Underground completely rebooted the franchise, ignoring the previous Need for Speed games. It was the first game in the series to offer a career mode featuring a storyline, and a garage mode that allowed players to fully customize their cars with a large variety of brand-name performance and visual upgrades. All races take place in a generic city at night called Olympic City, though the city bears some resemblance to New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Rather than exotic cars,Underground featured vehicles associated with the import scene. Underground was commercially successful, and inspired asequel.
The player starts straight into the action, at a circuit race driving a uniquely styled Acura Integra Type R with wide body kit, easily winning over his opponents...only to be woken up by Samantha from his daydreaming.
Samantha is the player's friend in the new environment; she shows the player how the console with the races works, who's who, and makes fun of the player's starter car. Eddie (and his orange-metallic Nissan Skyline), is the leader of the Eastsiders and current top racer of the streets, and Melissa is his girlfriend.
Time passes, races are won. The player meets other racers, and eventually gathers a small list of nemeses that continually challenge him and are defeated. He's introduced to TJ, who promises unique performance upgrades in exchange of beating time trial challenges; Samantha does the same from time to time, offering unique visual modifications instead.
The player's successive victories don't impress Eddie. First, he mocks the player's skill, saying he has a long way to go to 'roll his streets'. Later in the game, the player builds enough hype to be too hard to ignore, so Eddie challenges him to beat Samantha in a sprint race before coming after him; the player's willingness in going for it infuriates her. Samantha totals her Civic's engine trying to beat the player, unsuccessfully. TJ takes the junked car for himself after the event.