Incorporates the Wii-mote excellently for innovative gameplay. But has the same problems found in previous versions.
NFS Carbon and the Wii-mote: Excellent
The good news is that NFS Carbon Wii makes excellent use of the Wii-mote control during actual gameplay! It takes about 15 to 30 minutes to get used to the Wii-mote control scheme. But it is very responsive, precise and best of all fun when you get used to it. Half way into the game I realized that using the Wii-mote for driving is a total blast. Making rapid, large or subtle, tight movements with the Wii-mote to initiate power slides and counter steering is tons of fun. The Wii-mote provides a very unique and exhilarating experience for racing. These motions mimic real racing steering very well with the compact, lightweight and wireless Wii-mote controller.
I used the default control scheme to play NFS Carbon Wii which uses the Wii-mote only. You hold the Wii-mote sideways with the D-pad on the left and the 1 and 2 buttons on the right. Tilting the Wii-mote left or right steers your car. The 1 and 2 buttons brake/reverse and accelerate respectively. The D-pad is used to Nitro (Up), Handbrake (Down) and Speedbreak/Slow-motion (Right). The benefit of this control scheme is that it is the most intuitive. The downside is that the 1 and 2 buttons do not allow for analog control of gas and brake. I didn't find this to be a problem and I am a HUGE fan of analog gas and brake for racing games. EA managed to tune the 1 and 2 buttons pretty well so that tapping quickly or holding them down yields a comparable analog feel. However, you will need to master the handbrake (D-pad Down) if you want to defeat the game's toughest races with this default control scheme.
There are 4 other control schemes available which utilize the nunchuck attachment in addition to the Wii-mote. You tilt the nunchuck left or right for analog steering and you hold the Wii-mote vertically and tilt it up and down to behave as an analog gas and/or brake pedal. The learning curve on these alternate controls is steeper but they are solid options for people who really want to be fully immersed in a pure analog experience.
The Wii-mote adds tremendously to gameplay. The successful incorporation of the Wii-mote largely redeems the major shortcomings of NFS Carbon's design which are found in all of it's other major versions. Thankfully EA did an excellent job of tuning the Wii-mote for very precise, responsive and fun driving as mentioned above. NFS Carbon uses the same airbrush-look movie cut-scenes introduced in NFS Most Wanted to pull you into the game's story. This time around the characters aren't nearly as intense as NFSMW but there are several more cutscenes than in NFSMW. This helps to keep the storyline more fluid but the story isn't as interesting as NFSMW and the plot becomes muddled half way through. But at the end of the day this is a racing game and the story provides a solid excuse to get some intense racing on.
NFS Carbon takes place in Palmont City which is ruled by four opposing racing crews and is divided into 4 territories: Downtown, Fortuna, Kempton and Silverton. You start off by choosing to drive one of three car classes: Import Tuner, Exotics or Muscle Cars. You must then reclaim all 4 territories by challenging the opposing racing crews and defeating them in 66 races. You get to face a racing crew boss after you win back all the districts in their territory. There are four boses total including Darius, the head boss of Palmont City. Just like NFSMW, you have a chance to win a boss' pink slip after you defeat them. You can also win special upgrades, cash and get out of jail markers.
Thankfully, NFS Carbon does away with drag racing and reduces the number of drift races. NFS Carbon introduces canyon racing where one wrong turn can instantly end the race as you fly over the edge of a cliff. Oddly, in NFS Carbon-world, nitrous doesn't work if you are racing in canyons for some reason. Mastery of the handbrake is a must if you wish to enjoy these levels at all. Like other recent NFS titles, the racing is fast, furious and fun. There are cop chases in NFS Carbon but they aren't as central to gameplay as they were in NFSMW. I did manage to get into some pretty decent chases but never to the intensity of NFSMW or Hot Pursuit.
Multiplayer is limited to only 2 player splitscreen with no computer opponents and no online racing. You start with only 4 cars to choose from in multiplayer but you can unlock them all as you beat the single player career mode. Multiplayer maintains the very tight and responsive controls of single player and has very fast and smooth gameplay. Multiplayer is a fun experience, but with few options, it isn't a very deep experience.
You start off in the Downtown territory and you unlock Fortuna and Kempton by reclaiming Downtown. The racing and challenges during these first three territories is very well balanced and extremely fun! The difficulty level ramps up smoothly and you begin to unlock crew members who have different roles in aiding you during races. The racing crew aspect of the game is very fun during these first three territories. There are moments where you have a strong sense of connection with your crew members as they help you draft, block opponents or scout you new paths to time saving shortcuts. I had an extremely fun time during these first three territories which make up about 60% of the total game. This could create the illusion of a perfect game for the majority of people who never complete a game. The gameplay up to this point was nearly a perfect 10, largely because of the incorporation of excellent Wii-controls with an established racing franchise!!
