the release of Need for Speed Underground 2, a game that packs in cars, upgrades, and a decent number of different races. However, less-than-optimal control holds the whole thing back a little bit.
You'll start your street racing career by picking one of two fairly weak licensed cars. As you win races, you'll earn points, and these can either be spent on upgrades or new vehicles. New cars are unlocked as you play, so you won't be able to simply start saving up for the most expensive car right away. You'll incrementally work your way from car to car, improving your chances by buying cars with higher base ratings for speed, acceleration, and handling.
You'll also unlock visual upgrades for your cars as you play, which lets you customize your car by putting on body kits, spoilers, hood scoops, rims, and so on. You can recolor your car and put plenty of vinyl stickers on it as well. These changes are purely cosmetic, but they do let you differentiate your car from the pack pretty well.
There are really only two different ways to race in the game, but the standard circuit style gets broken down into a handful of variants. Sometimes you'll be racing against the clock, other times you'll face off against opponents, and occasionally you'll participate in knockout races, where the last-place driver is eliminated after every lap. "Own the zone" races break the circuit up into different segments, and you need to claim as many segments as possible by having the fastest time through each one. The other style of racing in Underground 2 is the drag race, which takes place on a straight track and is more focused on your shifting properly and avoiding obstacles than on your steering prowess. The drag racing is exciting, has a great sense of speed, and is probably the game's high point. You can also play with up to three other players wirelessly, which is great if you happen to have race-hungry friends in your area.