Need for Speed Carbon First Look

We get an exclusive peek at the DS version of EA's street racer.

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Odds are if you were a Nintendo fan, you were hoping for some more love out of EA's press event last week. Though many of the games shown off will end up on Nintendo systems, there wasn't much to see at the event. Fortunately we were able to get a look at a work-in-progress version of Need for Speed Carbon following the event. The game is obviously rough around the edges due to its unfinished state, but we got an idea of what to expect from it.

Gentlemen… and ladies… start your engines. Need for Speed Carbon is heading to the Nintendo DS.
Gentlemen… and ladies… start your engines. Need for Speed Carbon is heading to the Nintendo DS.

Much like the PlayStation Portable version of Carbon, the DS game will offer an original experience that's based on its console cousins. The game's story and the elements of its presentation will be similar to those in the PSP game but will feature DS twists. For example, the story sequences in the game, which play out via animated stills on the PSP, will be just stills on the DS, but the DS will offer touch-screen support. The single-player game will follow the same basic path as the PSP game but with a more traditional NFS approach. You'll choose from one of 15 cars and enter a variety of different races that will be spread out over 12 tracks. The crew mechanic is being modified so that the DS game will have only two types of wingmen, the drafter and the attacker. The drafter will work exactly the way he does in the PSP game. When you call on this crew member in-game, he'll drive out in front of you and let you follow in his wake and build up a speed boost. The attacker will take out any opponent you've targeted. Besides the single-player game, Need for Speed Carbon will offer multiplayer modes over Wi-Fi for up to four players. Better still is the game's support for single-cart play, allowing you to download a track to a friend's DS.

One of the big DS-specific features for the game is the customizable dashboard feature. You'll be able to choose variations on three different styles to customize the dashboard on the DS's touch screen. Each dashboard features a different look for its instrumentation, such as digital and analog displays. The dashboards are also functional, allowing you to trigger your nitrous or call in a crew member. You'll also be able to look behind you by tapping the right or left car-mirror icons on the dash.

The visuals in the game are coming together nicely on the DS. The work-in-progress game looked good and was moving along at a speedy clip. The car models and detail weren't as sharp as in the PSP game, but they definitely looked impressive in their own right. The game's frame rate, though not consistent yet, was very smooth. The early tracks we saw showed off a respectable amount of detail and special effects, such as lighting and filters to highlight the speed boost from your nitrous. Though the game doesn't let you go off and explore a city, the variety in the tracks helps keep them from being monotonous.

Customizing your dashboard is one of the cool DS-only features in Carbon.
Customizing your dashboard is one of the cool DS-only features in Carbon.

The audio in the version we played hit all the right notes. The engine noise from the cars sounded beefy, and the squeal of the tires around sharp turns and drifts was similarly impressive. The game's soundtrack will include 10 licensed music tracks that show off the DS's often-underappreciated audio muscle.

Based on this early look, Need for Speed Carbon has the potential to be a cool addition to the DS's racing lineup. The game looks good and plays well already. The streamlined approach to its racing should suit the DS nicely. The system-specific features, such as the custom dashboards and especially the Wi-Fi multiplayer, are nice touches that don't feel as tacked on as the DS features in other games. Look for more on Need for Speed Carbon in the months to come. The game is slated to ship this fall.

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