Unfortunately, the fun all but totally ends after you complete the first three territories and you unlock Silverton which is ruled by the game's head boss Darius. The difficulty level sky rockets without warning and the races become laborious, frustrating and worst of all BUGGY. It becomes immediately evident that you must now acquire and fully upgrade a tier 3 car if you wish to have a remote chance of winning any further races. NFS Carbon breaks down it's cars by a tier system, tier 3 being the fastest class of cars. You will enter Silverton with a tier 2 car and have zero chance of winning a single race unless you get a tier 3 ride. Hopefully, you have unlocked a decent tier 3 car. I managed to get a Supra and dumped all my money into it until I unlocked a Lamborghini Murciealogo to beat the game with. But this struggle wasn't fun. In fact, it was extremely annoying and frustrating.
At this point in the career mode, the entire racing crew system falls apart as the artificial intelligence (AI) becomes excruciatingly buggy. The worst example is the main female character/racer of the game, Nikki, who behaves as your final drafter. Her AI is so terribly buggy and annoying that I was hoping they would include a cutscene to explain that she was actually secretly trying to make you lose races. As a drafter, it is Nikki's role to get in front of your car to help use her aerodynamic trail to pull your car to faster speeds. This is great in theory but what Nikki does on numerous occasions is pull in front of you for a draft and then all of a sudden slams on her brakes in your face, knocking you into last place if not completely forcing you to lose the race. She does this repeatedly and then says, "Sorry, I need to take a break." This is egregiously annoying. I don't understand how they let this bug through. At least disable Nikki's collision so she goes through your car if you are too lazy to program decent AI. I'd take a C bug over a B bug any day. If Nikki needs to "take a break" in the middle of the race while she is directly in front of you, she should at least pull over and out of your way.
In addition to blocking you from victory, Nikki will repeatedly side swipe or completely T-bone your car and knock you off course or completely spin you out causing you to lose. Nikki will do this whether you have activated her or not and she will do this several times in the course of one race! This being said the other tier three racing crew are no better and are almost equally detrimental towards having any fun or winning races. EA has the worst QA of any major video game company and they obviously rushed the last half of this game knowing that the average gamer will only play this game half way through.
When you complete all the territories and are ready to face the head boss, you are forced to race all the previous bosses in two races before you are allowed to finally confront Darius. You then have to beat Darius in a regular race and then you are finally allowed to duel him in a final canyon race. This last race is excruciatingly difficult. You will lose repeatedly. After losing the final canyon duel against Darius, the default button to press is A on the Wii to continue. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD don't press the A button. If you press A, the game dumps you out on the street and you need to perform all three races again before you are allowed to duel Darius!!! You have to carefully press the 2 button to re-duel Darius. Otherwise, you have to wade your way through 10 minutes worth of annoying races before you can challenge him again. This is just terrible game design.
Another shortcoming of NFS Carbon for the Wii is the completely terrible game menus. The game menus are extremely inefficient and horribly clumsy. For example, if you are in your safe house and you want to go car shopping, you can't just jump to the car dealer. You are forced to jump into free roam mode (load time). Then you have to enter the world map. Then you can finally select the car dealership to jump to (load time again). This forces you to wait through two load time cycles and numerous navigation hurdles and button presses.
Furthermore, the game menus completely disregard the Wii-mote pointer as a tool for navigation. It forces you to plug in the nunchuck to showcase a car and zoom in on maps. All of this could be easily avoided with some elegant and simple navigation with the Wii-mote pointer. Good examples of excellent menu navigation are Wii-sports and Zelda for the Wii. NFS Carbon Wii forces you to turn your Wii-mote 90 degrees back and forth to push the D-pad and numerous buttons to navigate through the menus. This may seem like a small thing but it's very annoying and frankly stupid. It's puzzling that EA could get the most difficult aspects of this game right such as real-time steering with the Wii-mote tilt but didn't bother to fix the interface at all. Although this isn't part of the gameplay, it makes trying to play the game very annoying. These are only two examples but I could literally write a book on this alone, but you get the point.
If it weren't for all of these bugs and lack of solid design for the last 40% of the game, NFS Carbon Wii could have achieved nearly a perfect 10 in gameplay with it's awesome controls. I hope EA isn't so lazy and stingy on their next NFS title. It is very obvious that NFS Carbon was rushed as it lacks the solid polish of it's predecessors. I am pretty forgiving as I am lucky to have even this good of a racing game at launch for my Wii so I am giving it an 8 for gameplay.
The graphics for NFS Carbon Wii are pretty good considering it is a 480p console. They look about the same as the XBOX version as far as textures, lighting, and detail are concerned. The entire game takes place at night time which some may find annoying but I was ok with it as I played it during my free time at night. Night time racing takes less graphical power so the Wii was free to make some nice lighting effects with the city neon lights.
The cars are solidly detailed and attractive. Visually tweaking your cars is fun and looks good. This adds to the excitement of virtual customization and ownership of your cars. I managed to put together a solid garage of hot looking rides.
