The 2008 release in Electronic Arts' high-mileage road-racing series, Need for Speed: Undercover is built on a revamped game engine with a dual focus: realistic sports car physics and accessible, empowering controls. Hundreds of components and systems are individually modeled on each automobile, for realistic acceleration, suspension, weight displacement, and handling, in any car and under any circumstance. The game features dozens of automobiles from the world's leading manufacturers, as well as real-life aftermarket parts, paint, vinyl, and other customizations.
The "Heroic Driving Engine" introduced in Need for Speed: Undercover aims to harness the game's realistic physics by condensing difficult, dangerous driving maneuvers into simple, button-press controls. Players perform 180s, 360s, burnouts, and instant reversals with the tap of a few buttons, and a fixed camera angle makes it easier to follow the action through spins and quick turns. It does not take stunt driver skills to drive like a stunt driver in Need for Speed. It still requires a stunt driver's spirit, however, with imaginative routes and daring maneuvers well rewarded, and a complete wipeout always one wrong turn away.
Undercover's single-player campaign is driven by a story that sends the player's character deep into an underground crime syndicate, using his driving skills to gain trust by performing jobs and wining street races around Tri-City Bay, the game's fictional, open-world setting. Much of the driving action takes place across wide, southern U.S. highways. The roads can fill up with randomly generated traffic and multiple, computer-controlled cop cars that work together to chase down crooks. Other game modes allow players to take the role of the fleeing suspect or the pursuing police in one-off levels and challenges. As many as eight players can go Undercover together online.