The Need for Speed series went through a bit of a rejuvenation when Need for Speed: Underground came out. The game took the series in a new direction and managed to capitalise on the appeal of street racing at the time. Since then, Underground got a sequel and last year, the action switched to the day, with Need for Speed: Most Wanted. Things have changed yet again, with Need for Speed: Carbon, which swings the action back to the night. We recently had an opportunity to go hands on with a demo of the game and unfortunately came back a little bit disappointed.
At the beginning of the demo you get to choose from one of three cars, the Camaro SS, the Gallardo and the Lancer Evo IX MR. Being the traditionalists we are we elected to race with the Lancer. After you select a vehicle you're able to customise your ride. There appears to be plenty of customisation options, including customisable vinyls and different spoilers, hoods, wheels and body kits. Like the previous Need for Speed games, there should be plenty here to make your car look unique. You'll also be able to take your custom car online, which is pretty appealing.
The demo features three racers, a circuit race, drift race and a canyon race. If you place first in both of these events you're able to progress to the canyon race. The unique twist for Carbon is the fact that you have crew members. Your crew member is able to take cars out ahead of you, or block cars behind you. The crew indicator charges as you race and activating the crew member is as simple as pressing the activate crew member button. A crew member win is as important as a win from you, so instead of racing you could work alongside your crew member to aid them to the win.
In game Need for Speed Carbon feels extremely similar to the Underground titles, although the speedbreaker option is back so you can slow down time to take those sharp corners, which makes this game relatively easy. After the circuit race you'll need to tackle the drift race. In the drift race the objective is to try and drift around the corners as quickly as possible, scoring as many points as you can. You're not able to activate a crew member or use the speedbreaker option during the drift race, which makes sense. After the drift race is over, (with a Lancer this shouldn't be an issue) you're able to take part in the Canyon Race which is the highlight of the demo.
The canyon race is the most dangerous area in Carbon City to race in, the hairpin corners mean that any turn could result in the loss of your vehicle, it's clear that the Canyon races are going to be the highlight of the game, so hopefully there are quite a few of them. As you're winning canyon races you'll also be taking over parts of the city, so whilst the canyon races are the highlight, they're also very important.
We were a little bit disappointed by the Need for Speed: Carbon demo, Need for Speed: Most Wanted was such a radical change for the series that we were hoping Carbon would follow suit. Instead it seems like EA wanted to develop a third incarnation for the Underground series, the game still has a little bit of development left so hopefully the final game is a little better, but at the moment Need for Speed: Carbon feels just like a yearly update.