Saturday, 3 May 2008


I'm gonna be honest and say that driving games are not my forté. Well, by that I mean straight-up racing games. Gran Turismo, Project Gotham Racing, etc etc; I'm rubbish at all of them.

But then there's the other racing games. The ones that are different in their own ways, not just pure simulations of track racing. Burnout's deranged mayhem, Need for Speed's nighttime city runs, Motorstorm's off-road chaos and Ridge Racer's impossible drifts. All of which add up to ultimate fun for those of us who don't really fancy day-long endurance races.

This weekend is a Bank Holiday, so I've been using the extra day off to get some gaming done before I return to revising for exams. Therefore, whilst on socialising travels today, I popped into Blockbusters and picked up Need For Speed: Carbon for PS2 (£3 for a week, pretty cheap). I always used to play round my car-obsessive friends house when Underground and Underground 2 came out, and I got Most Wanted with my PSP in 2005. I've briefly played Most Wanted for PS2 on a hire too, but this was my first play of late 2006's Carbon.

NFS: Carbon logo

The first thing to mention is that the core gameplay (driving around the streets of a fictional city, looking for events that culminate in boss races) is still perfect. It seems to have taken a turn for the worst in last year's ProStreet, but here in Carbon, the gameplay feels solid, the best it has since Underground 2. The next thing to mention is that the game has returned to a nighttime setting. Thank-frigging-god. How much I hated the sun-drenched streets of Most Wanted, and yearned for underground and very illegal racing to return to its seemingly logical hiding place, namely the night. Plus, you just get a much better sense of speed at night, which makes things more interesting.


Obviously, this being a yearly EA franchise, there's the inevitable gimmick new feature. For Carbon, EA Black Box added 'Canyon Duels'. These are set one of the canyons conveniently located around the main city, and involve you and a big bad boss racing down a treacherous cliffside track and attempting to shove each other off the side. I'll make my point brief: it's surprisingly good. Oh, it can be stupidly difficult from time to time, but overall its a good new addition. Another new addition is the 'Risk'-like map. The city is split up into numerous zones, each of which contain a number of events to compete. It actually gives a much more visual representation of 'winning back your rep' than the other games in the series. And my favourite thing about NFS Carbon? They brought back Drift events! =D


From what I've played (the game reports that I'm 20% of the way through), Carbon does feel like the best Need for Speed game in a long time. Graphics are sharp (for PS2), the UI is normal EA perfection, and the combination of licensed tracks and music made especially for the game is fantastic. But, and here's the bastard truth, that's because it's been the same for so long. Since Underground, its been basic improvements all-round (Yay, Autosculpt! /sarcasm) rather than anything new and exciting. And the kicker: when they did change it in ProStreet, it sucked. Big time.

Overall rating: 9/10


(Note: screenshots from PS3 version of the game)



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