First Impressions: Please don't play this while you're really driving
Unsurprisingly, EA Games seems very committed to developing games for PlayStation Portable. With a wide range of software in the works from the publishing juggernaut, they're single-handedly assuring PSP fans that there will be plenty of games to purchase whenever Sony decides to release the portable powerhouse. One of these early-adopting releases is Need for Speed Underground: Rivals. Again abandoning their roots with exotic cars and police chases, NFSU:R is neither a port of the original NFSU, or the recently released NFSU2, but instead borrowing aspects from both to make a racer that takes advantage of the features of the PSP. With some stiff competition in the racing genre from games like Ridge Racers and a PSP version of Gran Turismo 4, NFSU: Rivals has to do a whole bunch to stand out, but with EA behind it (and an army willing to purchase the game, going on the success of the NFSU console games), chances of it getting left in the dust is pretty slim.
NFSU: Rivals will function more like the original NFSU; by that, meaning the free-roaming aspect of NFSU2 will not be present, mostly due to how much battery power it would eat. Instead, the main single player mode, the Career, will be menu-based. Inside the Career mode you progress through different races to win new cars, cash to upgrade those cars, and increase your rankings and respect in the Underground world. Unlike the original NFSU, you can keep cars rather than trade them in, and EA has instituted a Pocket Garage to view all your rides. All the usual vehicles from the Underground games return, along with some more American cars to tweak & race against the finest Japanese imports. With 10 standard tracks to race on, along with drift races, drags, and new rally relay (which is exactly what it says). There's even some new modes exclusive to the game other than rally relay, like Nitrous Run, where you keep your finger on the N20 as long as possible, Street Cross, and Drift Attack. Many of the different race types are playable in both single and multiplayer (for up to 4 players), through the PSP's WiFi port.
As a launch title, the graphics of NFSU: Rivals look great and take advantage of the PSP's powerful hardware. Most of the touches from the PS2 versions are intact, like neon everywhere and the effect of using Nitro during the race. The audio is built around EA's new ?PocketTRAX' which is pretty much EA Trax but designed with the PSP in mind. But even though you could realistically stick music on a Sony memory stick while playing, there doesn't seem to be any possibility of a customized soundtrack despite that. Not that EA has been a big proponent of that in the past, judging by how they tend to bury the option in the Xbox versions of their games.