We had the chance to get a look at the PlayStation 3 version of EA's upcoming entry in the Need for Speed franchise to see what EA's Canadian studio is doing with Sony's hardware. The latest entry in the long-running series plays around with the Need for Speed formula. This year's game is an ambitious expansion of the key features that have made the series popular, and it includes new elements that have come out of the team's research into the racing scene.
The big hooks in Need for Speed Carbon are canyon racing, racing crews, and car-class affiliation. The heart of the game's career mode is a battle for control of a city. The setting is a massive free-roaming metropolis that's bigger than the one seen in last year's Need for Speed Most Wanted. In addition, you'll find massive canyons that will serve as the stage for the unique boss battles. Your goal is to build up a crew of racers to help you take over the city neighborhood by neighborhood and to master the three car classes--tuner, muscle, and exotic. Furthermore, EA's Vancouver-based studio is trying out some interesting expansions of the car-customization feature seen in previous games.
In terms of content, the game is comparable to the Xbox 360 version but does offer unique functionality courtesy of the PS3's Sixaxis controller, which is used to supplement your steering in the game. You'll basically get an assist if you tilt the controller while steering into a turn, which comes in handy on the game's twisty roads. The mechanic is a low-key enhancement to steering that gives a subtle twist to racing. From what we played, the support will vary in effectiveness based on a number of factors, namely your car, your speed, and how tight a turn you're trying to pull. The controller support adds an interesting dimension to control that we're anxious to explore more in-depth.
The other, more-subtle aspect of the game on the PlayStation 3 is its graphical performance, which is on par with its Xbox 360 cousin, albeit with a few flourishes that add some polish to the action. The game features a smooth frame rate and a high level of detail, with just a few spots in need of tightening. Some textures could be cleaner, and the lighting is odd in a few random spots, but we expect that the team will sort out these issues in time for release.
Based on what we've seen, Need for Speed Carbon is looking sharp on the PlayStation 3. The visuals are impressive and feature a glossy style that's complemented by the PlayStation 3's graphical muscle. Though we'd like to have seen a more robust set of features unique to the platform, Need for Speed Carbon is shaping up to be a strong launch title for the PlayStation 3. Look for a full review on the game when it ships alongside the console next month.