Need for Speed: Carbon (Wii) Review


Out of the launch window games available on the Wii, Need For Speed: Carbon was not one on my radar. The earlier games seemed slow and sluggish at times and really lacked any excitement for me as a gamer. Arcade racers like Mario Kart and Burnout had me hooked but there was something about Need For Speed that always seemed to lack a certain edge. Put all doubts aside though. Forget the fact this game is on the more powerful console beasts, the Wii version has made me a believer all thanks to those lovely controls.

Need for Speed is a long running series from developers EA, where the aim is to race fast, come first and avoid the cops. However the speed has never quite matched expectations and level design has always felt lacking at best. The ill conceived Need For Speed: Underground only had one level that was mirrored, shortened and slightly adjusted for the races, throwing my interest off the bandwagon a long time ago. Carbon, much like its predecessor Most Wanted takes place in an enormous city where the locations are unique, the modes are plentiful and the speed truly is intense. So how exactly has this game converted a once Need For Speed loather to a now appreciative fan? We’ll get to that shortly.

Carbon takes place in Palmont City sometime after a race went terribly wrong and everyone except for yourself were arrested. Your then girlfriend Nikki managed to pass you a bag loaded with the prize money before you fled away, so, now that youve returned, there is a lot of accusation going around that you stole the cash. A certain man named Cross seems so certain of this he chases you down a canyon in the opening sequence of the game. While it seems you get away, your car drives right into a truck, completely totalling your ride. As you wonder just how bad a driver you are, an old friend, Darius pays a visit as well as a very pissed off Nikki. Darius says its time for you to repay your debt and in order to do this you have to take back the city from three rival racers.

Races take place across the open city of Palmont, giving you more freedom than you could imagine. Racing is essential to catching the eye of the rival racers and possibly a heated one on one canyon drag which, while one of the key aspects of this game, is somewhat difficult with the hardly precise controls. While an analogue stick allows for pixel perfection, the Wiimote carters more for realism but the good news is it is still a heap of fun. Dont think all you do is race. The modes include Drifting, back from Underground 2 fame, Sprints where the first one to the finish line wins, Circuit in which you race around a closed off track over a lap or two, Checkpoint where you have to reach each target within a set time and Speedtrap that has you belting the fastest speed possible to rack up the highest accumulated score. This really adds variety to the game and never allows for a dull moment. Tired of racing, show off your drifting skills and then take down a rival racer on the canyon. Additionally, rival territory that you have conquered will often come under threat as well as the odd Rival Challenge that will meet you as you cruise the streets of Palmont.

Securing rival territory requires you to complete challenges scattered across the map. Usually it takes two or three races to take a chunk of the city as your own, as long as you finish first. Completing challenges will unlock you car mods including spoilers, body kits, engines, suspension and those much-needed vinyls to dress up your hot ride. Car modification is back in a big way and EA continue to prove they can be consistent with game aspects they have gotten right. For the car enthusiast, youll spend hours on end fine-tuning your ride, as long as you have the cash. Taking over territory will unlock new vehicles but dont get too excited, you then have to purchase those from the shop before even thinking about taking them for a spin. Completing set tasks will also obtain you Reward Cards of which there are over 100 to collect. Getting a set of four will unlock another vehicle, mostly of the good kind. After youve taken over the vast majority of a rivals territory they will challenge you to a Canyon race. Canyon races work in two parts, first you have to chase the opponent, staying as close as possible to them to rack up a huge score. Second has you in the lead, trying to get as much distance between you and the rival so they cant topple your high score. Dont get too cocky in these races though, one wrong move will have you tumbling off the edge of a cliff.

The game consists of three modes. Career Mode, Challenge Series and Quick Race. Career Mode Ive just about covered and is the core of the game. Challenge Series is a number of events that, if completed, unlock harder, more challenging versions of the events and ultimately hand out a ton of unlockables. I havent had much time with this mode but from what I gathered it will add greatly to the replay value of this already massive game. Quick Race allows you and a friend to go head to head in races unlocked through the Career Mode. Play with cars from your garage and against two other opponents if you choose.

By all means the graphics in this game is a step up from the Gamecube and on par with the Xbox visuals. Cars shine and glow in the city that always seems to be stuck in a continuous night and while the ladies at the start of every race dont do anything for the imagination (at one point her lips looked like they were sawn together) youll only notice this occasionally. The city is colourful and vast, but there are a number of jaggies that detract from the overall glorious landscape. In action though the racing is so intense youll hardly notice what could have been if the Wii was more of a graphical tyrant and they pass as one of the more visually pleasing games currently available. Audio has its moment but the EA Trax are far from spectacular and sound effects will either shift from loud to quiet spontaneously, as well as car revs booming through your speakers until you jump back to the menu or to your garage. Cut scenes are nice eye candy, especially since Actress Emmanuelle Vaugier acts as your girlfriend throughout the game. Sigh, if only.

The biggest draw card of this game for me personally were the controls. At first I was under the impression controlling your vehicle would be done by use of the nunchuk. Was I in for a surprise. Instead it takes on Excite Truck fame by holding the Wiimote horizontally and turning left or right to move the on screen vehicle in the same fashion. Having experienced both games now, Carbon felt much more precise than I could have ever imagined and despite some complaints with the control set-up from gamers, I have not encountered a single problem. Commands are mapped to the D-Pad with buttons 1 and 2 acting as your Accelerator and Brake. The nunchuk is used when toggling through the car modification menus but aside from that the game is almost Wiimote exclusive. Its not all happy smiles and good news though. Drifting takes some getting used too and the precision is not quite as good as using an analogue stick but after a short while youll never want to go back. Racing with the Wiimote now feels as natural as driving a car and if future releases can really indulge in the precision that is necessary for a great racing title the Wii will outdo itself once again.


For the time being, Carbon is definitely a far mile off from lesser competition such as GT Pro Series and Monster 4X4 World Circuit. Its fun to play, is one of the more complete launch titles and at the same time has visuals that are passable for next generation. Its difficult to choose just which platform to select this game on as the 360 supports better visuals and more precise controls but in a world where I consider the Wiimote to be the future of gaming controls, Need For Speed: Carbon is most complete on the Nintendo Wii.

Graphics 7.0

Gameplay 8.0

Sound 6.0

Tilt 9.0

Value 8.0

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Sean Jones

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