Need for Speed Carbon Updated Hands-On

We tear through the winding streets of Carbon Canyon in our look at the career mode in NFS Carbon.

Razor Callahan, eat your heart out. There's a new street-racing kingpin in town in Need for Speed Carbon and he goes by the name of Darius. For that matter, there's a whole new town, as Rockport from the previous game has been replaced with the appropriately named Carbon Canyon, a twisting and turning nighttime landscape that will serve as your racing home throughout the course of the next installment in the popular EA racing series. Having last played the game at X06 a few weeks ago, we recently spent some time with the game's career mode to get a feel for how it differs from the previous game.

Kicking off the career mode, you're treated to (or subjected to, depending on your point of view) a lengthy cutscene that includes a flashback to the main character's halcyon days as a street racer. Along the way, something happened and ties were cut between you and your old crew. Now that you've returned to Carbon Canyon, you'll run into your old crew, including Darius (played with a delicious tang of cheesiness by Tahmoh Penikett, who fans of Battlestar Galactica will recognize as Helo) and obligatory Need for Speed babe Nikki (Saw 2's Emmanuelle Vaugier). Fans of Most Wanted will appreciate a cameo by Sgt. Cross, who apparently has given up the law and now runs as a bounty hunter.

Before you get into the meat of the game, however, you'll also meet Neville, your first in a line of wingmen that you will be able to hire at various points throughout the game. Neville is the chubby, jocular sort who also happens to be one heck of a good teammate. His specialty? Blocking, which means he's invaluable on the track; put him in between you and a rival racer, then activate his blocking talents by pressing the Y button, and he'll do everything in his power to slow down the bad guys and give you an even wider lead. Later on the in the game, you'll be able to recruit other wingmen with different powers, including drafters and scouts. Drafters are good for squeezing some extra speed out of your car; activate them and they'll run in front of your car and let you gain a temporary burst of speed. The other wingman class, scout, doesn't need to be activated. Instead, they're always on the hunt for track shortcuts to lead you to, saving you time in the process. This is an important role, as many shortcuts do not appear at all on your in-game minimap; as such, following where your scout leads will surely help you win a race.

Since wingmen can change the course of practically any race they are a part of, there are some restrictions. First of all, wingmen can only be activated for so long, similar to the nitrous and time-altering effects also present in the game. A wingman meter on the left-hand side of the screen will govern how long you can keep a particular wingman active. Should it run out, you'll need to do without it until it builds back up. Also, you can only have one wingman active at any time, and in some races, such as drift events, your wingman won't be able to accompany you. Finally, in our experience with the game, there are times when the wingmen simply stop being a factor in the race at all--such as when a blocking wingman falls too far behind in the pack to be of much use to you.

Drift races will have you smoking your towers through the twisting paths of Carbon Canyon.

That said, with or without your wingmen, your job as you make your way through Carbon's career mode is for you and your crew to take over each of the territories in Carbon Canyon by beating a series of race events located throughout the world map. Unlike Most Wanted, Carbon doesn't have you chasing your way up the Blacklist, though there will be bosses to contend with. To get to the big dogs, however, you're going to have to race your way through a bunch of events, many of which are similar to the ones found in previous Need for Speed games. There's circuit racing, of course, as well as speed-trap races (which record your cumulative speed through multiple speed traps--the car with the highest total speed wins), and sprint races as well. One of the new events is drift racing, which challenges you to string together multiple drifts to earn points and combos. Drift events can happen on closed-circuit courses or along the curving, narrow mountains of Carbon Canyon, and we do mean narrow. On more than one occasion, we came dangerously close to bursting through the paper-thin barrier and toppling over the side and into the ravine below, adding an entirely new level of challenge to the events.

These drift events will take some getting used to, as the cars you drive have been tuned specifically for drifting and, as a result, are much more apt to slide around corners. Your first few tries in a drifting event might result in a series of wild spins and out-of-control maneuvers that send you straight into the wall (thus canceling any combos you've built up). After a while, however, you'll find the sweet spot of nudging the throttle and gently turning the wheel, and you'll be stringing together drift combos with the best of them. The winner in a drift event is the driver with the highest cumulative score and you're scored not only only the length of your drift, but how close you come to the wall (without hitting it) as well as the speed you take a corner at (the faster the better).

