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Platform

Xbox

 

Genre

Racing

 

Publisher

Electronic Arts

 

Developer

EA Canada

 

ESRB

E +10 (Everyone)

 

Released

October 31, 2006

 

 

- Impressive graphical performance, including well-rendered vehicles, a dark and dangerous curvy canyon, twisting streets and especially the motion-captured characters
- Challenging drift races are the game’s best

 

 

- Less police chases results in much less challenging road trips
- Daytime racing from Need for Speed Most Wanted is put in the trunk, as the game returns once again to it nocturnal roots
- New crew feature really doesn’t add to the gameplay as much as was anticipated

 

 

Review: Need for Speed: Most Wanted (XB)

Review: Project Gotham Racing 2 (XB)

Review: Burnout Revenge (XB)

 

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Need for Speed Carbon

Score: 8.5 / 10

 

The heat is turned down (sort of), but the racing’s still asphalt-scorching hot in the latest Need for Speed from Electronic Arts, Need for Speed Carbon. While the new “crew” feature would have been better left on the side of the road and the challenge level of the game isn’t as tough as in Need for Speed Most Wanted, Need for Speed Carbon is yet another fine-tuned-under-the-hood racing game from the franchise.

 

need for speed carbon          need for speed carbon


In the newest addition to the Need for Speed franchise garage, the excitement of the previous title, Need for Speed Most Wanted, which focused on escaping police chases in both daylight and nighttime, is replaced by the nocturnal racing circuit that most famously was utilized in the two Need for Speed Underground titles. Instead of the police evasion racing (which still remains to a slight degree), Need for Speed Carbon focuses on the skill of driving around city streets and exhilaration of drift racing down serpentine, narrow canyon roads.

 

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It is a disappointment that the police chases have been all but downplayed in Need for Speed Carbon (although during races, the cops will start chasing you, but not too often. These chases are also still around as one of the Challenge Series events, Pursuit Evasion) because not only were they electrifying, they were more challenging than most of the races you’ll find here.

 

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Once you buy one of the high-end exotic vehicles such as the Lamborghini Gallardo and Mercedes McLaren SLR in the game (there are 50 real-world cars in three different classes – muscle, tuner and exotic – including Mazda’s new Speed3 and the Shelby GT500) and tune it to its fullest potential (with the money you win racing), the only challenge you’ll face is keeping the car on the road. And even that’s not too tough with the excellent driving controls.

You have two options for gameplay in Need for Speed Carbon. First is the surprisingly good career mode, which puts in play a “Risk” factor, as you move throughout rivals’ turf and attempt to take over said rivals’ territory, much like a game of the old-school board game Risk. If you liberate turf from your rival and stake your own claim as leader of those streets, you then must face off against that territory’s boss, moving from the streets to Carbon Canyon, where you’ll battle in the Canyon Duel to vanquish your rival.

This all plays out with a backstory that has seen you ostracized from the underground racing scene, as you’ve been accused of ripping off fellow drivers during a police bust at one of your races. But as you progress through your career and defeat boss after boss, you’ll find out that you were set up to be the fall guy, and must fight to regain your reputation on the streets.

Another mode, the Challenge Series, takes what driving skills you learned in Career mode and applies them to 11 different types of events, including four canyon ordeals. By far the best to play and hardest to master is the Canyon Drift, which employs your skills of drift racing while caroming down a narrow and dark road at a high rate of speed. If the next game in the franchise just happens to be something along the lines of Need for Speed Catch My Drift and featured nothing but drift racing, I for one, and probably many others that experience these drift races in Need for Speed Carbon, would be completely thrilled.

 

need for speed carbon          need for speed carbon


Graphically, Need for Speed Carbon is magnificent, squeezing every bit of pretty out of the Xbox possible. The cars are gorgeously rendered, and you can really trick out your cars with the Autosculpt customization tool to create a one-of-a-kind asphalt-eating beauty. The environments are just as stellar, particularly the twisting and turning roads of Carbon Canyon. The cityscapes are colored with too much pastel-and-neon accents and are guilty of too much carbon-copying as each racecourse, no matter what the territory its in, seems to be on the same roads. But it’s still a beautiful world you’ll race in, although it’s blanketed in a purple haze under cloak of midnight black, completely doing away with any daylight racing.

By far the most impressive feature of Need for Speed Carbon’s visual performance is the spectacular new motion-capture technology that brings a unbelievable stage or realism to the game, as Need for Speed Carbon’s in-game characters are ridiculously lifelike in their appearance. These are by far the most realistic reacting and looking characters I’ve seen in any game.

One aspect of Need for Speed Carbon that blows a gasket is the crew feature, which allows you to build a “crew” of other drivers that supposedly will assist you during races to win. There are “blockers” to distract and slow down opponents, and “scouts” to ferret out shortcuts. But while they do their job, it’s not like you really need them to, because even cars that get blocked will still catch you if you engage in one too many crashes and you can usually find the shortcuts yourself. It was a somewhat good idea that just doesn’t prove very necessary during your races.

While many may miss the always-around-the-next corner, full-force police chase excitement from Need for Speed Most Wanted, Need for Speed Carbon still provides an adrenaline speed-rush with the spectacularly exhilarating drift racing down the curvaceous canyon roadways. Although the challenge factor isn’t really high thanks to the virtual absence of police chases, Need for Speed Carbon is yet another fantastic pedal-to-the-metal adventure that the franchise has built its reputation on.

- Lee Cieniawa
lcieniawa@armchairempire.com

(November 21, 2006)

 

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