Like Most Wanted before it, Carbon creates a truly staggering feeling of speed when you nail the throttle. The road surface is dirty, uneven and cracked on close inspection, which just adds to the feeling that you’re hurtling down the road when it’s flying past your view. Likewise, the scenery whizzes past with some very impressive motion blur effects, all of which really does put you in the driving seat.
Carbon isn’t going to win any awards for originality when it comes to the story, in fact you could probably flit between this and Most Wanted and barely notice the difference. Instead of working your way up the Blacklist of street racers, in Carbon you’re out to conquer the city by taking down all the turf bosses and their crews. Obviously you win territory by winning races, but all the time there’s an underlying plot that progresses with each win. Even the cast of characters is spookily similar, with Maybelline model, Josie Maran being replaced by Emmanuelle Vaugier as the token babe to complement the fast cars. It’s almost like EA is appealing to the male stereotype!
Talking of cars, you start the game driving the same BMW M3 GTR that you have at the beginning of Most Wanted, and just like in Most Wanted, you lose your car pretty much instantly. You’re left having to work your way up the ranks driving something pretty low rent and basic, although not quite as low rent and basic as in previous games. I kicked off my career mode driving a Mazda RX8, which was the best of a bad bunch. I’m not saying that the RX8 is a bad car, but the Wankel rotary engine has a distinct lack of torque, which would be quite a major issue if you were street racing in the real world. But the other two choices were a lot worse – you’ve got a Cevvy Camaro SS which will be fine in a straight line, but woeful when cornering, or an Alfa Romeo Brera which is a big, heavy excuse for a coupe with pitiful handling. Of course, the cars in NFS land don’t necessarily equate to the real world – I realised this when I saw that EA reckons that a Renault Clio V6 handles better than a Lotus Elise! I’m not sure who worked out the attributes for the cars in Carbon, but they must have either had no idea about driving or just dropped some acid that day.