12 Apr, 2007

Need for Speed: Carbon Review

PS3 Review | Carbon arrives on the PS3.
The Need for Speed series is such a sizeable franchise for EA, that it's no surprise the newest incarnation, Need for Speed: Carbon, was released for no less than ten platforms. Hence, here we are a few months later, and the PlayStation 3 version of the game has arrived fashionably late, but is Carbon still a good game on the PlayStation 3, or is it slowly slipping down the pack?

When you first begin Carbon, it's hard not to feel a sense of déjà vu; minus the fact that you're racing at night, and the game feels rather similar to its predecessor. See, Carbon is actually more of an extension upon Most Wanted than you initially think. The Story mode in the game picks up directly where Most Wanted ended, with your player (who was escaping Rockport at the end of Most Wanted) having arrived in Palmont City. Cross, a bounty hunter, chases after you and tries to barge you off the road, yet before he manages it, Darius arrives on the scene and saves you, and once again you begin as a nobody and have to work your way up to "own" Palmont City.

Riding on the highway, looking for adventure.

Riding on the highway, looking for adventure.
Palmont City itself is divided into four regions, each dominated and owned by different crews. In Carbon's career mode you'll need to start in a territory and try to acquire parts of the area. Acquiring territory is as simple as winning race events - you don't need to win each event sequentially though, so you can pick and choose whatever races you want to take part in. However, a lot of the same race types have been recycled from Most Wanted, including "Checkpoint" and "Circuit". As soon as you start taking over enough territory to be a threat, the crew boss will challenge you for the territory.

The crew races are divided up into two parts. First off, you'll need to defeat the boss in a straight race event. With this done, you'll have to face off in one of the new canyon courses. The canyon races are also divided into two parts - firstly, you'll need to chase the crew leader down the Canyon and stay as close as possible to him. Next, it's his turn to pelt after you down the canyon. The game will award points based on how close the vehicles got to each other, and the overall objective is to try and stay closer to the crew leader than he did for you. There are some catches though: if either vehicle gets ahead by more than ten seconds, then they'll automatically win. The canyon races are also quite dangerous, so there is the potential to fall off a cliff, and if you do then the race will end immediately. The canyon races are certainly a highlight of Carbon, and they're quite a bit of fun.

Need for Speed Carbon introduces a new team mechanics option. The game lets you hire wingmen, who will help you out during a race. As you progress through the Career mode, you'll unlock wingmen to carry out different tasks for you. Blockers will block the cars in front of you, scouts will hunt for the best shortcuts and drafters will let you slide behind them, thus gaining a slipstream. The crew members are activated before a race, but they aren't particularly helpful. More often than not, the wingmen will actually just get in the way as you're trying to make a last-ditch effort for first place.


The incredible car selection has always been a staple of the Need for Speed series, and Carbon is no different. There are more than thirty licensed cars in the game, and they're divided up into three groups: tuners, muscles and exotics. All three groups of cars feel discernibly different from one another. If you want to upgrade your car then you may win the pink slip from a crew leader, or you can just go to the car dealer and purchase one with the money you've earned from winning races in the Career mode. Purchasing a car is only the beginning though, as Carbon features a large range of performance and visual upgrades. Visual upgrades include decals, spoilers, body kits and more. The game also includes an autosculpt system. Using autosculpt allows you to modify your parts a lot more accurately, but unless you're really dedicated, you're more likely to just purchase a part and install it straight off.

Outside of the career mode, Carbon features online support through the PlayStation Network. The game supports up to eight players, and includes a variety of online exclusive race modes including "Pursuit Tag" and "Pursuit Knockout". In the former, there is one player who is against the police, and the objective is to avoid all of the police cars for as long as you can; the player who succeeds for the longest amount of time wins. In Pursuit Knockout, the last driver to finish in each lap becomes a cop car, and can then try and take out the rest of the other cars, which is a surprisingly entertaining exercise. You're even able to take your pimped out car online. Jumping online is reasonably easy, and you can play in ranked or unranked matches.

If you want a break from the Career mode, then there's the obligatory Quick Race option as well as a challenge series. The challenge series includes thirty-six increasingly difficult races. It's worth noting the PlayStation 3 version of the game is missing the photo mode. In the Xbox 360 version, you can take a photo of your vehicle and then upload it to the Internet. This was a novel feature, so it's disappointing that PlayStation 3 owners have missed out. The PlayStation 3 version does add support for motion control, but it's really a gimmicky feature that you'll quickly tire of.

The stage is set.

The stage is set.
Graphically, the Xbox 360 version of Carbon has a minor edge over the PlayStation 3 version. The game still looks good though, the city is a great backdrop for the races, and the cars look fantastic when they've been fully customised. The highlight of course are the canyon races, because you can see the city down below. We're still waiting for a Need for Speed game that combines day and night time racing though. The audio in the game is acceptable - some voices have actually been recycled from Most Wanted though, and the wingmen's banter is a constant irritant, seeing as they only have a few lines that are repeated continuously. The game's Career mode takes about ten hours to complete, but there's also a Challenge series to come back to. Online play could be a major draw card for some players, too.

Overall, Need for Speed: Carbon isn't a huge upgrade to its predecessor. The setting and the cars have changed, but a lot has remained the same. However, Carbon is still a thoroughly enjoyable racing game and Need for Speed fans will love the title, highly recommended for those who like arcade racers.
The Score
Not a huge improvement over previous versions, with only a few minor additions, a few new vehicles and a new setting. However, the game is still thoroughly enjoyable, and comes highly recommended for those who love arcade racers. 7
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

Related Need for Speed: Carbon Content

Need for Speed: Carbon details revealed
23 Jun, 2006 Including the first images of the game.
Need for Speed: Carbon Review
29 Dec, 2006 A quick port for the Wii or a stand out title?
More Need for Speed content released
08 Dec, 2006 This time with content exclusive to the Marketplace.
1 Comment
7 years ago
Need for Speed games are much better when you buy every 3rd one or something. I couldn't imagine getting every game, they're so similar.
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