Need for Speed Carbon: Review

Even with its faults, NFS Carbon is still a very fun and exciting racing game.

The Good: Looks and sounds great. Super intense music during cop chases and canyon duels. Cutscenes with real actors look a lot better than that of Need for Speed Most Wanted. Great flow through the first few events in career mode. Some pretty rad unlockable cars that I haven’t seen in other games.

The Bad: Unlocking cars is slow until you hit about 65% in career mode. Clunky menus in the customization sections make it a little frustrating. Some environments and objects look recycled from NFS Most Wanted. Cop chases are extremely annoying. Having to re-do events in order to extend the career length is just lame. Crew members are typically more of a hindrance than a help.

Even having finished the career mode weeks ago and although my feelings towards NFS Carbon teetered between love and hatred what seemed like every time I played the game, I still find myself popping it in my Xbox 360 every few days. It’s not a perfect game and definitely has its share of faults, but it is a very fun and exciting game… when it doesn’t have you totally frustrated.

NFS Carbon has more of a story to it than any of the previous games in the series. At least at the beginning of the game. Though, it’s not all that integral or even interesting, it’s presented very well and strings the first few events together which results in a very exciting start to an otherwise fairly typical NFS game. Your faceless, voiceless character is the same dude you played in NFS Most Wanted. This time, he’s returned to his hometown where he apparently left quite the mess. And who’s there to greet him? None of than Karl (Helo) Agathon from Battlestar Galactica. Of course, he’s not in character, but I was pretty stoked to see him none the less. The cutscenes are similar to that of NFS Most Wanted where real actors are present. But it’s definitely a step up this time around and they look quite nice.

This time around, you’re not alone. You have “crew members” that you can hire to race along side you in most events. They can do different things from taking out opposing racers to finding and mapping out all the shortcuts for you. For the most part, they’re all pretty useless except for the Scout (who finds shortcuts) and for the most part just get in your way. They’re also extremely annoying and yell at you during the entire event. Needless to say, I had the voice volume set to 3 or below for the most part.

The detail of the car models in NFS Carbon is a definite step up from NFS Most Wanted. The real time reflections are beautiful and I found myself smashing enough walls after being distracted by them. It would have been nice to see some more damage, but at least the paint gets scratched up pretty good.

One thing I’ve always loved about the NFS series are the sound effects. It’s amazing to hear the difference each time you get a performance upgrade. The environmental and random world vehicle sounds are also pretty awesome. This is the first time I’ve played a NFS game with full 5.1 surround and hearing a sign bounce in front of you then go whizzing by your right ear and then hitting the ground behind you is pretty rad. It also helps you hear cars coming up on you if you haven’t had a second to check your rear view.

As you would expect from an EA game, the soundtrack is chalk full of the hippest of hip “EA Trax”. If you disable rock and hip-hop you’re left with a pretty decent soundtrack, though. During most events you’ll hear this heavy, ambient techno that actually fits really well with the gameplay. But in the canyon duels and cop chases is where it really gets good. If you played NFS Most Wanted, you’re familiar with the super action movie cop chase scene music that kicked in once a cop was after you. Same deal here, except there’s another one for canyon duels and races. It’s equally intense and just as awesome. Overall, it really adds to the experience and makes those events really exciting.

There isn’t really anything revolutionary about the online play. It’s fun and it works well, but make sure you leave your headset off. Maybe it’s just the times I’ve played, but I always end up with super chatty asshats spewing utter bullshit during the entire race. Kind of spoiled the experience, just a little.

Overall, NFS Carbon is probably what you’re expecting from another NFS game. It does get pretty frustrating when you’re completing event after event and no cars are being unlocked. But once you get into the fourth quadrant, they start flowing pretty quickly. It’s just a shame that you don’t get to use them all that much.

Rating: 3/5

Need for Speed: Carbon

14 Responses to “Need for Speed Carbon: Review”

  1. Carbon was one of the first games I got, and I must say I was really dissapointed. To me, the gameplay is slow and not interesting, and cop chases are just lame. What ticks me off the most is probably the lack of a sense of speed; you can be going at your top speed, and it seems like you're not moving at all. That dosn't fly for me; I love racing games, and NFS HP2 and MW were absolutly great, but Carbon dosn't do it for me. At all.

