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.

Gameplay Video

Gameplay Video (13:46)

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.

Need for Speed: Carbon
3/ 5