Completing events in Carbon will unlock new equipment, accessories, and customizable parts for any the cars in your garage. Performance-enhancing parts, for example, will give you some flexibility with how you want to set up your car. For example, engine parts will benefit either your top speed or acceleration, depending on which parts you fit, while nitrous enhancements will let you choose between more top-line power or a lengthier spray capability. In essence, you can tune your car exactly how you want it; more importantly, you can set up your ride for each event you enter to give you a better chance for winning. There are also loads of cosmetic enhancements for your car: new paint jobs, vinyls, and the ability to individually mold certain parts such as rims and body work to further customize your ride.

Both the cars and the environments are slick in Carbon.

Sooner or later in Carbon, your insane driving and illegal street racing will attract the attention of the cops, and it won't take long before the full weight of the Carbon Canyon PD is bearing down on you. Just as in the last game, the cops here are intense but not always the smartest cookies in the jar. They can be avoided with skilled driving and tactful hiding, and just as in Most Wanted, you'll have a meter onscreen that will show you exactly how close you are to escaping or getting busted during the chases. An escape is only preliminary, however, as you'll have to wait for the heat to cool down (also indicated with a meter) before you can return to normal.

The features we liked so much about the previous Need for Speed game seem to be present and accounted for in Carbon; namely, a gorgeous, seamless environment to drive in; a lineup of some of the hottest cars in the world; plenty of race events to take part in; and, of course, those so-bad-they're-good cutscenes. We look forward to spending more time with the game, as well as Darius, Nikki, Neville, and the rest of the Carbon crew leading up to the game's release at the end of the month. Stay tuned for our full review of the game once it reaches store shelves.

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Discussion

82 comments
alexaoeato
alexaoeato

can you only get the chevy camaro concept car in the collectors edition because I just rented the regular one and I cant seem to find the car.

payback_56
payback_56

hey everyone, i believe i was wrong, i said to get the limited edition, but i believe that is only on the PC!!! So i guess we dont have the option of buying it :( Either way, the game is out at Best buy this wenesday!!! :)

payback_56
payback_56

I like drifting too, but not the way they have it on carbon, it doesnt take any skill at all... I just think they tried to make it appeal to everybody, and make drifting easier because before a lot of people complained the drift racing was too hard, but now it seems to easy.... Also, i liked the canyon racing, its like they took it straight from FF tokyo drift, but i still liked it, the regular race wasnt bad either, except the cars felt sluggish :( As for number of cars, they will never reach the limit of gran turismo or forza, but the game is still great, as for forza, they r trying to combine both gran turismo and NFS...They offer customization like NFS, and driving dynamics like gran turismo, i think forza is great, NFS is too, but NFS is more of an arcade racer, so it will still be fun, but dont try it at home :P

Devangkiller
Devangkiller

drifts races are cool wtf u talkin about

e_boulanger
e_boulanger

I tried the demo, in which you participate in a race, a drift and a challenge. Frankly, I prefer Most Wanted. Drift races are boring.

pichu_1988
pichu_1988

Oh gosh Is it wrong of me to ask for more cars? I really really want more cars this time around.... like Gran Turismo More cars... Is it too much to ask:P

payback_56
payback_56

I read the review on ign.com they said it was ok, but most wanted was better, i guess we will have to wait a couple days to see... I didnt like the whole idea of the team people, drifters, blockers, and scouts, but it might work out ok...and the drifting is still too easy and weak, is like they tried to make it easy for everyone, u dont even have to use the brake to drift in the drift races... Also, the best game of the year for 360 will probably be Gears of War, Call of Duty 3, or some other similar big name game, i would say forza 2, but they delayed it until next year :( Lets face it, thats the real deal when it comes to racing :)

Shad_Zero
Shad_Zero

i don't like tunning games...but this game looks crazy

nokiakevj
nokiakevj

OMG!!! I AM A BIG NEED FOR SPEED FAN!!! when i get the update that this game was coming out, i was thinking about everything about it! the cars, enviroment and everythign above! this is might be THEE best game to get for xbox 360's or cpu's!

payback_56
payback_56

yea, who pre-orders games? I didnt even pre-order halo 2, and they still had a ton of copies at best buy when i got there... The only reason i would pre-order a game is if they give stuff with it, like Gears of War, I get a free faceplate from circuit city when it comes in because i pre-ordered, not a huge deal, but i figured since i was getting the game anyway, might as well get a faceplate with it :) By the way, who was talking about pre-ordering anyway? That was kind of random...

