Need for Speed, as soon as those three words are uttered you think of bright blue neon’s, zero-cool vinyls and Nitrous Oxide System… aka.NOS. When Need for Speed Underground was released the Fast and the Furious film was at the cinema and every kid had a poster of a Lamborghini Murcielago with 23inch rims and dustbin exhausts stuck on their walls.

Now EA are arguably the kingpins of the custom car gaming world, titles like NFS Underground 1, 2 and Most Wanted have all been snapped up by punters across the world and all of them happy enough simply swapping a few rims here and there, racing down a narrow road for a few wads of cash and so and so forth.

Of course times change and now we are in the next-gen era and even though Most Wanted is a 360 title, its more of a port than anything else and gamers expect more. They want better graphics, more game-types, more cars and above all more customisation. So the real question here is will Carbon fulfil your needs? Let’s find out.

Like always let’s start on the gameplay and there are quite a few new aspects that are included in the new game. Firstly you will be able to choose cars from set categories those being Tuner, Muscle and Exotic. Tuners are the cars you see on films like the Fast and the Furious, their main purpose is to wow your competitors with your window tints and paint jobs. Muscle cars are all about brute force since they are terrible in handling terms but they are quick off the starting block and make one hell of a purrty noise. Finally the Exotics which happen to be my personal favourite, so the cars you will find in this category would be the Murcielago, SLR Mclaren and other rich boys toys. These looks sexiest with a simple body kit and a lot of NOS, they are fast and beautiful to drive and a great choice for those with a few thousand in the bank.

Like all other NFS titles customisation is the key to winning races. You can upgrade your cars in a few different areas including transmission, turbo, suspension, engine and of course the godly NOS. Then there is the cars looks and here is where you will be spending a lot of your time. You will be able to add body kits if you’re lazy or you can add set parts and mould them using the new auto-sculpt feature. In auto-sculpt you will be given some options if you buy bumpers or spoilers. Using a simple slider you can change a bumpers length, depth, width and even change the look of the bumper. The auto-sculpt can be used on almost anything including rims and bonnets and your car can end up looking like a beautiful butterfly or a retarded mutant depending on your own unique style.

So that’s one new feature down now for the next and that’s your ‘crew’. Now the crew aspect of this game was EA’s biggest selling point, but sadly I think EA have oversold it (surprise, surprise). Firstly I’ll explain what it involves and in retrospect it’s a very simple idea where you have your very own wing-man in race (kind of like fighter pilots, but not as fast, not as skilled and not as cool) and while you go through the campaign mode you will unlock different types of wing-men (and women). To name a few you can use ‘Blockers’ who will knock out any opponents who are bugging you, the good thing about them is that they can completely wipe out an opponent leaving you to win the race without a care in the world. The problem with blockers though is that if you activate them and they are in front of you they will quite happily wipe you and the target out together which is of course unbearably annoying.

Drafters once activated will drive in front of you and slingshot you using their draft. A good idea but they are terrible when it comes to corners and the speed boost isn’t exactly amazing. Scouts will go up ahead (and again like planes they leave a little trail for you to follow) and search for any shortcuts that you can take to get ahead of the competition, again a good idea, but after three races you’ll remember all the shortcuts and the Scouts will simply become obsolete.

That’s not all though, your crew member also has a secondary ability which is probably more important to you than the primary. You have the mechanics that can get you cheap parts, Fixers sort your cars heat out and the Fabricators can win you all new visual parts to make your ride look slick.

Sadly I personally don’t like the crew as they get in your way in races and its just a lot better winning races knowing you did it all yourself. The blockers are especially dirty, but if you really can’t stand losing then you might want to make a few members active. A good idea by EA, but in all honesty they haven’t correctly cracked the crew in Carbon and the idea will no doubt be implemented better in titles to come, but for now I would advise you to turn your crew off.

Now the actual career mode is pretty much a carbon copy of previous titles (you see the pun, did ya). You get the usual races like sprint, circuit, checkpoint, speed trap. There is also the good ‘ol drift, but the problem is EA have tried to give the drift race a new lick of paint as it were and what you get is absolutely horrid. The cars feel like they are spinning tops and it’s just EA trying to yet again capitalise on the ‘in thing’ in this case Drift Racing (I don’t see the appeal of drifting, but thanks to Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift were stuck with it).

