gaming since 1997

Need for Speed: Carbon

With Underground, EA gave the right injection to the Need for Speed series and since then they really don’t want to change direction too much. And who can blame them when seeing that every new episode can be found in the top 10 of the sales charts. With Need for Speed: Carbon this isn’t any differentt and we checked to see why that is.

The storyline is as usual a scapegoat to rob you from your hard earned metal horses from the previous version and throw you back in the street with only one goal: to get them back! Fun is the fact that apparently more has happened than you would think and that you get to see that history piece by piece with movies that include the tough B-atmosphere that will please both fans of The Fast and The Furious and lovers of camp.

Compared to Most Wanted, the structure in which you need to race has changed a bit. The world is divided in different areas that are controlled by different crews. Each one consists out of zones you need to conquer by winning races and when you have enough of these under your control you can take on the leader of the local crew to take it over completely. A refreshing approach compared to the linear structure we’ve gotten used to, only disturbed a bit by the fact that you often have to defend areas and need to replay already won races. But probably the latter was necessary to increase the lifespan: in about ten hours you’ll have finished the Career mode.

Also new are the crew members. You get a lot of people that you can hire to accompany you as partner in the races. You can have blockers, that “block” other cars, drafters that get you out of the wind, and scouts that give you shortcuts. A nice idea on paper but little usable in reality for several reasons and you won’t have to pay too much attention to this innovation. Another disappointment, for those that in Most Wanted were hooked on the chases, is that the police play a much smaller role.

Innovation is also found in the racing types. The drift-events are back, including new controls which make your car react completely different than in normal races. A real improvement if you ask me.

Also the boss-races, which determine whether or not you take over a territory make a new wind breathe through your cabrio. These are done in the canyons and you’ll get the mission to approach the other car (in one-on-one) as close as possible after which the roles are reversed and you need to stay as far ahead of your opponent as possible.

The difficulty here is that the opposition drives a lot faster than in normal races and with one steering error you can dive in the canyon and immediately lose. Believe me, there are plenty of ravines present that will make you restart and up the frustration levels.

The driving still has that nice arcade feeling that doesn’t make you think for a second but lets you squeek those rubbers in the next turn. Also the car park has been expanded and now you can’t only play with tuning cars but also American muscle cars and the more exotic stuff like Porsches and Lamborghinis are present. Each class has its own driving behaviour which brings more variation in gameplay and a pleasant learning curve with a bit more challenge.

When your sick of driving for a minute, you can go into the garage and start tuning. Tons of stickers, paint buckets, replacement parts, upgrades, wheels, spoilers and other stuff are at your disposal and now you can even personalize each item thanks to an ingenious Autosculpt-system with sliders so that you can adjust for instance the width, depth and height of a spoiler. Plenty of possibilities that can make you lose hours of time by making your dream car.

If afterwards you want to do more than just finish the storyline, there’s the Quick Races and Challenges. The online options are also changed quite a lot this time and you can play all sorts of races with up to eight people, something that certainly appealed to us. Don’t expect a similar level as PGR3 or Test Drive Unlimited though, maybe that will be something for the next episode?

Graphically the game looks very good eventhough it’s too bad that we only get to start our engines during night time whilst Most Wanted managed to create a welcome atmosphere also during the day. No huge leap forward, but the framerate is good and both the cars and surroundings are well-done. Also the sound wasn’t improved too much but they manage to recreate a realistic soundtrack surrounding your metal monster. On the radio there’s a nice combination of hip-hop, rock and more electronic music.

Need for Speed Carbon makes a smaller leap forward than Most Wanted did, but the series does remain king amongst the accessible and classic arcade racers. With beautiful graphics, varied races, a good driving model and endless options for personalisation flavored with a story consisting of cool cut-scenes this is an easy chunk of entertainment. But personally we would have loved to see some more innovation, body and depth and less shallow innovations like the crew members.

Our Score:
related game: Need for Speed Carbon
posted in: Electronic Arts, Reviews, X360
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