TraXxX
TraXxX

What's the point of pre-ordering when you can go pick it up the first day at the store?!?!?! It's not like they're gonna sell out or something. I just don't get it. There's a slight chance for highly anticipated games such as Gears of War or Halo 3 to sell out so it doesn't hurt to reserve your copy but NFS is not one of those games.

payback_56
payback_56

It seems a lot like most wanted, but less cop chases, and there is drifting, but i didnt like the new system, in the drift races, anytime u turn, ur drifting, even if u want to just build up a little speed, if u even turn slightly, u r drifting... That was the only thing i really didnt like, somtimes u want to build up speed, and go around a slight bend, and suddenly u r drifting!! ITs like they tried to make drifting TOO easy...

n-c
n-c

i hope its not gonna be like most wanted. stupid a.i. to genius a.i. i barely beat the game.

JDMstyle1
JDMstyle1

They better have drifting back in this one. Most Wanted sucked without the drifting race.

payback_56
payback_56

yea i think they have all the different aero parts, and u can sculpt each part, otherwise it wouldnt be very fun to have the same parts on every single car, although, that was all they had in the demo, so u never know, we will just have to wait and see.... Either way, its the only good racer coming out this year now that forza 2 was delayed :( And import turner didnt really stack up to this...Plus it got the whole tokyo drift feel :)

BlOoDy_BeRsEkEr
BlOoDy_BeRsEkEr

I only hope that you can buy your parts an then sculpt them and not only create like a rim out of sculpting because in the demo it was pretty ugly.

payback_56
payback_56

hey, get the limited edtion version, they have extra cars, races, and other stuff, plus the weak making-of video that they all got... Seriously, the limited is even better than the "Black" edition for most wanted, check it out at EA, i am going for the limited, its even more money, but it has i think they said like 6 special tuned cars, and 4 other cars that are only on the limited....

dnathug
dnathug

I liked the drift part when i got the hang of it, I just pre ordered this game can't wait for it to come out.

payback_56
payback_56

If u want to play the game, just go download the demo, its already on live, as for the game, its alright, but the drift part kind of sucks, like i was saying, every time u try to turn, even just a little if u r tryin to build speed, it makes u drift, thats why it sucks... Als, the racing feels slow and the cars feel real heavy compared to other racing games, the team mates are ok, its nice to have someone telling u whats going on the whole time, and the canyon racing is awsome, they nailed that, feels just like FF tokyo drift, but the game overall, doesnt feel as tight as i was hoping :( Also, i never got caught on most wanted either, the cops were easy to evade, i even beat the black edition bonus modes, and those were kind of hard....

kenkashijd
kenkashijd

yall just don't know how much they but into this game. I can't wait to play this game. It look like the cops got lot tougher since then. On God I never got caught by the cops on most wanted. That's how good i am. I like the 3 people on the team thing it's very cool

payback_56
payback_56

hey considering forza will not be out until next year, this seems to be the next best racer that will be released for 360, since they said import tuner sucked... I am so mad, I have been waiting forever for forza, then i checked the other day and they changed the release from nov. 2nd to 1st quarter 2007!!! That sucks :(

ReaperXxxx
ReaperXxxx

So, no mention of the horrendous framerate issues or choppy graphics in the demo, huh? Maybe the final version has those items corrected, which is really good news. This looks worth a rental at least. I can't really consider "drifting" as racing so I'm pretty dissapointed to see it in this game. Maybe you can opt out of it in career mode since it really is a completely different "sport" .

BraindeadRacr
BraindeadRacr

Man... The demo was just plain crap, but hell... The full game looks awesome in everyway. NFSMW only needed the Drift and straight-way drag to be prefect, NFS:Carbon gets closer by the minute. Can't wait...

