Need for Speed Undercover Launch Party

Throwing a successful video game launch party is easy if you have all of the right elements lined up. Kickass location? Check. Sweet rides? Check. Gorgeous Hollywood actress? Check. Throw in free booze and finger foods catered by a world-class chef and the event cannot fail. Electronic Arts, the publisher for the newly released Need for Speed Undercover follows the formula to the tee.

It was a two-part evening of excitement and entertainment. Behind the El Capitan Theater in Hollywood is a small parking lot where EA exhibited several sleek cars, including a silver Audi R8 and a ’71 Dodge Charger decked out in funky purple. Crowds gathered around the chain link fence to catch a glimpse of the excitement while media was corralled into a small corner of the parking lot behind a plastic barricade. When the event managers started asking the press to sign a waver – presumably to absolve them of any responsibility for injuries – seeing the nearness of the tire marks on the asphalt from the drivers’ practice runs was not encouraging.

Before the auto-show started, rapper Young Dre made an appearance, performing his single “I love LA.” He stood on top of one of the cars and worked the crowd on the other side of the fence, shaking hands and letting one of the girls sing backup. Afterwards, he hopped into his car and pealed out, fishtailing across the parking lot before disappearing into the night.

Then the real stars of the show – the cars – came out to strut their stuff and give the audience a taste of what playing Need for Speed Undercover will be like. The professional drivers performed several drifting maneuvers, which are those snazzy, high-speed turns featured in almost every modern film chase sequence. Sometimes the drivers were in sync. Sometimes they improvised. Sometimes they almost collided, missing each other by inches and causing onlookers to suck air through their teeth.

The silver Audi R8 kept his drifting so tight that he was able to perform perfect, tiny rotations around one of the lampposts. This move is called a “donut” and several people watching yelled excitedly when they saw it. Finishing off the performance, a police cruiser entered the already crowded parking lot to give chase, but the other vehicles easily rendered it impotent, literally driving circles around the cop before fleeing the scene.

Afterwards, everyone was directed to the Hollywood & Highland Center where EA had set up several Xbox 360 kiosks out front for the public to play. More exotic cars were parked on the street guarded by a full complement of police officers that unintentionally added extra effect, considering the video game has the player eluding police officers. However, the party was upstairs on the top floor in the Annex, which is one of the many venues that are specifically catered by Wolfgang Puck. His recipes and his staff, as always, did a wonderful job.

Everyone had a great time, grooving to the beats of DJ E Man, taking pictures in the Need for Speed photo booth or gazing at the ever beautiful Maggie Q who stars in the game as Federal Agent Chase Linh. She’ll recruit the player as an undercover agent who will infiltrate a crime syndicate as the wheelman for various missions. The game also features real-world damage and car customization for over 55 licensed vehicles including the Mercedes-Benz SL65 AMG, Audi R8, Porsche 911 GT2 and the all-new unreleased 2009 Nissan 370Z.

If you’ve got the need for speed – or a need for Maggie Q – then get your copy today. It’s already in stores.