As if it wasn’t easy enough to win most races anyway, EA has added a new feature to make things even easier – a wingman. You can build up a crew of up to three other drivers who will shadow you during races, each with different abilities. You get blockers who will take competitors out of the race and clear the way for you, scouts who will find shortcuts in the circuit for you to take, while drafters let you slipstream in their wake before you pull out with a burst of speed. Arguably the blocker is the most useful since he actually takes other racers out of the picture. The scout can be cool, although once he shows you a shortcut the rest of the field will also follow. The drafters are close to useless, since you’re better off using your nitro in the majority of situations.
As always with a game from EA, the production values are sky high. The whole game is so slick, cool and stylish that it puts the Fast and the Furious movies to shame. The soundtrack solid and very diverse – anything from Tubeway Army to Goldfrapp could start playing next. And although completely cardboard acting is a thing of the past in games, all the players in Carbon seem to be taking their jobs seriously enough to make the cut scenes convincing.
Finally there’s the online play, something that EA is getting better and better at. I’ve been playing a bit of FIFA 07 online lately and I’ve been amazed at how smooth the gameplay is, without a hint of lag. Of course with a game like Carbon, you’re going to notice lag even more, but on the whole the experience is first rate. After a couple of races you almost forget that you’re playing online and just get completely immersed in the racing. There are even some pretty cool new online modes, like having one player driving a racer and all the others playing cops and trying to nail him/her. Unfortunately, the majority of online players just want to race and improve their ranking, so the chances are that that’s all you’re going to find.
Need for Speed: Carbon is more of a continuation of Most Wanted than a new game, but I’m not too bothered by that. There was so much that I loved in Most Wanted, that I’m happy to have another playground to race around. Carbon isn’t without its problems though and EA needs to come up with improved AI for the next game to make it a bit more challenging. I also need to mention that Carbon does drop the odd frame, just like Most Wanted did before it. On the whole though, this is a great arcade racer with stunning visuals, amazing production values and a truly believable feeling of speed.