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Need for Speed Carbon Box Art
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Need for Speed: Carbon
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Racing
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Out now!

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Need for Speed: Carbon - Review
Written by James Hobbs

Need for Speed Carbon, at first glance, appears to be the kind of game that drivers of Vauxhall Novas with silly neon strips and rocket-sized exhausts would pick up. Everything is accounted for that would make it appealing to the moronic drivers of the loud, irritating phalluses that populate town centres and McDonalds car parks late at night - a 'hip' soundtrack, lots of stroboscopic lighting effects, a menagerie of fast cars, and the inherent illegality that comes with the notion of street racing.

nfsc Screenshot
Lambos shouldn't look like that. Ever.
This is absolutely, and unreservedly the case - Need for Speed Carbon is primarily geared towards idiots. As a driving game, it fails to provide a suitably realistic experience, in terms of either handling or graphics. However, if you accept that Need for Speed Carbon isn't really supposed to be realistic, then lurking underneath the silly veneer is a fast-paced and fairly interesting racing game. It certainly doesn't push the envelope, but it manages to just cruise above mediocrity just enough to provide a generally satisfying experience.

Need for Speed Carbon revolves around turf wars, with rival gangs racing each other to determine who rules the land. Quite why they didn't simply settle their differences over a game of poker is beyond me, but it's these turf wars that take up the majority of your time in the career mode.

Winning 'turf' is a case of simply winning races, which come in a number of guises. Some matches require you to simply finish in first place, whilst others demand slightly more from you - drifting round corners to rack up a certain amount of points, or even jostling for position along the high corners of a perilous canyon. These varying modes do make for a bit of variation from the standard racing format, but they're not quite innovative enough to really make a huge difference to the gameplay. It's undeniably fun to drift through corners, but after a while it becomes more of a chore, and particularly irritating in the later levels of the game.

The different areas of the city are divided up into seperate matches, with a boss race at the end. Most of the races themselves don't present too much of a challenge - it's simply a case of racking up enough cash to keep upgrading your car in order to maintain superiority over your computer-controlled opponents. However, I initially had difficulty navigating the game's many menu screens so that I could buy a new car - I ended up being stuck with a decidedly sluggish Mazda for the first quarter of the game. Thankfully, progression through the game allows you opportunities to win cars from defeated bosses, and I ended up with a mighty Aston Martin DB9.

Despite the range of cars included in the game, purists will find themselves feeling nauseous, as inevitably all of these cars have been fully 'tricked out' and butchered almost beyond recognition. The Aston sported some unfortunate scoops in the bonnet and a dodgy paintjob, and even the Italian supercars fail to escape from the hideous clutches of modification. This is all well and good if you're into making your car look rubbish, but for those of you who appreciate the wondrous curves of cars such as the DB9 - be prepared for a shock. However, you do get some semblance of control over these modification - Need for Speed Carbon sports a fairly extensive manual modification system that allows you to upgrade almost every aspect of the car, including bodykits. You can upgrade the clutch, suspension, wheels, and more, and you can also dictate exactly to what extent your car will be aesthetically ruined. Again, this is especially good news for the afore-mentioned 'car enthusiasts', and for everyone else it provides a dynamic that keeps the game interesting - unlocking all of the upgrades and decals gives the game extra life.

Graphically, Need for Speed Carbon is a bit of a mixed bag. Up-close, and at a slow pace, the texturing and modelling is of fairly dire quality, exhibiting an overall lack of detail and attention that doesn't reflect too well upon the game. However, as most of the game is spent rocketing along at over 100 mph, this isn't too much of a problem - the game appears to have been designed with speed in mind, and at high velocities it looks perfectly acceptable. Special effects such as intense warping and motion blurring upon initiating the boost are well-executed, and the environments maintain just enough detail to be passable as you rush past them. My main gripe with the graphics engine, even at high-speed, is the silly pseudo-reflective mapping on the cars - it makes them look absurdly shiny, and it's completely unecessary. Wii is capable of far higher-quality graphical output than what Need for Speed Carbon delivers, but it just about manages to get away with it.



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