Need For Speed: Carbon - PS2 review

Remember the ill fated 3DO console? Released back in the early-90s, this monstrous beast offered some of the best looking – if ridiculously expensive – gaming out there on CD media. Both Sega’s Saturn and Sony’s PlayStation consoles jumped on the bandwagon shortly after.

While the 3DO may have died a death due to its horrendously high price tag and lack of publisher support, it did birth one of today’s most loved franchises - the Need For Speed series.

Over the last few years Speed's racing genes have been morphed into a gaudier – if that’s possible – take on MTV’s Pimp My Ride. We might like our cars but, for the love of god, a Nova sporting a 500 quid bodykit and a blue neon light under the chassis is simply not cool. Give us a Ferrari Enzo any day of the week.

But hey, the kidz seem to like it. And despite straying ever further from its routes, the series has consistently given us a few flashy motors to zoom along in.

So can this new game – thankfully lacking endorsement by Tim "Wigga" Westwood – cut the mustard? Or have EA finally gone too far and totally dismantled a long time favourite of ours?

There’s no doubt about it. EA rule the roost when it comes to expensive looking titles. With its swishy menu system and gorgeous looks out on the track, Carbon is right up there with the very, very best that the PS2 has ever been able to offer up.

But with these good looks come horrendous drops in the frame rate when the roads get particularly busy. At times it’s like watching a flip book rather than a few hundred quid’s worth of hardcore techy kit. The flickering only lasts a few fleeting moments every half an hour or so of play, but to say it’s disorientating is like stating that driving while blindfolded is a "bit difficult".

You’ll spend the majority of your time in "Career Mode" which sees you set to work claiming areas of the city from rival gangs by beating their slow asses over a series of races and events. Sadly, it only lasts a handful of hours before you’re all finished up.

But with the industry’s current obsession with cramming stories where stories have absolutely no place, we’re "treated" to a multitude of crappy actors attempting to try and convince you you’re actually involved in some Fast and The Furious style film rather than sitting on your sofa playing a racing game, craving getting out on the tarmac once again.

For FaTF fans, then great, you’ll be in heaven. For the rest of us, we’ll be frantically pressing the Start button and hoping to skip past as much of this cringeworthy dialogue as possible.

The actual driving is not so bad. The cars handle nice and tightly, allowing you to slip past rivals with sublime accuracy while creating some beautiful looking powerslides.

But EA have tried to tamper with things, this time with the addition of wingmen. You can command another car during the race to block off rivals, give you a slipstream or simply scout for alternative routes and shortcuts.

Verdict

Though essentially a solid idea, it can’t help but cause you to be thinking about one too many actions during any one race. Before you know it, you’ll have forgotten your top priority, namely keeping your car on the road. Plus, they do have a nasty habit of getting in your way at the most inopportune moments.

Carbon’s got a lot of good ideas. We can picture the kind of gamer EA are trying to attract just from the series’ gaudy colour scheme. If that’s you, you’ll be in heaven. But for us, we miss NFS’ pure racing roots.