    To me, they took Most Wanted, and ruined it. Most Wanted was run and interesting. The courses were unique and there were plenty of cars to choose from. Carbon has some of that, but it just dosn't work. As soon as I finish off the other games I've been playing, I might just take it into EB and trade it for Most Wanted.

    Oh, and lets remember that I owned MW for the GameCube, and played on my 13" CRT, while Carbon I've got for the 360 and played in HD. Yeah.

  2. @Andre: Lack of sense of speed? Whoa, definitely don't agree with you on that one. I think Carbon feels just as fast, if not faster than any other game in the series. Especially when you have a Tier 3 car maxed out, it's pretty insane. If that's not fast enough for you, I think you might want to check out Burnout Revenge or Ridge Racer (*shudders*).

    As for the comparisons to MW – I never ended up finishing that one. I got tired of having to increase my bounty and do ridiculous cop chases all the time. Got bored with it pretty quick.

    @Pedro: That screenshot is in-game as well. I took it myself, actually. There's a bunch more here if you're interested.

  3. I haven't played beyond the first race in the game (yet), but I still really think that it seemed slow. I guess I should probably play a bit farther, eh? I've tried the demo of Burnout Revenge; it's probably a bit too fast.

    I actually never finished Most Wanted either, but not because I got bored. I actually managed to loose two of my GameCube memory cards (damn those things), so I had to start the game over, and just as I hit black list racer #10 (I think that's what it was) once again, I bought my 360.

    I'm not very good at finishing games. I've beaten Mario Kart 64, Mario Kart Double Dash (x2) and, um, Pocketbike Racer. That's all the games I've beaten. Ever.

  4. I am definitely curious to see this game in action. I have always been a fan of the NFS series, especially the Underground's and the recent Most Wanted.

    Matt, I know how you feel about Most Wanted, I seriously almost smashed my controller on some of those ridiculous bounty challenges. I just had to stick with it so I could get all the acheivements.

  5. I prefer MW,either. Flying on the highway, with dozens of cops hot on my tail is much more exciting than endless defending the turf attackers.

    What's more, the MW's world map is much larger than Carbon. I can really sense the speed when i'm driving on the highway at 280km/h in MW,but in Carbon,too many narrow corners' existence makes me drift and bump over and over again.

    So i'd rather play MW with my friends in a LAN game.

  6. This is a very super game,superb game ! I have all the need for speed games but this is the best one!

  7. I definitly agree with some comments and not with others, for example, its quite frustrating how slow you achieve to unlock everything in the game, also menu enviroment is pretty wack, but the map is aight with me, period. MW rocks if you ask me, races and rides are awesome, cop chases and bounty ARE a challenge, CARBON is almost just as good cause its quite the same but i'd have to say that i like MW better….

  8. Carbon is apparently a wicked gam.my friends and i are serious gamers and we all have our own opinions but, carbon we are al agreed is the best.the graphics are wicked,the sound is wicked and the crew element is wicked.a slight improvement to mw but the turns and sharp corners instead of wide open straight roads..nah.

  9. I loved Most Wanted it was definetly the best NFS game yet. Carbon i think was hyped up. The graphics i must admit are alot better(especially with a 20.1" widescreen monitor and 5.1 surround.

    I would like to thank you alot matt for the XBOX 360 controller thing that you did. It helped me alot. (if you get a chance why cant i get the game to recognize the pressure of the triggers?) Nice Review by the way. In case you havent noticed in 1.2 you cant use NOS and turn left at the same time which sucks.

  10. @garand: I've actually been out of PC gaming since last April when I picked up my Xbox 360. So I'm afraid I can't help you out on that front any more. Sucks to hear Microsoft still hasn't made that controller usable on Windows. But I can't say I'm surprised.

  11. I love the NFS series too. I have a Need For Speed Carbon that I play on the PSP, but I don't know if they're the same with the XBox version. The NFS Carbon for the PSP has great graphics too especially the movies and scenes.