Needs More Speed

Platform: PS2 | PS3 | XBOX | 360 | GC | WII | PC

The street-racing genre has always been fairly appealing to gamers. While racing on a track in real life is certainly thrilling, doing so on a console—where blasting spawns of hell or running from cyborg Nazis is considered perfectly normal—tends to get a little boring. Street racing, on the other hand, contains all the thrills that make a video game fun. It's illegal, fast-paced, expensive, and somebody's bound to get hurt. Sounds like a plan. Unfortunately, as the latest installment in the "Need For Speed" series shows, sometimes a good start doesn't mean you win the race.

The series has some continuity, because the beginning of "Need for Speed: Carbon" begins right when your character returns to the city of Rockport after a long "vacation." Your first race is an escape from a porky bounty hunter. From there, everything gets hip. My big beef with the story is that there is no story, save for limited revelations about some race the police busted. I won't spoil it, but in the end, there's not a whole lot to spoil. It's not so much a plot as it is an outline delivered a few races at a time, with lots of people in trendy, matching cars driving up to your window, glaring at you and giving you snappy one liners before speeding off in formation. The only thing "Carbon" is missing to be a street version of "Clueless" is a group of blondes who all say "Like, whatever!" in unison. They'd all have pink cars with purple flame vinyls, and they'd be called the Main Street Divas, or something just as terminally stupid.

The graphics are good if you get it on a next gen console, but just good. All the cut scenes are done with what looks like a very light rotoscoping effect used on live-action actors. It's nice, but they don't get points for originality—it probably took one guy with a computer three hours to do. It's not powerful like it was in "A Scanner Darkly," it's just blurry and weird. When I want to see people that look like melting plastic humans, I watch "America's Next Top Model."

The gameplay is exactly the same as the last "Need For Speed." The player drives through a variety of races, sprints, checkpoints, circuits, speed traps … almost all variations on the goal of getting through the map as quickly as possible. The one truly fun type of race is "pursuit," which begins whenever the cops spot your car. Escaping the police is challenging and fun.

Another one of my gripes is the map—it's miniscule. I mean really, really tiny. Most quick sprint races wind through the streets for a couple minutes, but they still take you all the way across town. It feels like they took the map from the game's predecessor and used the outline as the final draft.

On the positive side, the racing is surprisingly balanced. It isn't excessively realistic like "Gran Turismo," forcing you to focus on driving more than you do in real life, while still providing for factors like drift and over-steer. This allows you to customize all the performance parts you buy, and it adds a layer of depth. Speaking of customization, the car modding system is the best part of "Carbon." Buy a ride, unlock parts, vinyls … there's even an option to fabricate your own parts. It's one of the best systems to date.

The sound could use some work. As far as voice actors go, it's adequate, mainly because the voice actors are all present in the game when speaking their lines. The main problem with "Carbon" is the music. There are only a couple of songs, and some of them get annoying. Very annoying. There's an option to turn off the music. Be prepared to use it.

If you like street racing, you'll probably like "Carbon." For all its flaws, there's a lot of good going on behind the scenes; however, that doesn't changed the fact that it's an inherently flawed game.


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment