Review by RandomUser2

Reviewed: 03/19/07

Is there a word for a sequel that feels like half of a game?

Need for Speed: Carbon is the latest entry in EA's popular Need for Speed series. Although it was nice to actually see some sunlight in Most Wanted, EA has decided to go back to nighttime racing with this game. Carbon tries to mesh Underground, Underground 2, and Most Wanted into a single game while introducing new features, but it fails to attain the same level of quality.

Carbon is a direct sequel to Most Wanted and picks up where it left off. After becoming #1 on the Blacklist and escaping from Rockport, it seems that your character decides to travel back to Palmont, the city you raced in before arriving at Rockport. You almost get busted by Cross, but your old friend Darius manages to save your hide. He says that he's saved you twice and that it's time to return the favor by working for him. According to Darius, a lot has changed since you left. Palmont is a war-zone for street racing crews and is controlled by four major factions - Bushido, 21st Street Crew, TFK, and Stacked Deck. Darius wants you to help Stacked Deck control all of Palmont. In addition to that, you want to find out what exactly happened that night you were forced to leave. Why the hell is Nikki so mad at you? Why did the cops disable everyone's car except for yours? Who switched the bag with your prize money with one full of paper? Who allowed you to escape? As you hire new Crew Members and conquer territories, you'll be able to fill in pieces of the puzzle.

Graphics: 8.0/10
Carbon doesn't look much different from Most Wanted. On one hand, that's good since Most Wanted looked great. But on the other hand, I expect better from a newer game. As always, the car models look absolutely fantastic. For the most part, the environments look good, too. Since Carbon goes back to a night setting, you'll be driving down darkened streets and alleys illuminated by headlights and flashy neon signs. However, Carbon really shines during Canyon Duels. It's a race between just you and one other racer on a dark and twisty mountain path. Your only source of light are your headlights, which only allow you to see several feet ahead. Canyon Duels really give you a rush since you have to worry about driving off of a cliff and your opponent's position while driving 100+ MPH in almost complete darkness. The FMVs in Carbon are in the same style as the ones in Most Wanted - live actors with CG backgrounds and cars. However, the FMVs in Carbon don't seem to be as "cartoony" as in Most Wanted and aren't as goofy and lame either. Carbon features a motion blur effect when using N20 or driving a high speeds, but it doesn't give you a good sense of speed like in Underground, Underground 2, and Most Wanted. Obviously, the next-gen versions of Carbon look better, the current-gen versions still look great. However, the graphics could've been better. And this is just a personal preference, but I prefer the bright, sunlit streets of Most Wanted over the dark, illuminated steets of Palmont.

Sound: 8.0/10
"EA Trax" has pretty much become synonymous with "crap". However, Carbon has a surprisingly decent soundtrack. Most of the licensed music is terrible, but the composed music is quite good. Fortunately, the game features quite a few original compositions, and the game seems to play them quite often. Of course, you can choose which songs to turn off in the options menu. Engine sounds are great and are quite distinctive, and will sound different as you install performance upgrades. Most of the sound effects are recycled from Most Wanted, especially the police chatter. If you've played Most Wanted, much of it will sound very familiar. For any car that wasn't in Most Wanted, the police will simply refer to it as a "sports car". The sound effects and music is pretty good, but it's kind of lazy for EA to just use recycled sounds.

Controls: 9.0/10
The controls in Carbon are nothing out of the ordinary. However, Carbon does suffer from some problems because of the GCN controller's lack of buttons. Like in Most Wanted, there is no option to switch views on the fly. You'll have to go into the menu every time you want to change views. The GCN version also lacks a "Look Back" button, unlike the PS2 and Xbox versions. Other than that, the controls are your standard fare, and you can choose from several different control configurations.

Gameplay: 6.0/10
Gameplay is central to any game, and this is, by far, the weakest aspect of Carbon. Career makes up the bulk of the game, but it is extremely short. It only takes about 10 hours to achieve 100% career completion. At the beginning, the BMW M3 GTR that you worked so hard to win back from Razor gets totaled, and you have to choose a new car from one of three different classes - Muscle, Exotic, or Tuner. Muscle Cars have extremely high Acceleration but are prone to fishtailing. Exotics are at the other end of the spectrum with high Top Speed as well as balanced stats. Finally, what Tuners lack in Top Speed and Acceleration they more than make up for with superb Handling. Your car class determines which territory you start in as well as what cars and upgrades you unlock. But upon the completion of career mode, everything will be unlocked, regardless. Each of the four major sections of Palmont are divided into about five or six smaller sections. In order to control a section, you need to complete two of three races in the section. Once you control all sections of a territory, you'll be challenged by the boss to a City Race and Canyon Duel. Beat the boss, and you'll control the entire territory. Carbon features a Free Roam mode like Underground 2 and Most Wanted, but Palmont is significantly smaller than Bayview and Rockport. There isn't much to do in Free Roam since customization can be done directly from your Garage. You will occasionally be challenged by rival racers, and you can choose to accept or decline their challenge. If you accept, then you can set one of several pre-determined points on the map as the finish line.

