Need For Speed: Carbon
After causing some serious havoc in Rockport, the unknown racer from Need For Speed: Most Wanted returns to his home city, Palmont. However, things do not start out very well for him as first his car is wrecked by Sgt. Cross who seems to have traded law enforcement for bounty hunting and then he is “helped” by a racer named Darius to whom he owes quite a bit of cash. Broke and without a ride our unnamed racer has no choice but to race for Darius while trying to piece together what happened that fateful night he fled Palmont City.
Need For Speed: Carbon is the straight sequel to Most Wanted so it had some pretty big boots to fill. The sunny streets of Rockport have been replaced by the perpetually dark roads of Palmont, which completely changes the mood of the game, but there is more to it than a mere switch in scenery. It is clear that EA wanted to retain all the elements that made Most Wanted so popular, but fuse it with the best bits from NFS: Underground as well. While they succeeded to a certain extent, the end result is not quite as great as it could have been.
The story is told via a series of flashbacks and once again uses real actors overlaid with some CGI effects. The story is extremely predictable and the acting as stiff as can be but there is still something that makes it compelling to watch. It doesn’t quite have the personality that Most Wanted had despite the best efforts of new NFS girl, Emmanuelle Vaugier. Corny plot aside the game does have a few new tricks up its sleeve. When starting out you can now choose between Tuners, Muscle and Exotic cars. When the game first came out I used Tuners for all the races and found things laughably easy. This time I opted for the muscle cars and had a much harder time. Of course each car you acquire can still be customized with all manner of upgrades, kits and visual effects. With a good selection of vehicles spread across three classes and three tiers you are spoiled for choice no matter what your taste is.
Instead of annoying the police and becoming “most wanted” your goal this time it to gain territories owned by other crews. The city is divided into four areas, each run by a different crew. Win enough races and you will “own” the area until you eventually have enough territory to challenge the leader of the crew you are ousting.
This means that there are way less rivals than what there was in Most Wanted, but you no longer have to jump through hoops to challenge them either. There are still police present and they will chase you relentlessly if you build up enough “heat” in an area, but they no longer play a role in the story. Don’t get too excited, however, as it is now harder escape a pursuit,but thankfully the cops are not as suicidally aggressive to bust you as in the last game. The first achievement I earned in this game was from escaping the police after a twelve minute chase which should be a good indication of what is in store for you.
While you still have access to all your old tricks like speed breakers there is a new feature in the form of wingmen. These brave men (and women) are there to lend their assistance during races and besides helping out on the road also come with their own sets of bonuses. Scouts know all the tracks by heart and will point out handy shortcuts to you while drafters will allow you to use their slipstreams for a speed boost. Blockers on the other hand will throw themselves at the car of your choosing which is handy indeed. I did not find the scouts and drafters very useful as most tracks are too winding and fast for them to be of any assistance but the blockers are almost too effective. On quite a few occasions I even found them crossing the finishing line first which still counts as a win for you, but feels a bit like cheating to be honest. Overall the game is much easier than Most Wanted unless you stick to the muscle cars.
The actual races are as arcade-like as they have always been and for the most part does not differ too much from the previous game. Drift racing makes a welcome return while drag racing has gone the way of the dodo. Lap knockout races are also no more, but there is a brand new canyon duel that sees you tearing down a treacherous mountainside engaged in a deadly game of cat and mouse. On your first trip down, you have to stick as close as possible to the car in front of you in order to build up points. For round two the roles are reversed and you are placed in the lead. Your goal is to reach the finishing line before you run out of points which are deducted depending on how close you are being tailed. Driving off a cliff results in instant loss which adds an extra element of excitement to the event, but these races are reserved for boss battles and are not particularly challenging. The game also featured extensive online modes when it was released, but sadly the servers are no more. Since a third of the achievements were tied to the online mode, you are out of luck if you do not have them yet at this point. You can still try your hand at the “challenge series” which is a group of races with specific winning requirements. Performing certain actions in the game also unlocks “reward cards” which gives you access to new cars or accessories.
Visually the game has held up rather well and while everything takes place at night the game has a nice unique atmosphere that sets it apart from the Underground games. Palmont City is quite big, but being able to instantly jump anywhere makes the free roaming aspect rather redundant. The city now forms part of NFS World Online which is free to play on PC which lessens the appeal of this game even more. The audio is pretty unremarkable and contains no songs as memorable as in previous entries. The voice acting is decidedly B-movie like and the fact that your wingman is unable to keep quiet during a race can become very annoying.
At this point there is very little reason to recommend NFS: Carbon if you have not played it before. It is still a fun game, but with the online servers down you can forget about the multi -player. The story mode should provide you with a few hours of entertainment however, so it might be worth it if you can get the game for cheap. Achievement hunters will find very little here as the majority of the achievements were for the online modes. While Carbon could never quite dethrone Most Wanted it did have a few interesting ideas & removed some of the more tedious aspects.
*Review originally published 2012.