One of the new races is the Canyon Duels where you must race down a canyon sticking as close to your rival as possible and then you go down it again but the roles are reversed, the person with the most points wins. The Canyon Duels have again been implemented into the game due to the drift racing craze that’s spreading across the globe and again like the upgraded Drift it’s pretty damn boring.

Now after you win a couple of the races above you will take over set zones in a territory and once you have control of all the zones you will then face ‘The Boss’. After you’ve taken care of the territories controller you then take what was theirs and once you have defeated three of them you then get a chance to take on the rather camp Darius. I mean it’s a simple set up and as always extremely addictive, you’ll be up at 1am saying ‘one more race, just one more race’, next thing you know its Christmas 2007 and the PS3 has bombed along with Sony (snigger, snigger). [Ouch, a little harsh no? -Ed]

The thing that I hate most is that EA have given you the temptation of simply jumping into races, this I think is the biggest mistake they could have possibly made. You’re wondering how such a simple thing can affect a game so much, well it’s because if you always jump to the event you will never encounter the police and that was always one of NFS thrills being chased by 20+ cars from the 5-0. Of course you can ignore it, but because it prompts you a lot of the time you’ll end up taking the jump anyway.

Graphically the game looks pretty damn good, of course the cars look unbelievably swish. The way the lights from around the Canyon reflect of your car it’s just gorgeous. The first thing you’ll notice about the surroundings is that is dark again, it would have been nice to have seen a day and night cycle in the game, but even so the game does look awesome at night with all the lights turned on. The games blur was the main reason people ‘AVOIDED’ Carbon, and I honestly can’t understand why. It would look so dull without the blur, the blurring makes the cars look like they are going at the speed of sound, brings the game to life. Much like Drift Racing is the racing worlds ‘in thing’ the same is said for blurring, you will see it in FPS’s, Action titles and of course Racers so you’ll have to live with it.

The Audio in the game is pretty good to, the same style of cut-scene used in Most Wanted has been used again and damn it does look good. The cars sound pretty good, especially the muscle cars they sound just beautiful, the one thing I don’t like is that they may have added a tad to much wheel screeching, but apart from that its practically flawless.

Another thing I don’t like so much is that when your racing and its like really close the game turns into a film in that you get really tense music that really doesn’t fit the game and just sounds terrible, too dramatic. If I wanted high speed chases with dramatic music from start to finish I’d whack Fast and the Furious in my 360 and watch that, I would much rather listen to proper vocals while driving and not the orchestrated stuff EA’s added.

Need for Speed online has always been a lag fest, cars jumping through buildings, fishtails and t-bones by invisible vehicles and just a general annoyance. The new game is still a tad laggy at times, but nothing like its predecessors. What’s more it is actually really good fun once you get a game going and try out some of the new online race types.

Online there are two main race types, on the one hand you have Pursuit Tag which sees you either controlling a giant Police SUV trying to bust the racer, or you are in fact the racer trying to dodge the old bill while racking up a few points along the way. The winner is simply the one who managed to stay in the race for the longest amount of time without being busted. It’s weird at first, but after a few races it is in fact quite addictive and a real laugh with a few mates online.

Pursuit Knockout is a bit like a game that was played on PGR3 in which the last player of each lap becomes a blocker or in this case the Police and you have to stop everyone else from finishing. This is great when racing someone whom you hold a grudge against so you can hear their distant screams as you park your SUV in front of their Murcielago and ending any hopes they had of making it to the finish line. On the whole thanks to a less laggy game Need for Speed: Carbon is really fun, granted there should be a few more race types, but tag and knockout are addictive and hilarious online.

Overall the game is an improvement but things like the new Drift racing is terrible and the new ‘crews’ aren’t implemented well enough into the game. It looks gorgeous and sounds nearly flawless. Whatever you do don’t simply play it for ten minutes and hate it forever, you need to give the game a bit of time and once you’ve truly got into it you will see just how good and how damn addictive the new game is. Would I recommend it, well yes but I would probably get it cut price online as games like Gears of War and Call of Duty 3 have kinda overshadowed the games release.

Originally Written By: Lee Matthews

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