Like any racing game, Carbon offers a variety of different race types. Circuit, Sprint, Speedtrap, and Checkpoint all make a return from Most Wanted. New to Carbon are Canyon Sprint and Canyon Duel. Canyon Sprint is just a normal sprint race that takes place in a canyon. Canyon Duel is a two-leg race between just you and one other opponent. In the first leg, the opponent leads and you follow. The objective is to earn points based on how well you follow them. The closer you follow, the more points you earn. In the second leg, the roles are reversed. Instead, you lose points based on how well your opponent follows you. You can lose a Canyon Duel in several ways:
- If your points reach 0 before reaching the finish line in the second leg.
- If you fall off of a cliff.
- If your opponent passes you for more than 10 seconds in the second leg.
- If your opponent pulls away from your for more than 10 seconds in the first leg.

Carbon also brings back Drift and Canyon Drift after being excluded from Most Wanted. Carbon uses different drifting physics from Underground and Underground 2. Drift feels like Tokyo Xtreme Racer: Drift in that your car basically controls like a shopping cart. Drifts are based on length and speed, and chaining drifts is the key to getting high scores. Canyon Drift is just like Downhill Drift in Underground 2 except that the track is narrower and more treacherous.

The problems with Carbon mostly stem from the races themselves. In Circuits and Sprints, there is absolutely no pedestrian traffic to hinder you and other racers. This makes races less frustrating, but it also makes them way too easy. The races are very short, too. On average, races usually take no longer than 3 minutes. Gone are the frustrating 7 minute races of Most Wanted with cheap rubberband A.I. Also, you'll sometimes have to defend your territories from rival crews. At later parts of the game, these Defensive Races will occur frequently to the point that they just become annoying. Fortunately, you can decline these races and win back your territory later. Race Wars and online play are completely excluded from the current-gen versions, which is extremely disappointing. Races are limited to a mere four racers, too.

Other Features
The biggest feature in Carbon is Autosculpt. This allows you to have almost complete control over your car's appearance. You can adjust the size of your spoiler, the amount of spokes on your rims, the design of your hood, ride height, and much more. Like in Most Wanted, Carbon also gives you a handful of premade body kits, spoilers, and rims to choose from. The game offers a huge selection of colors for paint jobs and several different paint types. You also have the ability to control the size, placement, layering, and color of vinyls like in Forza Motorsport. Carbon's robust customization truly allows you to make each ride your own. You can literally spend months tuning each of the 40 or so rides featured in the game.

The Challenge Series makes a return from Most Wanted as well. By completing varous challenges, you'll unlock things like paint, vinyls, spoilers, hoods, and rims. Carbon offers a multitude of unlockables by completing Rewards Cards, too. You get Rewards Cards by doing things such as scoring 200,000 points in a drift event, completing career, getting involved in a 12 minute pursuit, and so on. However, Carbon features only about 40 challenges as opposed to the 90 or so in Most Wanted.

Police chases are still in Carbon, but they don't seem to be implemented as well as in Most Wanted. While pursuits were genuinely fun in Most Wanted, they are just a nuisance in Carbon. Speedbreaker is another feature retained from Most Wanted and allows you to slow down time for a short period of time. New to Carbon is the introduction of Crew Members who can race along with you. You can hire a total of six Crew Members who are classified as Drafters, Scouts, and Blockers. Drafters allow you to take advantage of their slipstream in order to gain a brief boost of speed. Scouts will fly ahead of the other racers in order to find shortcuts for you. Finally, Blockers will do anything to stop rival racers dead in their tracks in order to buy you some time. Scouts are always active, but Blockers and Drafters need to be "charged" and can only be activated at certain times. However, Crew Members will just end up getting in your way most of the time.

Replay Value: 4.0/10
Carbon doesn't really have much replay value to speak of. There's really no point in going through Career more than once since everything will eventually be unlocked regardless of which class you start with. There's also nothing to do in Free Roam after completing Career except redo races and accept rival challenges for petty amounts of cash. The Challenge Series doesn't take long to complete either and just isn't that fun. You can also complete the Rewards Cards, but most of the unlockables aren't worth the effort. Most of the replay value comes from just the customization. It can literally take months to perfect each ride to suit your tastes.

Bugs, Glitches, and Issues
For the most part, the A.I. in Carbon is pathetic. However, there is an extremely sharp jump in difficulty when you unlock Silverton. You're stuck with Tier 2 vehicles while all of your opponents magically have much faster Tier 3 vehicles. Saving also takes an unusually long time, about 20-30 seconds. There also seems to be a bug with Rewards Cards because some rewards won't unlock even after completing them. There are also some things that can only be unlocked through Action Replay. It's also impossible to tune every single car in the game since you can only have 6 cars in Career and about 20 under "My Cars".

The Bottom Line
Need for Speed: Carbon was an extremely promising game with a lot of potential. Some aspects of the game are fantastic while others are severely lacking. Had Carbon been given another year of development time, it would've been a lot better. But in the end, Carbon just feels like another rushed EA game. It feels as if EA focused on developing the PS3, Xbox 360, and PC versions first and created the PS2, Xbox, and GCN versions as an afterthought.

Rating:   3.0 - Fair

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