Need for Speed Carbon PS2 Review

Another Christmas, and yet another NFS game rolls onto the shelves. But can it possibly still have all of the rapid goodness that you remember from the old days? In short, yes. But, when it comes to the question of is it any different, you might find EA um-ing and ah-ing.

First off, you get the usual intro warning all you fast and furious wannabes that when the game turns off, so does your invincibility. When you get to the main menu, NFS:MW veterans will feel at ease already. People new to the game will also feel welcomed as the main menu is small, simple and easily useable. The urge to dive right into the career mode is uncontrollable and it’s too hard to resist starting it up. Straight away you’re treated to a few cut-scenes, linking the two games (NFS:MW and NFS:C). The graphics on these are spectacular, and prove that even though the PS3 is here, its older brother is still able to wow its audience.

It’s when you end up at a the car select screen where you experience the first major change in the game. In Carbon, your game experience becomes very diverse as you must choose between three car types: Tuner, Exotic and Muscle. This choice determines how you progress through the game, from the crew members you encounter, to how you unlock new items (more on this later). From here you’re thrown straight into the driver’s seat. You’re entered into a race against 3 other competitors, where you can get to grips with your new wheels.

In terms of new features, Carbon offers surprisingly little. The police chases are exhilarating, with different vehicles and tactics, such as road blocks, ramming SUV’s into your ride and the classic box formation, which all make a comeback. But if you’ve played Most Wanted you can’t help but get the feeling that you’ve been here before. The traffic, the police, the pursuit breakers and the whole set of game options are unchanged. As always, the cars look amazing, and the environment has become even more distracting to the point where you find yourself crashing without realising very often. You get all the standard race modes, with the exception of drag, to rev your engines through.

At first, the AI can seem a tad easy, especially with the added assistance of crew members. And it’s true, the AI is easy. Unfortunately there is no option to change the difficulty setting for Career mode, and you’re stuck with a difficulty curve that looks more like a vertical brick wall. You’ll sail through the game up until the final boss, which at worst will take you about 3 goes. This seriously hurts the lifespan as, for most people; you’ll only want to play the career mode to begin with, and once you’ve finished it, you’ll have probably had enough and simply ignore the extra modes.

As you’d expect after MW, there’s a whole host of superbly flash motors for you to unlock. All of the big and insanely fast cars from MW return, but this time there are simply more as EA have paid more attention to the different car classes. Now, for all you muscle fans, you won’t be stock with the Mustang GT as the closest thing to that Gone in 60 Seconds experience. Whether you want to feel like you’re racing Hutch’s car, or you’re Vin diesel at the end of Fast and Furious, you’ll be fine with Carbon. The race challenge mode is a decent addition, especially as the rewards you gain are cool parts for your cars. There are three stages of difficulty for each challenge and only by beating all three do you get the prize. The challenges themselves are fairly standard; win a circuit race in a selected car etc. The reward cards system is a whole lot more beneficial to the player. Completing certain tasks earns you a reward card. If you complete a set of four you’re given a neat gift. Simple, yet a friendly way to unlock items.

The crew members are another feature that helps the game feel closer to actual street racing. They come in three varieties; Drafter, Scout and Blocker. They all have different jobs and your preferences will depend on how you like to play the game. Blockers can be ordered to take out your rivals during a race, the drafters help you gain a speed boost and the scouts lead the way and show you the best route to take. For beginners, blockers are probably the best option as the other kinds depend more on your driving ability. Also, different crew members unlock different mods for your car, plus in-game effects. Again, it really depends on how you want the game to go, as to who you choose. This system makes the game a lot more personalised, beyond the realms of car modding.

Visually Carbon is stunning, and shows how much can be done with the current generation, and for next generation versions, it wows you with how realistic the cars look and handle. The soundtrack has been neatly organised into different genres, so if you want to, you can block out any styles you don’t like. A whole host of famous names attack your ears, and they make the driving experience that bit more exhilarating.

Unfortunately though, as you’re playing there’s a constant little voice in the back of your head, nagging at you. It keeps asking ‘Haven’t you done this all before?. Giving credit where it’s due, the game is fantastic, and why change something that’s already so very popular. But is it worth another £30 of your hard earned money – for the same game but with a darker sky? Carbon is different enough from Most Wanted to go beyond the title of expansion pack, but it’s not monumentally different. Yes, it has a typical Need for Speed storyline, along with a typical NFS boss that you shout at repeatedly, and many people wouldn’t have it any other way. But it smells sweetly of Most Wanted, and it feels comfortable.

The only stand out flaw with Carbon is the fact that the split times information is totally faulty. Before your eyes, your opponents seemingly jump from being 2.1 seconds behind you to 21 seconds. It’s nothing major, but it just reminds you that EA sometimes cut corners in their work. And yes, those walls that you love to hate that catch your car from nowhere and bring you to a halt are still here.

Imagine the difference between Underground 1 and 2. They were so very similar, yet you could tell the difference. Well that’s what’s going on here with Carbon.

Definitely a good game, but not a brand new game.

8.1 out of 10

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