YOU KNOW WHAT? Despite being ever so slightly generic, and despite appealing to the lowest common denominator, Need For Speed Carbon is surprisingly good fun. A 'carbon' copy of Need For Speeds Underground and Most Wanted, it contains as much innovation as a banana sandwich, but who cares? Realistic controls and engine sizes take a back seat to a Goldfrapp soundtrack and booby decals all over your cars.
Talking of jubbly-bits, the dolly birds have changed (Kelly Brook is replaced by the rather less buxom but no less filthy Emmanuelle Vaugier - the bird from Saw II if you're wondering), but beyond that, you'd be hard pressed to notice many standout changes. Regardless though, we'd challenge you not to be entertained. So, the game?
Well, the city of Carbon is split into rival gang territories yadda yadda, and you can win 'spect by winning races yadda yadda, and earn 'turf' by beating rival gangs in races. You earn cash, upgrade your car, take on increasingly tricksy enemies, and eventually become king of Carbon or something like that. very far. But the most fun to be had in this game is in stirring up the local cops. You know you shouldn't antagonise them, but the thrill of it is always too much to resist.
You can happily spend hours in the 'free roam' mode simply driving about the city in one of your 50 or so licenced cars, picking fights with the fuzz. The more you evade them, the great their number. Survive and manage to lose anywhere up to 50+ coppers and the rewards are bountiful. Your reputation rockets and so does your bank balance enabling plenty of purchases for your garage. You can hire a better crew to look after you, or update your car with better engines, suspension, handling and a whole glut of other nick-nacks and goodies. You'll need them too, because the handling of a measly Mazda is nothing compared to the various bosses you'll encounter. Be warned though, make sure that you're upgraded to the tits before attempting a boss. You thought Ninja Gaiden was known for brutal boss battles? Try racing one of these lot down a mountain gorge in the middle of the night. It's not particularly pleasant.
There are a few other niggles we have too - namely the fact that the game plays almost entirely at night. The city itself can't be described as a multilayered metropolis either, consisting as it does of a few identikit backstreets and obligatory China Town (those developers love their neon). That said though, there's every chance that you're going to be far too busy evading cops and rival racers to care. Do look out for objects that shimmer red at their base as well. These can be driven into and knocked in front of a pursuer for extra damage points, and as we know, the more you earn, the better Need For Speed Carbon becomes.
There's very little else to say about this game without regurgitating what's been said about NFS games in the past. It's all present and correct, and aside from moving away from the awful 'urban' schnizzle that's dogged the series in the past (you won't hear a scrap of rap - brilliant!), this is little more than an extremely polished, utterly playable update. A must if you've not played a Need For Speed game before (remember, this isn't about realism folks), and dare we say, an 'almost' essential purchase even if you have.
Don't be surprised if the Need For Speed series makes it a Christmas number 1 hat-trick!
A solid, throw-away entry into the racing genre. If you've played Underground or Hot Pursuit, leave it!
- The cop chases are great fun. You'll almost forget to play the rest of the game when you've got fifty boys in blue on your tail
- The moosik! It rocks. Everything from the obligatory Gary Numan Cars, to bands such as Goldfrapp make up your radio selection
- There isn't a decal you can't create or a wheel-rim you can't screw on. It doesn't quite come up to Forza's level of detail, but still
- We know illegal street racing doesn't take place in daylight, but one or two races where the sun shines would have been nice, eh?
- If we had to pick something else, it would be the over-riding feeling that this was just slightly too generic for its own good