Following the explosion of illegal street racing that became the focus of Need For Speed Underground, EA's tipped death-defying canyon racing as the next big trend of the boy racer and has quickly produced a game to accompany it. Carbon's set-up is very similar to Underground - huge cities to roam where you pick and choose races - but the risk of plunging thousands of feet to your death off a cliff's edge cranks up the excitement factor.
The Career mode is massive and there's a lot to get your head around, especially the franchise's big new addition, crew-based racing. As a racing loner you quickly hook up with Neville - through some very fancy cutscenes - who becomes your Blocker. During races you can trigger your wingman with the press of a button to perform their duties. Fat Nev's job is to cause distractions and block rivals, but you'll also hire Scouts, who charge ahead of the racing pack and point out shortcuts.
Crew-based racing is what EA has spent most of its PR budget shouting at the top of its lungs about, probably because it's the one single element that makes the game most different to Underground. While it does work and adds a cool team-play element, you can get away without using it. THQ's Juiced first introduced team-based racing - but it'll take a sequel or two yet before anyone makes it a feature that drives gameplay forward. At the moment, it feels more like something tacked onto the side for you to play around with.
Canyon racing is another new feature, but these cliff-top deathslides don't feature as much as the title suggests. They make up for around a quarter of the actual racing, when you face off against a rival crew's boss for control of their territory.
Carbon has all the ingredients of every other open-world racer out there; pink slip events, mind-boggling tuning options, a billion decals to tinker with, banging techno music to make you go faster, NOS, mobile phone messages (sponsored by T Mobile), NPCs, safehouses, licence cars, bullet-time, neon blurring effects at top speed, garages, rep, respect, and tons and tons of cash. There's plenty to do and the sheer size of the city will keep you busy for weeks. But Carbon's new features don't stand out enough to make it warrant an immediate purchase if you've already raced through Underground 1 and 2, Juiced or Midnight Club.
A familiar urban racing experience
- A packed city, plenty to see and do
- Crew-based racing mixes it up a little
- Involving story and great cutscenes
- Too similar to every other urban racer
- The Drift events are awful to control