The environments look great. Each of the territories have very distinct themes and feels to them and racing through them at a solid 60FPS is fantastic! There are lots of varied locations such as a Chinatown and one of the territories is obviously Las Vegas which looks nice and has recognizable landmarks such as the Bellagio, The Mirage and The Stratosphere (of course they are named differently in the game).
The graphics aren't as good as a XBOX360 or a powerful PC, but they are still solid and provide an excellent illusion of speed. I give NFS Carbon Wii an 8 for graphics.
The sound for NFS Carbon Wii is exceptionally good! The sound of the cars themselves is perfect! The sounds of their engines, exhaust, turbos and nitros are deep, throaty, crisp and accurate. This really adds to the experience if you hook your Wii up to a decent stereo system. There is no 5.1 support but the sounds are still very exciting, intense and immersive!
Each car has a very distinct and accurate sound and you can tell the difference between driving a RX-8 or a Lamborghini just by the excellent audio! It's also very cool that the sound of your car evolves as you bolt on upgrades. Your cars will take on a deeper, throatier, meaner tone as you upgrade your engine. Your turbos will whine louder and fiercer as well. This really helps to immerse you and give you a sense of ownership of a real car.
The sounds while you are racing are also very well done. The sounds of your tires screeching as you powerslide through corners are complimented by the symphony of your opponents engines. You can tell if there is a Mustang GT closing in on you or if you are neck and neck with a Porsche.
The only downside of the audio is that this NFS Carbon hardly uses any of it's licensed music while actually racing! During races, it plays generic orchestral scores more often than not. If you want to hear any of the EA tracks they are only in between races and only while free roaming. It's too bad because there are some awesome songs on this soundtrack.
Music audio is also completely absent from multiplayer races. The multiplayer races are already pretty bland without online support and no computer opponents, so the lack of music is very noticeable.
The EA tracks configuration and multiplayer music can probably tweaked, but I wouldn't know because I couldn't figure out how to do so with NFS Carbon Wii's terrible menus. Although the options might be in there somewhere, I could never figure out how play music during multiplayer. Despite these flaws, the most important aspects of sound are done well, so I give NFS Carbon Wii a 9 for sound.
NFS Carbon for the Wii is a decent value if you are going to buy it. The single player career mode is predominantly fun and after you complete that you can go back and try to beat the career mode using the other two car classes. You can also try to beat racing challenges as well. These other modes aren't that interesting and going through the same career again isn't that appealing either.
NFS Carbon Wii has a very limited multiplayer mode and this limits it's replay value significantly. The multiplayer aspect of NFS Carbon Wii only supports 2 player splitscreen. There is no online support, no computer opponents, very few options and no music during multiplayer. You can unlock all the cars for multiplayer by completing the career mode. The multiplayer is fun on the Wii, but with such little depth, it may get old quickly and seems to be more of a novelty. NFS Carbon Wii has decent value for a console launch title. With over 66 racing events in career mode and tight controls it's mostly a lot of fun while it lasts. It took me about 30 hours to complete the game's career mode 100%. About 5 of those hours were wasted on races that had to be restarted due to bugs and poor game design. Also, the career mode is deceptively stretched out by rival challenges. These challenges are issued by opposing racing crews who are trying to take territories away from you that you have already won. These challenges are more annoying than anything as they force you to re-race the exact same races that you have already won.
I give NFS Carbon Wii a 7 for value.
Reviewer's Tilt: 8
I'm giving this game a tilt of 8 because of my love-hate relationship with this game.
I love the exhilarating sense of speed, awesome sound and above all excellent Wii-mote control of the cars. This innovation of using the Wii-mote showcases what the Wii is capable of and is tremendously cool! The first 60% of the career mode was extremely enjoyable and fun!
I hate EA's poor QA in the last 40% of the career mode. EA had plenty of time to fix the shortcomings of this version. The same bugs from the previous versions of NFS Carbon are still as blaring and annoying in the Wii version. Couple this with a complete disregard of the Wii-mote pointer as a revolutionary tool for menus and interface and it takes a tilt of 14 down 6 points to a tilt of 8.
Conclusion: 8.3 Great!!
I haven't played Excite Truck nor GT Pro Series for the Wii. But from all of the user forums and reviews, I think it's pretty safe to say that this is the best racing launch title for the Wii.
Unfortunately, all the bugs and flawed game design elements of the previous versions of NFS Carbon have found their way into the Wii version.
The excellent implementation of the Wii-mote for racing has created an innovative, fun and truly unique racing experience which helps make up for the game's problems.
If you've just picked up a brand new Wii and are itching for a satisfying racing experience, NFS Carbon for the Wii is your best bet today! It has a fairly deep career mode but it's simplistic multiplayer mode and buggy second half may only warrant a rental for people on a tight budget. NFS Carbon Wii is easily recommendable to racing gamers who are looking for something exciting and new or for people who want to see what sort of experience the Wii-mote is capable of delivering.