I’ve written before about how much I’ve enjoyed the many and varied Need for Speed games, even going so far as to attempt to rank them. In this article, I’m looking back to one of the “middle of the road” entries in the series, Need for Speed Carbon. Now, in the aforementioned ranking article, I listed this as the second worst game in the series. So, come with me for a drive down Memory Lane as I look back to what was going on…

First up the bare facts. Need for Speed Carbon is the 10th entry in the series, and was released way back in 2006. It was the immediate follow up to the mighty Most Wanted, and as such always had its work cut out to make an impact. 

need for speed carbon 3

The story of the game does jump about a bit in time, taking place both before and after the events in Most Wanted. So, basically, in Palmont City, we were taking part in a big event for a large amount of money, and at the end, the racers were ambushed by the police and everyone was arrested, except us – we fled to Rockport. The whole of Most Wanted then happened, and now, in the present day, we are back in Palmont City again. As luck would have it, a former cop turned bounty hunter, by the name of Cross, remembers us and wrecks our car in a chase through the new environments, that of a canyon route. Luckily, one of our old friends appears, pays Cross off, and sets us up with a safehouse and crew, along with a car, and advises us to start winning street races. What follows is a series of double crosses, triple crosses and well telegraphed story events, but I won’t reveal any more for fear of spoilers. I know you’ve had the best part of 15 years to play it, but still…

The real world cars that were featured in the game are split into three types – Exotic, Tuner and Muscle – and three tiers within those types. So, as an example, the Nissan 240SX that was one of the starter cars (and this is usually my go to car, as I love the vehicle in the real world) is a Level 1 tuner car, while the Corvette Z05 that you could buy later in the game was a Level 3 Muscle car. A new introduction this time was the introduction of wingmen, who could be hired throughout the game. Controlled by the AI, they can help you out in the game’s career races (well, most of them). The wingmen also come in three flavours – Blocker, Drafter or Scout – and depending on their class can help you in various ways. So Scouts could find shortcuts during the races, while drafters help you by allowing you to draft off them to increase your speed, and so on. 

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So, what followed was pretty standard Need for Speed to be honest. You get to choose a car, and by competing in races, you win money, which can be used to modify the car, making you able to win better stakes races and so on and so forth. The difference between the previous game and this one is the addition of the three canyons in the game – East, West and Carbon Canyons. These canyons are not accessible any time in the game apart from specific events, and so the difficulty with these events is that it is hard to learn the routes. 

There were three different event types that took place on the canyons, including the return of drifting events. The problem was with the controls of the drift sections; they were a bit counter intuitive, as counter steering, necessary in real life drifting, saw you spearing off through the guard rails to an instant loss. The other types of events were Duels which, uniquely, were staged over two races: one where you led, and had to stay ahead of your competitor, and the second leg where your opponent led and you had to stay as close to them as possible to win the event. The last game type was a straight up race, which could be won by opening up a gap of 10 seconds between you and the competition, or otherwise by crossing the line first. 

The rest of the races took place only at night, which was a bit of an odd design choice, given that the previous game was largely set in the day. Another change, again for the worse, was the amount of police interaction, which was much reduced. No longer could you park in front of the police station, in broad daylight, doing burnouts until the police came out to play. No, this time, if you fancied a police chase, you had to hope they appeared on the course of a race and then you could have a little fun. But not too much, as the police force was a bit nerfed, and escaping them was very easy indeed. 

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Graphically, Need for Speed Carbon was okay, but obviously the darkness hid a multitude of sins, and the best I can say was that it was passable. The music was the usual mix of tunes from popular beat combos of the time (I stopped liking music in about the 1990’s) and basically it was again, okay. For a change, there was no DLC released for the game (I know, almost unheard of from EA in this day and age) and so that brings this Looking Back article to a close. 

So, what about all of you out there? Did you play Carbon in the day? Do you think it deserves to be higher up in the list of NFS games? Let us know in the comments!

Want to play NFS Carbon? Well, the Xbox Store is apparently able to sort you out with an Xbox 360 demo…

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