SpiritofheavN
SpiritofheavN

Ug drift was easy, Ug2 drift was tough for the new oppnt and time factor,I hope this one leaves the mark.

nik_cscz
nik_cscz

the only thing Most wanted lacked was drift racing. if its available in carbon i m ready with some gud tires.

darklurker1
darklurker1

Only Underground and Underground 2 had drift. Most Wanted did not. I did not like the last 2 games as much as Underground. Mainly becuase the open world ment you had to drive around looking for races which made the game feel soo much slower. I like the car modding stuff in this version and the new race modes. I would prefer if they kept drift the same as in the Underground series. This game won't beat NFS: High Stakes in my book. That game was really hard! You had to drive a near perfect round or you would damage your car and lose the race.

jhotmann
jhotmann

i cant wait to play some of this, i was a big fan of most wanted

WeaponXQc
WeaponXQc

this game controls pretty much like all of the NFS games (anyway.. at least since NFS:Underground...) but remember that you'll be able to tweak the controls of your ride like you could in Most Wanted... meaning if the steering is too sensitive or not enough.. you'll be able to change that in the full version.

JunkKicker69
JunkKicker69

Download the demo if you can. It looks to be a pretty well rounded racer...Lovin the drift.

WeaponXQc
WeaponXQc

about the canyon race... I know you get points for taking head position in first stage...(when you're supposed to be following as close as possible) but did anyone managed to knock to opponent off the road... if so.. do you automatically win the race?

fastpunk
fastpunk

It seems to me NFS Carbon has all the good ingredients of the previous games plus some new features. It looks set to be the best in series. I guess it depends on how the driving will feel. It's more drift oriented which is fine by me, I like my cars sliding! We'll see...

kamicolo
kamicolo

Most Wanted gameplay seemed so slow especially compared to Burnout and Midnight Club. Is Carbon going to have a greater "speed"?

peeweeshift
peeweeshift

same here NND1 except im playing it for ps2. It's best in series so far in my opinion to magically combine positive parts of the series but i still find that they havn't created amazing multiplayer. I want cops in multiplayer. Hopefully this game has it

lucky326
lucky326

Still havent completed most wanted and I got it on launch after this though I better had

NND1
NND1

I am still playing Most wanted for 360 and I got it on it's launch date! Since I have already beaten it a few times I can't wait to get Carbon [looks pretty HOT]..... The ps3 may be a little better but not enough to drop $600.00 Bones................ And I don't have to wait half a year to a year to get it!! LOL :) :)

WeaponXQc
WeaponXQc

NFS: Carbon looks like a good follow-up to Most Wanted. I'm definately buying it for my 360 (as I did for Most Wanted)... but with Gears of War and Splinter Cell Double Agent hittin' the shelves around the same time. My piggy bank is going to get hammered... as for the drift events... yes.. tougher than it was before.. but once you get the hang of it... it's easy to get 80,000+ pts drifts >:)

MasterIan2006
MasterIan2006

it's way good, but i think its gonna be better on de ps3

Atreyu_basic
Atreyu_basic

I really didn't like the drift event in the demo. I tried a couple times and just deleted the download all together. I liked Most Wanted alot, but I didn't like the drift events in that game either, but at least they weren't just spinning around on some track like a crappy Tony hawk auto.

Solidesnake2004
Solidesnake2004

My Response: I have Most Wanted on PS2..... so this game better not dissapoint. PS3 here i come!!!

biofreak12
biofreak12

the game looks sick, one problem i couldnt get used to the drifting thing.

Built
Built

i just cant get enough of dis stuff... :P

axe1987
axe1987

all of these games r amazing n i hope this will be

chicano16
chicano16

this game will be better than the other need for speed games i gurantee u it will be.

blackwing837
blackwing837

utahnos can't wait for this thing I'm going to get it first thing after I get my PS3 >>> or you can just get it NOW on the xbox 360- Its going to be the same game.

blackwing837
blackwing837

Well looks like Halloween will be a very busy day for me. Final Fantasy XII and Need For Speed: Carbon.

DredWulf
DredWulf

Me either...they brought back the Camaro I am set.