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Need for Speed: Carbon

But isn't PS3 supposed to make games better?

By now you've probably glanced at the summary box and seen that score. How could a next-gen version of a game we gave 83% to a few months ago so much worse than on PS2? Surely it's just the same game but better? Well, yes it is the same game and yes, there are improvements... it's just a question of expectations, you see.

PS3 is the world's most powerful games console. Without question. So why is it displaying graphics like this? There are jaggies everywhere, especially around the edges of the cars and their alloy wheels, and the contrast seems to have been ramped up so high that the game scrapes against your retinas like fingernails down a blackboard. We've been wowed by MotorStorm for weeks, so we know what PS3 is capable of - and it's more than this.

Zoom

Unforgivably, not only does it look worse than the Xbox 360 version (which we hate to say, but can understand considering the extra time EA has had with that machine), but PS3 Carbon actually looks more like the PS2 version than 360's. And, if anything, the PS2 game is faster and easier on the eye - something we never should be saying in a PS3 review.

RACE FOR THE PRIZE
But, graphics aside, this is still a decent game. The races tend to be more exciting than those of other recent NFS games, police involvement is seamlessly integrated into races and the tracks are now much more fun to drive around. The new picture-in-picture reactions from wingmen and bosses are excellent and really add impetus to win. Meanwhile, seeing your rival smirk when you hit a wall or bus stop will make you want to catch up and wipe that grin from his face. Plus the post-race conversations are now fully 3D, with animated drivers who actually look like the men in the cut-scenes. All good.

However, your wingmen still slam on the brakes when you approach them from behind, and now the game freezes after every race to ask you whether you want to overwrite your save. Take a guess. You then have to wait while it fills the bar, whereas PS2 does it automatically in the background. But there are loads of cars on race grids now and there are civilian motors to dodge during races too, although they're few and far between.

The problem we may be going to get for the next year or so with cross-generation multi-format releases is games coded with the lowest common denominator in mind - that'll be PS2. This, we fear, will prove to be just the first of many. So although the cars have been given a brilliant coat of next-gen sheen and actually look like real cars - as opposed to 360's toy-like vehicles - the city itself is blocky and wafer-thin. Sure, there are pseudo-reflective office blocks now and you can read every word on the café menu boards thanks to the higher resolution, but other windows have reflections painted flatly onto them and stone pillars in posh garden walls are actually flat pictures of columns. And the less said about the scrolling ribbons of 'water' in the fountains, the better.

Zoom

Granted, you won't notice all of these things while driving along at 130mph, but when you crash into a wall and see PS2's polygon count staring you in the face, you'll feel wonder why you bothered buying this and PS3. The gameplay still shines as you progress through the races, but we can't recommend this as any way to show off your PS3. If you're holding off getting the PS2 version of Carbon, in order to get the PS3 game in March, forget it - you'll get just as much fun from the PS2 game, play it tomorrow and save £20 into the bargain.

Here's hoping next year's PlayStation 3 Need for Speed isn't so much of a cut-'n'-shunt half-arsed hybrid.

The verdict

Get the decent PS2 version instead and save your money for a real next-gen racer.

  • Beautiful cars
  • Jagged graphics
  • Flat scenery
  • Stupid wingmen
5.8
Format
PlayStation 3
Developer
EA Games
Publisher
EA Games
Genre
Racing / Driving

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