Need for Speed Carbon is a series that has slipped and veered in all sorts of different directions over the course of its many years of existence. Not all of her ideas came true but many of them did. One of the biggest successful directions the series has ever taken is to incorporate street gang stories and add context to races with some light storytelling to help justify the action. With Need for Speed Underground and Most Wanted largely considered successful entries in the franchise, it makes sense that these ideas would be refined and replicated in Need for Speed Carbon.
A racing game launched on so many systems that one can expect to release with all major 6th and 7th generation consoles as well as dedicated ports for PC and PSP. Despite its popularity, it’s Need for Speed that hasn’t been talked about much these days, as Hot Pursuit and Most Wanted still outgrow carbon for a number of reasons, but it was a big Need for Speed game in its own right.
First, anyone running Carbon will instantly notice its presentation that featured back then and even today looking interesting with FMV sequences on top of in-game assets giving the viewer an interesting look, while not to everyone’s taste at the time, they went ahead. Surprisingly old if you look at it from an artistic point of view anyway.
The game is a continuation of Most Wanted, so you’ll see characters from that game from time to time, and this gives Need for Speed Carbon a sense of continuity that most Needs for Speed games don’t have because they weren’t generally related to each other.
Also in line with Most Wanted, the aforementioned FMV sequences deliver a neat return, although arguably here a little better. However, again, this is something that not everyone enjoyed at the time, but today, after many other games appeared, it helps Carbon stand out from the pack. Need for Speed Carbon, Things of significance will have colors that are more vibrant to her than the background or even the people who come into contact with it, and the people themselves have that soft look that a comic book might mention.
While the story itself and the things the characters say and do are all highly predictable and there’s nothing you don’t see coming from a mile away, the story is a serviceable Need for Speed story with little double-crossing, little crime, And a bunch of characters with different levels of ego and motivation to watch out for.
Again, there is nothing that you have not seen before or since, even within the NFS catalog, and it can be said that some of the previous games have done so better from a narrative point of view, but due to the mastery of the art style of Most Wanted, it comes across as entertaining. Pretty much most of the time, this comes from a guy like me who doesn’t really want stories and games like this to start with.
In terms of introducing carbon outside of the cinematic scenes, there’s a lot to your delight here, too. The graphics are fairly good for their time considering that there are several versions of the game being created simultaneously. Neon lights above the night sky are a time-tested aesthetic that has worked here and continues to work with recent entries such as Need for Speed Heat. Carbon was perhaps the best example of this when it was brought up.
Neon signs bounce off the sides of buildings and car lights from the dark background in a pleasant way that sets the visual tone of what the game was seeking but also didn’t distract you from the race much. A good balance is difficult to achieve with racing games of this genre and of this era.